Trump’s Biggest Scam: Fooling His Voters into Thinking He’s One of Them

Trump’s actual relationship to the establishment is complex in an opportunistic way.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Nomi Prins, Craig Wilson / Tom Dispatch

Emphasis Mine

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Give the guy credit.  Donald Trump makes perspective — on him at least — almost inconceivable, and that’s no small accomplishment.  Is he heading up or down?  Polling well or poorly?  Going to win or lose?  Who knows?  Take Nate Silver whose FiveThirtyEight website recently launched its poll of polls with The Donald having only a 19% chance of taking the presidency.  Silver was remarkably on target in election years 2008 and 2012, but he’s been off when it comes to Trump (and he’s hardly alone), so who really has a clue what that 19% may really mean on November 8th?

For months and months, Trump has performed a masterful version of media jiu-jitsu, leveraging the interest in him from what seems like every journalist, newspaper, website, and cable news network on Earth into more free publicity and coverage than any individual may ever have gotten.  It’s been impossible to escape the man. There probably wasn’t a day in months without a Donald Trump story (or often multiple ones) and he’s regularly dominated the news cycle with his latest outrageous statement or provocation, no matter what else is going on.  There is no Brexit without Donald Brexit; no ISIS without Donald ISIS, no Hillary without Donald Hillary.  He hires, fires, invites, rejects, embraces, insults, tweets, challenges, denies, refuses, ingratiates, blackballs — and whatever he does, it’s news By definition.  And don’t forget the endless scribblers and talking heads, faced with his all-invasive version of reality, who cough up reams of “analysis” about him, which only furthers the way he Trumps the world, no matter what they write or say.

You can almost hear the echoing voice from some ninth rate horror film echoing down the corridors: I tell you, you can run, but you can’t hide, ha, ha, ha, ha…

In Donald Trump’s world, as far as I can tell, there is only one reality that matters and it can be summed up in two words that begin with D and T.  Were he to become president, he would give Louis XIV’s famed phrase — whether or not the French king actually said it — “L’état, c’est moi” (“I am the state”), new meaning.

During these past many months of Trumpery, Nomi Prins has been sorting out the nature of the money game in American politics (onshore and off) for TomDispatch.  Now, she turns to the billionaire who has taken possession of us all.  Her focus: his frenetic version of “You’re fired!” this election season and how that’s played out with the Republican establishment, without whom (and without whose money) she doubts he can make it to the Oval Office.-Tom Engelhardt

Donald Trump’s Anti-Establishment Scam
The Insider Posing as an Outsider Trying to Get Back on the Inside

By Nomi Prins with Craig Wilson

Establishment: A group in a society exercising power and influence over matters of policy, opinion, or taste, and seen as resisting change.” — Oxford Dictionary

Early on in his presidential bid, Donald Trump began touting his anti-establishment credentials. When it worked, he ran with it.  It was a posture that proved pure gold in the Republican primaries, and was even, in one sense, true. After all, he’d never been part of the political establishment nor held public office, nor had any of his family members or wives.

His actual relationship to the establishment is, however, complex in an opportunistic way. He’s regularly tweeted his disdain for it. (“I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”) And yet, he clearly considered himself part of it and has, at times, yearned for it. As he said early on in his run for the presidency, “I want the establishment — look, I was part of the establishment.  Let me explain. I was the establishment two months ago. I was like the fair-haired boy. I was a giver, a big giver. Once I decided to run, all of a sudden I’m sort of semi-anti-establishment.”

An outsider looking to shake up the government status quo? An insider looking to leverage that establishment for his own benefit?   What was he?  He may not himself have known.

He once rejected the idea of taking establishment (or Super PAC) money, only — more recently — to seek it; he rebuffed certain prominent establishment players, only to hire others to help him (and fire yet more of them).  He’s railed against the establishment, then tried to rally it to his side (even as he denounced it yet again). Now, with the general election only four months away, it turns out that he’s going to need that establishment if he is to have a hope in hell of raising the money and organizing the troops effectively enough to be elected. There, however, is the rub: power brokers don’t suffer the slings and arrows of “outsider” scorn lightly.

