“Embracing Mr. Trump’s wealth and not running from it,” Lewandowski said, “was a strategic decision that we made early on.”During the last presidential campaign, I said on several occasions that Mitt Romney would benefit from showing some swagger regarding his wealth. Here's what I wrote in August 2011, when we learned about Romney plan to do a massive enlargement of his California house:
He continued: “The reason we did that is because he looked at the Romney campaign from four years ago and loves to tell the story that Mitt would drive somewhere and get out of the car, get in a Chevy, take a truck and pull up in a Chevy and pretend he wasn’t as rich as he really is.
“And he [Trump] said, no, no. I’m gonna pull up in my 757 and I’m gonna make sure everybody sees the giant Trump plane. If I can’t get that one, I’ll pull up in a private plane somewhere and we’re gonna have the most expensive cars. And I’m gonna do it so everyone understands what this country’s all about.”
Why is tripling the size of one of his houses a potentially brilliant move? Remember where we are in the election cycle. The general election is more than a year away -- we're entering the Republican primaries. Who's going to vote in those primaries? Ayn Rand junkies. How do they feel about rich people? They adore rich people.In February 2012, I wrote:
... Start the work now! Show everyone the blueprints! Release an artist's rendering and make the thing look huge! Wait for us liberals to really pounce on you for flaunting your wealth -- then watch the wingnuts rally to your defense!
... I think if he can't talk about his wealth in a way that's big-pimpin', he could at least put it into a narrative with a hero and a villain. The hero would be himself and all the brave, beleaguered millionaires and billionaires. The villain would be all us evil commie liberals who don't want people like him to succeed, dammit!And Doug J. reminded me a while back that I wrote this about Trump in 2011, when he seemed as if he might be on the verge of joining the 2012 race:
You put your success in those terms and you can talk all day about Cadillacs and $10,000 bets and liking to fire people -- as long as the rubes also hear you say, or imply, "And I bet you'd like to be rich and fire people, too. And you know why you can't? Because the damn liberals tax you too much and are systematically destroying the free enterprise system! It's their fault you're not rich!"
But can’t you see him magisterially propelling himself into an Iowa state fair, or down a main street in small-town New Hampshire, in a motorcade of Escalades? And are we really sure that couldn’t work ... ?I'm pretty sure that that's precisely what happened in the past year and a half.
…. I’ve always heard that campaigning in the early states was an exercise in humility -- the pigshit on your Gucci loafers at the Iowa state fair and all that. But is it different now on the right? Does the base want to prostrate itself before a plutocrat overlord, and not hold him to the same standards as mere mortals?
As Mike Konczal writes in a Medium post today,
Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.Heartland white voters don't resent the rich, except when they collude with the "elites," who are (paradoxically) not the rich but, rather, the evil cabal in Washington (and Hollywood and the news media and academia -- basically any demimonde in which some of the powerful are Democrats). Money in and of itself? Not a problem to those voters.
It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization -- moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.
Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.”
So Romney should have flashed the cash. He should have acted as if he enjoyed being rich, and as if he wanted to share prosperity with the proles. That's what Trump did, and he's the next president.