On the morning of November 10th, the day after our debacle of a Presidential election, I sat in the waiting room of my local Subaru dealer while they serviced my car. I was alone until a man in his late 40s joined me, followed soon after by an octogenarian and a younger woman, possibly her caretaker.
All was silent at first because the TV was off. I had intentionally chosen this empty and quiet secondary waiting room so I wouldn’t have to hear CNN’s pundits. There had been enough talk over the last 17 months about the election – and the buffoon who somehow won it – to fill a dozen virtual landfills. I didn’t need to hear any more, not on that day.
But the silence didn’t last. The elderly woman soon began talking to her companion about the election. “He’ll hire the best people,” she said. “He’s a successful business man who knows how to create jobs,” she opined. “He’s an outsider who will shake things up in Washington.”
The Blue State Blues
I live in a region of a very blue state in which one can openly discuss our moron president in many public places without fear of offending eavesdroppers. One can almost safely make disparaging remarks about him to strangers. Many dark blue states are like this, as are, I can only imagine, my country’s dark red states. People there probably talked about Hillary Clinton’s alleged high crimes and treasonous acts at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The polarization of politics isn’t just local, though. Social networks have slowly become echo chambers of our own design, exposing us mostly to views which support our established beliefs. How many of us have “unfriended” old friends or hidden the posts of social media contacts who hold the opposite view? Finding a Trump voter with which to have a reasonable discussion, you see, has become challenging.
Yet, sitting across from me in my blue state was a real-life Trump voter. Given her opening statements, I think she was also a good example of how propaganda and, perhaps, a lack of information had shaped a voter’s mind into believing Trump’s claimed virtues.
The distraught man sitting next to me was the first to engage by saying, as politely as he could, that Trump was a con man, and that we were screwed. He lamented that America “wasn’t his country anymore.” I could almost hear him groaning inside.
I went a different route, pointing out to my octogenarian waiting room companion my favorite Trump failure, his eponymous “university.”
Trump University was an American for-profit education company that ran a real estate training program from 2005 until 2010…After multiple lawsuits, it is now defunct…The company offered courses in real estate, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation. The organization was not an accredited university or college. It did not confer college credit, grant degrees, or grade its students.
To put it more plainly, Trump University was a business venture that attempted a half-assed replication of popular for-profit online schools, like University of Phoenix and Kaplan University. It leveraged its owner’s powerful brand name to attract people into the program with the promise, from Trump himself, that “I can turn anyone into a successful real estate investor, including you.”
In its 5 years, it offered nothing of tangible value. How could it? The secret to Trump’s real estate investing success is already known: simply inherit millions, take enormous risks in Manhattan real estate that pay off, and then have (love him or hate him) star quality that you can leverage to build an empire.
But one can learn those secrets if you just take this $1,500 weekend seminar!
All scams are repugnant, but Trump University was particularly unacceptable because Trump was (supposedly) already a billionaire when he formed it. Presumably not in need of new sources of cash flow, he nonetheless created a scam that preyed on the gullible and desperate – people who are not likely to know better. His “university” targeted people who might have been displaced by factory automation or by the increasing obsolescence of coal as a fuel source. It appealed to many people who were simply more suited for blue-collar tasks in an economy that increasingly values white-collar work.
While some for-profit colleges offer a degree that carries a hint of credibility, Trump University offered only a bait and switch. It’s a great example of his ego, greed, and disregard for the well-being of anyone but himself and his cronies.
Ironically, in my blue state mind, I imagine that the customers of Trump University were the kinds of people who thought of Trump as a self-made billionaire who will hire the “best” people, who knows how to “create jobs,” who will “shake up the Washington establishment.”
This is the long version of what I told the hopeful octogenarian Trump supporter in the Subaru waiting room that day, because when I asked her if she had heard of Trump University, her reply was almost predictable. “No,” she said.
Of course she hadn’t.