As a result, if he now needs the establishment more than he’d publicly admit, it may not matter.  He may find himself ostracized by the very party he’s set to represent.

Once upon a time not so long ago, making America great again involved a bankroll untainted by the Republican political establishment and its billionaire backers. There would, The Donald swore, be no favors to repay after he was elected, no one to tell him what to do or how to do it just because they had chipped in a few million bucks.  But for a man who prides himself on executing only “the best” of deals (trust him) this election has become too expensive to leave to self-reliance.

One thing is guaranteed: Donald Trump will not pony up a few hundred million dollars from his own stash.  As a result, despite claims that he would never do so, he’s finally taken a Super PAC or two on board and is now pursuing more financial aid even from people who don’t like him. Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, erstwhile influential billionaire backers of Ted Cruz, have, for instance, decided to turn their Make America Number 1 Super PAC into an anti-Hillary source of funds — this evidently at the encouragement of Ivanka Trump.

In the big money context of post-Citizens United presidential politics, however, these are modest developments indeed (particularly compared to Hillary’s campaign).  To grasp what Trump has failed to do when it comes to funding his presidential run, note that the Our Principles Super PAC, supported in part by Chicago Cubs owners Marlene Ricketts and her husband, billionaire T.D. Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts, has already raised more than $18.4 million for anti-Trump TV ads, meetings, and fundraising activities. (On the other hand, their son, Pete, Republican Governor of Nebraska, has given stump speeches supporting Trump.)

To put this in context, that $18.4 million is more than the approximately $17 million that all of Trump’s individual supporters, the “little people,” have contributed to his campaign.  (He is no Bernie Sanders who raised $220 million from individuals in the 2016 campaign season.) Even with all his wealth, Trump is in a funding nightmare, lacking the confidence of the Republican party and its most generous loyalists.

To be sure, other establishment billionaires have expressed support for Trump, like funding kingpin Sheldon Adelson who said he’d fork over $100 million to the Trump cause. It’s just that he hasn’t done that yet. Chris Christie is similarly trying to help raise funds for the campaign.  But the man-who-would-be-veep hasn’t had much luck. So far, at least, Trump’s biggest establishment supporters have been more talk than action.

The Trump Team

In addition to the usual money not flowing in from the usual crowd, there’s the issue of actually preparing to staff a future administration with the usual people, not to speak of the seasoned set of advisers that normally surround presidential candidates. Increasingly, it seems that they may not be available or have already left the proverbial building — and that’s a problem.

Trump has vowed to fill his administration with “the best people.” (In a perfect world, they would, of course, be his clones.) Yet so far, he’s been pursuing what he has characterized as a “lean” strategy, which means that few are yet on board and it’s getting late in the game to fake it.

Usually by this time in the election cycle, nominees have pulled together their inner circle, mostly from well-known or rising establishment players, including policy wonks by the bucketful.  He hasn’t.  According to Vin Weber, a D.C.-based partner at Mercury, which bills itself as a global, high-stakes public strategy firm, who crafted Mitt Romney’s “policy shop” in 2012, the lack of infrastructure is unprecedented. Romney’s policy shop was first formed 18 months before the 2012 election and fine-tuned in January 2012. We’re in July 2016 and from Trump on this score — nothing. Nada. “Nobody in Washington that I know of,” Weber says, “is assembling a staff for an incoming Trump administration.”

Given his public war with his party, Trump may find himself without anyone left to fire.  It’s one thing to cut back on government, another to have no one around to do anything.

Maybe winging it on national policy and disparaging those who might someday make such policy is endearing in The Donald, but not to the Washington establishment.  Whatever the case, it might be useful before the Republican convention, which already promises to be a bizarre spectacle, to consider who Trump’s “best people” are — and aren’t — at the moment. Who are his most loyal advisers and supporters? Who would take a political bullet for him or put that bullet in him?

For the answers to such questions, it’s necessary to consider three categories: blood, money, and power. In the land of Trump (and Clinton), of course, blood — that is, family — comes first; financial interests, second; and the political power-elite (a.k.a. the establishment), last.

