Here’s the factor I think everybody missed: The Republican Party turns out to be filled with idiots. Far more of them than anybody expected....The reason they were duped is simple: He's extremely rich. (Or at least he claims to be extremely rich.) Herman Cain was wealthy, but he never said he was a billionaire. Neither did Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin.
It was simply impossible for me to believe that Republican voters would nominate an obvious buffoon. Everything about Trump is a joke. His orange makeup and ridiculous hair, his reality-television persona, his insult comedy and overt bragging -- they are neon-bright signs that he is not (to use a widely employed term) “presidential.” Trump did not even seem to be an especially effective demagogue.....
In the previous election cycle, joke candidates like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann briefly caught the fancy of Republican voters but collapsed in the face of scrutiny....
Unlike Bachmann or Cain, Trump had an even weaker grasp on intro-level Republican dogma, instead ranting like a drunk on a bar stool....
As low as my estimation of the intelligence of the Republican electorate may be, I did not think enough of them would be dumb enough to buy his act.... What I failed to realize -- and, I believe, what so many others failed to realize, though they have reasons not to say so -- is just how easily so many Republicans are duped.
Not only does Trump boast of great wealth, he parades before us all the evidence of his swankiness: the gilt-bedecked buildings, the overdecorated ballrooms, the jet, the ties, the TV show offering lucky wannabes access to the portals of wealth. (Herman Cain, by contrast, made his money from pizza.)
I live and work in white-collar Manhattan. I don't think I've encountered any billionaires, but I've met some rich and famous people, and even worked with a few. Also, I read the upmarket press, which in New York pays a lot of attention to the extremely wealthy and successful. I'm not wealthy and never will be, but if you live here, you can see what wealth looks like. After a while, it ceases to be dazzling. Also, it's easy here to read about people who are much better at making money than Trump is -- in New York, where real estate makes a lot of people obscenely rich, Trump isn't even considered one of the most successful developers.
If you know all this, it's hard to fall for Trump's line of bullshit. But if you're stuck in Nowheresville and you've been told ever since the Reagan era that Randian ubermensch entrepreneurs are the pinnacle of human achievement, then you watch Trump, who endlessly proclaims that he is just such an ubermensch, and you want to believe. If you've never even glancingly seen what real wealth and genuine taste can produce, then you can be fooled into thinking that the piss-elegance of Trumpism is the real thing. If you've never read about the truly successful uber-dealmakers, you can be fooled into thinking that Trump is a business god.
All of this is why Trump thinks he can't release his tax returns before the election. I'm sure he's not as rich as he claims. It's very likely that his returns reveal a notable amount of failure.
But does Trump really need to withhold the returns? I'm not sure their revelations would be a problem for his fans -- they'd just assume that Trump's own tax returns distort his true greatness, and that he really is as wealthy and unfailingly successful as he claims to be. They'd think the evil government forced him to claim failure and sub-zillionaire status, just because collectivists always seek to humiliate true Randian heroes.
But the rest of us will know. The business press will know. Trump won't take the chance of revealing the truth. So, no, he won't bow to any pressure to release the returns. The illusion must be maintained.