For Trump, family is foremost; general election finances are still remarkably lacking; and that final group remains infinitesimal, given how big the Washington establishment actually is.  And do note that this has not been because The Donald hasn’t tried to broaden his establishment support. He just seems congenitally unable to succeed at it.  It’s a deal he can’t broker. His supporters may think of him as one of them, but his outsider status has come about by default, not by strategic choice, and it shows.

Trump’s most loyal support comes from his family who make up his core “board of advisers.”  They are anything but inside-the-Beltway types.  If, however, he were to make it to the Oval Office, they could certainly be the new Clintons, the latest bloodline in Washington.

So from family to finances to establishment, here’s a rundown on key players in Trump World, who’s up and who’s down, who’s in and who’s out.

Trump’s Establishment Gets on Board

Ivanka Trump, Campaign Adviser

Omnipresent in his campaign, daughter Ivanka is the executive vice president of development and acquisitions in the Trump Organization. She “actively participates in all aspects of both Trump® and Trump branded projects.” The presidency is, of course, the ultimate branded project and were the economy to fall off a cliff one Trumpian day, the White House might make the perfect Trump luxury condo building.

For all practical purposes, Ivanka, not wife Melania, is Trump’s “first lady” (in waiting). She appeared on the presumptive board of The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice.  It was widely rumored that she was the one who had the clout to get Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager who lifted Trump to victory in the primaries, fired. Put another way, the “establishment apprentice” got the shaft because he crossed the person with the real power in Trump’s campaign.

Before the turn of the twentieth century, the Stillmans (bankers) married the Rockefellers (industrialists) to breed young Stillman-Rockefellers who controlled a chunk of the banking sector for decades while advising multiple presidents. Depending on the fate of Donald Trump’s presidential bid, perhaps the 2009 Jared-Ivanka merger (wedding) will someday be seen in the same light.  It was, after all, witnessed by an array of movie stars, television personalities, and politicians like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and present New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

If Trump is elected, Kushner could wind up appointed, say, Secretary of Real Estate. (Okay, that post doesn’t actually exist — yet.) Kushner set up critical meetings between Trump and key Republican dignitaries and leaders that were meant to elevate his father-in-law’s relationship with the party establishment.

In early May, the New York Times reported that “Donald J. Trump has asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to begin quietly compiling a blueprint for a transition team should he win the White House in November.” If his recent actions are a guide, Kushner will undoubtedly try to snag some significant establishment players as the race progresses.

Paul Manafort, New Campaign Manager

Manafort, a man of controversy, comfortable with wealth and luxury (though refusing any cash compensation for being on the Trump Train), has 40 years of work for the Republican Party establishment under his belt. In addition to being a former principal at the lobbying firm of Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, he played a leading role in George H.W. Bush’s nomination at the 1988 convention, Bob Dole’s in 1996, George W. Bush’s in 2000, and John McCain’s in 2008.

For a campaign selling anti-establishmentism, having a manager from the inner circles of D.C. might seem like sheer Trumpocrisy, but such seeming contradictions are the essence of The Donald.

Manafort, by the way, has kept an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which, as we know, is “one of the world’s elite luxury residences, catering to public figures, athletes, celebrities, and other affluent sophisticates.” In other words, he’s establishment with a view.

Michael Glassner, Deputy Campaign Manager

Glassner is another classic insider. An adviser to the George W. Bush campaign of 2000, he became a top adviser to Sarah Palin in the 2008 election (which may have been a recommendation in Trump’s eyes). He had also once been an adviser to Bob Dole and the Southwest regional political director for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. Glassner is one of the small team of Trump’s establishment guys reportedly responsible for his chaotic preparations for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Donald F. McGahn II, Chief Legal Counsel

McGahn, one of Washington’s best-connected lawyers, is legal counsel for Trump and a partner at Jones Day, the elite law firm that lists anti-trust and government regulation as its top specialties. By February 2016, the firm had already received more than $500,000 in payments from the Trump campaign.

According to MSNBC’s Zachary Roth, McGahn “was a crucial player in creating the out-of-control campaign finance system that his boss now denounces.”  He has helped connect Trump with Republican congressional leaders at his D.C. offices, further dispelling the myth that Trump is anti-establishment.

Steven Mnuchin, National Finance Chairman

Not to be outdone by Hillary’s Wall Street connections, Trump recently bagged a former Goldman Sachs partner to run his fundraising operation (the one he used to say he didn’t need). In terms of Mnuchin’s own political contributions, like the firm he once worked for, he’s spread the wealth around. He donated to both Romney and Obama. He also contributed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate andpresidential campaigns. In 2012, he donated $20,000 to the Republican National Committee. Overall, Mnuchin has contributed more than $120,000 to political groups over the past two decades, slightly favoring Democrats.

Shades of Trump, according to Variety, he left Relativity Media, where he had been a co-chairman, two months before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015. He also led a group of billionaire investors that took over beleaguered California bank IndyMac from the FDIC at a bargain price during the financial crisis, profiting, that is, from the pain of California’s foreclosure victims.

Who’s Gone From the Trump Train?

The list of those who have jumped off or were thrown from the Trump train is also heavy on establishment types, though most weren’t exactly from its crème de la crème. Among them were:

Corey Lewandowski, Former Campaign Manager

Lewandowski developed his establishment muscle working for various Koch Brother initiatives and was legislative political director of the Republican National Committee in 2001. He had also worked for three congressional representatives and, most recently, the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded organization.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Federal Election Commission documents, Lewandowski was “paid $20,000 a month,” — the equivalent of an annual salary of $240,000, “or 45% more than 2012 GOP nominee and multimillionaire Mitt Romney paid his senior staffers.” He was involved in a notorious incident with a female Breitbart reporter.  It seems that, organizationally, he lost out to Paul Manafort, alienated Ivanka, and in June was fired by Trump.  He hit the tracks running — CNN promptly hired him as an on-air analyst for a reported $500,000.

Stuart Jolly, Former National Field Director

Jolly resigned on April 18th. He had previously worked at the Oklahoma chapter of the Koch brothers’ flagship group, Americans for Prosperity, and also at the Education Freedom Alliance, an organization focused on expanding school choice and free-market economics.

Upon leaving he offered this advice to Trump: “My hope is that you will continue to listen to those who have propelled you to victory.” However, he soon returned as a national adviser for political and fundraising activities at the pro-Trump Super PAC, Great America.

Roger Stone, Former Top Adviser

Stone, too, has been an establishment GOP operative for decades. In 1974, he left his position as staff assistant for Senator Bob Dole amid controversy over Nixon White House “dirty tricks.” Five years later, he co-founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee where he developed a knack for creating negative campaign ads.  Before he resigned from the Republican Party on his blog in 2012, he had worked on 12 Republican presidential campaigns.

The story of his fate in the Trump campaign is murky. The Donald insists he fired Stone, while Stone insists that he was the one who said, “You’re fired!”

Rick Wiley, Veteran Republican Adviser

An establishment player and a former political director for the Republican National Committee, he was removed as Trump’s national political director in May 2016, two months after having been brought on board by Paul Manafort. The media cited various unnamed sources offering various reasons why.  Whatever the explanation, he was in and then he was out, because measured thinking about position selection isn’t a Trump priority.  Wiley now works for the Republican National Committee.

Jared Kushner, Campaign Adviser-in-Law

Ivanka’s husband, real-estate developer Jared Kushner, tried to persuade one and all that his ownership of the New York Observer didn’t make the paper’sendorsement of The Donald any less objective.

Who Doesn’t Want to Be Seen at Trump Station?

The list of establishment players exhibiting no interest in associating with The Donald or an absolute animus against him seems to expand by the day. It includes, of course, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and Lindsey Graham, among so many others — key players all in the Republican Party. Romney typically didn’t mince words, saying, “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: he gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.”

Romney might be wrong about the hat.

Meanwhile, a troop of prominent Republicans are heading for the hills, not the party’s convention. Congressional representatives are going into opposition; convention delegates pledged to Trump are restless and other delegates are muttering about revolt. A former Republican national security adviser and a former Republican treasury secretary (and former Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO) have thrown their support to Hillary and the establishment cast of characters thinking about heading for the exits continues to lengthen.

If much of the rest of the establishment follows the present pattern and departs Trump Station, what will this election look like? If history is any guide, family is not enough in American politics, only in banking. A candidate needs a party establishment for everything from experience to organization to money.

Trump himself lacks experience in government or public service of any sort. He’s essentially at sea when it comes to what it might mean to govern this country.  In this, he is anything but typical among Republican frontrunners who became president.  William Taft was a former secretary of war. Herbert Hoover was secretary of commerce. Warren Harding was a senator. Calvin Coolidge was his vice president. Dwight Eisenhower was a decorated general. Richard Nixon was his vice president and had been in Congress for years. Ronald Reagan was, yes, an actor, but had also been the governor of California. George H.W. Bush had been a congressman, an ambassador, and director of the CIA. His son was, of course, governor of Texas.

If Trump continues to play the outsider card (as he essentially must, given what his supporters now expect) and continues to alienate ever more of the establishment, he’s likely to find himself fighting a battle of diminishing returns in his own party. And what about that establishment’s money? After all, what’s an election these days but a pile of donated money and backroom deals?

We know he raised significantly less than Jeb, Ted, and Marco and still beat them in the primaries, and that undoubtedly gave him a certain unrealistic sense of what was possible in a presidential campaign. The result: this May his campaign raised only $1.3 million to Hillary’s $42.5 million. If that’s a sign of what’s to come and his supporters, unlike those of Bernie Sanders (the only true populist in the race) don’t begin to up the ante drastically, watch out. 

Unsurprisingly, establishment pockets are looking a good deal less deep these days when it comes to him, though Trump has begun to say that he might need to find up to $1.5 billion to run this race.  Key establishment money-raising figures have now visibly turned their backs on him, just as he did on them.

The Koch brothers are not atypical in refocusing the future contributions of their Super PACs on Republican races in the Senate and House. Charles Koch even signaled the possibility, however faint, of taking a further step and using his money for the other side. “We would have to believe [Hillary’s] actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way,” he said in an interview on ABC’s This Week. When asked if it was possible that another Clinton could be better than a Republican, he added, “It’s possible.” (With establishment money, all things are possible.)

Outside groups — PACs and Super PACs on both sides of the aisle — have already spent a combined $34.1 million on Senate and House races, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of Federal Election Commission data. That’s nearly double the amount spent at this point in the 2012 campaign. The Freedom Partners Action Fund Super PAC, a political arm of the Koch empire, has dividednearly $10 million among four key Senate races in Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. It has, however, kicked in only $36,000 for anti-Hillary efforts and not a penny for Trump.

American Crossroads, a Karl Rove Super PAC, is also opting to focus on Republicans in the Senate, though so far it has doled out just $100,000 for that effort and $135,000 against Hillary. Rove has called Trump “a petty man consumed by resentment and bitterness,” which tells you all you need to know about where he’s likely to put his outfit’s money this election season.

It’s increasingly clear that the GOP establishment is playing a different end game than The Donald. Whether Trump or Hillary wins, they want a Congress stacked in favor of their needs, and perhaps many of them are looking to a Paul Ryan run in 2020 as their saving grace.

Trump Wins

So here’s a question for that ultimate insider of outsiders: Can Donald Trump actually lose the 2016 election?  Let’s say Hillary beats him, as the polls of the moment suggest she will.  Has he lost?  Probably not.

After all, he’s brought his brand to a far broader global audience on a stage so much larger than any Apprentice imaginable. He could lose dramatically, blame the Republican establishment for being mean to him, and then expand the Trump brand into new realms, places like Russia, where he’s long craved an opening. Vladimir Putin and he could golf together bare-chested while discussing the imminent demise of the American empire. “My country could have been great again,” he could sigh, “if only it had voted me in.” His consolation prize: a Trump Casino in Moscow’s Red Square?

In other words, whether the establishment supports him or not, whether he wins on November 8th or not, his brand wins, which means that he triumphs.

Consider this: the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue with views of the White House is already wrapped in blue Trump International banners as it’s being converted into a luxury hotel. Due to open two years ahead of schedule and two months before Election Day, it’s one of Ivanka’s projects.  It ensures that her father has branded the avenue regardless of whether he ends up in the White House or not. Given the property’s location and what its “presidential suite” is sure to look like, working in the Oval Office might prove to be a downgrade.

 Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute Demos. Her most recent book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive.

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/donald-trumps-anti-establishment-scam-insider-posing-outsider-trying-get-back-inside?akid=14424.123424.NykLLl&rd=1&src=newsletter1059895&t=8

Most Women Are Crystal Clear About Trump: He Is Their Worst Nightmare

Millions of women see through him, even if the media don’t.

"For the apparel oft proclaims the man,"
“For the apparel oft proclaims the man,”

Source:AlterNet

Author: Ann Jones/Tom Dispatch

Emphasis Mine

Last fall, when presidential wannabe Donald Trump famously boasted on CNN that he would “be the best thing that ever happened to women,” some may have fallen for it. Millions of women, however, reacted with laughter, irritation, disgust, and no little nausea.  For while the media generate a daily fog of Trumpisms, speculating upon the meaning and implications of the man’s every incoherent utterance, a great many women, schooled by experience, can see right through the petty tyrant and his nasty bag of tricks.

By March, the often hard-earned wisdom of such women was reflected in a raft of public opinion polls in which an extraordinary number of female voters registered an “unfavorable” or “negative” impression of the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee.  Reporting on Trump’s “rock-bottom ratings” with prospective women voters, Politico termed the unfavorable poll numbers—67% (Fox News), 67% (Quinnipiac University), 70% (NBC/Wall Street Journal), 73% (ABC/Washington Post)—“staggering.” In April, the Daily Wire labeled similar results in a Bloombergpoll of married women likely to vote in the general election “amazing.” Seventy percent of them stated that they would not vote for Trump.

(N.B.: this continues in mid june – see http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/new-poll-shows-70-percent-voters-hold-unfavorable-opinion-trump?akid=14352.123424.ieuKQ6&rd=1&src=newsletter1058386&t=2)

His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, seemed untroubled by such polls, claiming that “women don’t vote based on gender” but on “competency,” apparently convinced that it was only a matter of time before female voters awoke to the dazzling competency of his candidate.

Think again, Mr. Lewandowski. Since at least the 1970s, women have been voting on the basis of gender—not that of the presidential candidates (all men), but their own.  Historically, women and children have been more likely than men to benefit from the sorts of social welfare programs generally backed by Democrats, including Aid to Families with Dependent Children.  Even after, in the 1990s, both parties connived to scale back or shut down such programs, a majority of women stayed with Democrats who advocated positions like equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, improved early childhood education, affordable health care, universal child care, and paid parental leave—programs of special interest to families of all ethnic groups and, with rare exceptions, opposed by Republicans.

A majority of women have remained quite consistent since the 1970s in the policies (and party) they support. (Among women, loyalty to the Republican Party seems to have fallen chiefly to white Christian evangelicals.) It’s men who have generally been the fickle flip-floppers, switching parties, often well behind the economic curve, to repeatedly vote for “change” unlike the change they voted for last time. The result is a gender gap that widens with each presidential election.

Still, the 2016 version of that gap is a doozy, wider than it’s ever been and growing. Add in another factor: huge numbers of women with “negative” opinions of Donald Trump don’t simply dislike him, but loathe him in visceral ways.  In other words, something unusual is going on here beyond party or policy or even politics — something so obvious that most pundits, busy fielding Trump’s calls and reporting his bluster on a daily basis, haven’t stepped back and taken it in.

Even Hillary Clinton, when she comes out swinging, politely refrains from spelling it out.  In her recent speech on foreign policy, she declared Trump temperamentally unfit to be president: too thin-skinned, too angry, too quick to employ such “tools” as “bragging, mocking, and sending nasty tweets.”  Admittedly, she did conjure up a scary, futuristic image of an erratic bully with a thumb on the nuclear button, describing as well his apparent fascination with and attraction to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.  But she stopped short of connecting the Trumpian dots when she concluded: “I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”

In truth, most women don’t need psychiatrists to explain the peculiar admiration of an aspiring autocrat for his role models. Every woman who has ever had to deal with a Trump-style-tyrant in her own home or at her job already has Trump’s number.  We recognize him as a bloated specimen of the common garden variety Controlling Man, a familiar type of Household Hitler.

In fact, Donald J. Trump perfectly fits the profile of an ordinary wife abuser—with one additional twist.  Expansive fellow that he is, Trump has not confined his controlling tactics to his own home(s).  For seven years, he practiced them openly for all the world to see on The Apprentice, his very own reality show, and now applies them on a national stage, commanding constant attention while alternately insulting, cajoling, demeaning, embracing, patronizing, and verbally beating up anyone (including a“Mexican” judge) who stands in the way of his coronation.

Let me be clear.  I’m not suggesting that Donald Trump beats his wife (or wives).  I’m only observing that this year the enormous gender gap among voters can be partially explained by the fact that, thanks to their own personal experience, millions of American women know a tyrant when they see one.

Coercion Codified

The tactics of such controlling men, used not on women but on other men, were first studied intensively decades ago.  In the wake of the Korean War, sociologist Albert Biderman, working for the U.S. Air Force, explored the practices used by Chinese communist thought-reformers to try to break (“brainwash”) American prisoners of war. (Think The Manchurian Candidate.)

He reported his findings in “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War,” a 1957 article that caused the Air Force to change its training tactics.  Following Biderman’s report, that service chose to give its high-risk personnel a taste of those tactics and thereby steel them against the pressure, if captured, of “confessing” to whatever their interrogators wanted. The Air Force program, known as SERE(for survival, evasion, resistance, escape), was extended during the war in Vietnam to special forces in the other U.S. military services.

In 1973, Amnesty International used Biderman’s article, augmented by strikingly similar accounts from political prisoners, hostages, and concentration camp survivors, to codify achart of coercion.”  Organizers in the battered women’s movement immediately recognized the tactics described and applied them to their work with women effectively held hostage in their own homes by abusive husbands or boyfriends. They handed that chart out in support groups at women’s shelters, and battered women soon came up with countless homespun examples of those same methods of coercion in use behind closed doors right here in the U.S.A.

The great feminist organizer Ellen Pence and the staff of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth, Minnesota, worked with battered women to refine and summarize those coercive tactics on a handy circular chart they named the Power and Control Wheel.  Since its creation in 1984, that chart has been translated into at least 40 languages, and DAIP has become the international model for community-based work against domestic violence.

It’s probably fair to say that sometime in the last 30 years just about every survivor of domestic violence in the United States — about one of every three American women — has come across that “wheel.” That works out to more than 65 million women, 21 or older (a figure that doesn’t include millions of young adults who also have been targeted by controlling partners, pimps, traffickers, and the like).

Such survivors of violence against women have taught us a lot more about coercive techniques and their insidious use in what appears to be “normal” life.  We know, for one thing, that a controlling man almost always has a charming, seductive side, which he uses to entice his targeted victims and later displays from time to time, between abusive episodes, to keep them in thrall.

More important, we know that when such controlling tactics are skillfully applied to targeted victims, no violent physical coercion is necessary.  None.  The mind can be bent without battering the body. Hence the term “brainwashing.” When a controlling man inflicts physical force or sexual violence on his victim, the act is a demonstration of the control he has already gained through less visible, more insidious tactics of coercion.

Knowing that, it seems reasonable to assume that plenty of men also recoil from Trump’s tactics for the very reasons women do.  After all, such tactics have also been systematically used by men to control men and when applied to an intimate relationship they may have the same destructive impact on men that battered women report. Men, too, get charmed, coerced, beaten, and raped. In this country, one man out of every seven has been a victim of sexual or physical assault by an intimate partner.  But this is no battle of the sexes.  Whether the victim is female or male, the controlling assailant is almost always a man.

The Tyrant’s Toolkit

So how does a Controlling Man operate?  First, according to Amnesty International’s chart on the “methods of coercion,” he isolates the victim.  That’s easy enough to do if the victim is a prisoner or wife. You’d think it would be harder if the controlling figure is running for president and targeting millions of voters, but television reaches into homes, in effect isolating individuals.  Each of them voluntarily attends to the words and antics of the clownish performer who, with his orangey bouffant do and dangling red tie, stands out so flamboyantly from all the bland suits.  Those prospective voters may have tuned in seeking information about the candidates (or even for entertainment), but what they let themselves in for is a blast of head-on Trumpian coercion.

Second, the controller monopolizes the perception” of the targeted victims; that is, he draws all attention to himself. He strives to eliminate any distractions competing for the viewers’/victims’ attention (think: Jeb, John, Chris, Ted, Carly, and crew), and he behaves with enough inconsistency to keep his potential victims off-balance, focused on him alone, and — whether they know it or not — seeking to comply.

Trump has used such tactics gleefully.  The TV networks, like the media generally, and the Republican establishment thought his candidacy was a joke, yet in the process of publicizing that joke, they gave him an estimated $2 billion in free air time.  Often in those months, as in his post-primary “press conferences,” he was not challenged but awarded endless time to rant and ramble on, monopolizing the perceptions of viewers and networks alike. To justify their focus on him and their relative neglect of all other candidates, the networks cited the bottom line. Trump, they said, made them a lot of money. And they made him a daily inescapable presence in our lives.

All of this Trumpianism can be electrifying, exhausting, and undoubtedly mentally debilitating, which not so coincidentally is the third coercive tactic on Amnesty International’s list. The relentlessness and incoherence of the controller’s harangues tend to weaken a victim’s (or viewer’s) will to resist, and thanks to the media, Trump is everywhere—the big man at the podium always talking at us, always looking at us, always watching us. After that, the rest is easy. Amnesty International lists the tools: threats, degradation, trivial demands, occasional indulgences (a flash of charm, for example, or a bit of the feigned reasonableness that keeps Republican bigwigs imagining that Trump’s demeanor will turn “presidential”). The Power and Control Wheel identifies similar tactics with specific examples of each: using threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, especially put-downs and humiliation (think: low-energy Jeb, little Marco, lyin’ Ted, crooked Hillary), minimizing, denying, and blaming (“I never said that!”), and using male privilege; that is, acting like the master of the castle, and being the one to define men’s and women’s rolesas in “Hillary doesn’t look presidential.”

The battered women who have faced such tactics and survived to tell the tale have taught us this: the controlling man knows exactly what he is doing—even when, or especially when, he appears to be out of control or “unpredictable.” Think of the good cop/bad cop routines you see in any police procedural. The skilled controller plays both parts. One moment he’s Mister Nice Guy: generous, charming, ebullient, entertaining.  The next, he’s blowing his stack, and then denying what’s just happened, or claiming he’s been “misconstrued,” and making nice again. (Think: the saga of “bimbo” Megyn Kelly.)

That seemingly unpredictable behavior is toxic because once you’ve felt an incendiary blast of wrath and scorn, you’re likely to do almost anything to avoid “setting him off” again. But it wasn’t you who triggered him. In fact, the controller sets himself off when it serves his purposes, not yours, and he leaves you scrambling to figure out how to deal with him without setting him off again. (Think of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush rolling out new approaches at every debate only to be clobbered and humiliated yet again.)

We’ve witnessed so much of this, seen so many coercive tools flung about and so many competitors slinking away that such conduct now passes for normal “political” exchange.  In the current extraordinary electoral process, we have been spectators at the performances of a man skilled in the sort of coercive tactics designed to control prisoners and hostages, and ruthlessly applied to the criminal abuse of women. We have watched that man put those tactics to use in plain sight to vanquish his opponents and force to his side the battered remnants of a major political party and a significant part of the electorate.

Trump has been at it for months on national television — and no journalist, no politician, no Republican Party leader, no contender has named his behavior for what it is. Nobody has called him out—except in the public opinion polls where women voters, millions of whom know the tyrant’s playbook by heart, have spoken. And they said: no.

Ann Jones is a journalist, photographer (Getty Images), and the author of eight books of nonfiction, most recently, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars—The Untold Story. She writes regularly for the Nation and TomDispatch.com.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/women-see-through-donald-trumps-act?akid=14353.123424.aGan4V&rd=1&src=newsletter1058409&t=2