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Saturday, February 16, 2019

George Wallace. Henry Ford. Hitler.

No, it’s not the start of a bad joke. These are just a few of the historical figures to whom critics are comparing Donald Trump.

Of course, finding an exact precedent for Trump is a futile exercise. History is not a cycle that repeats itself over and over, but rather a never-ending continuum filled with intersecting layers. Think of it as less of a carousel, and more of a roller coaster that keeps adding new twists and turns, much to the discomfort of its nauseated passengers.

Still, historical comparisons are useful in examining how elements of the Trump phenomenon work. One of the most puzzling questions about Trump has been his knack for political mobilization. How has a widely panned candidate managed to gain such a substantial following? The answer lies in the strategy of another polarizing leader: William “Boss” Tweed.

Both men built a fervent political base out of a single demographic to which they did not belong. By focusing on the special interests of that neglected group, Tweed and Trump found success in a political climate that otherwise would’ve labeled them as crooks and liars.

Tweed’s Tammany Hall machine relied on securing the votes of recent immigrants, particularly the Irish. In an environment plagued by poverty and nativism, Tweed smelled opportunity. He and his colleagues created an early welfare system that supplied the immigrants with food, jobs, and housing in exchange for political support. Historian Kenneth D. Ackerman writes that Tammany Hall provided “state money for schools and hospitals, lumps of coal at Christmas, and city patronage jobs to put bread on family dinner tables.” Though the self-serving motives behind Tweed’s generosity were clear, New York’s poor continued to back him based on the simple fact that he made their lives better when other politicians just didn’t seem to care.

Tweed and his cronies used their growing power as an opportunity to embezzle thousands of dollars from public projects, most infamously through a phony renovation to the City Court House. Nevertheless, Tweed never viewed his theft as an immoral act. It was business, and he was good at it. Towards the end of his life, Tweed explained, “The fact is New York politics were always dishonest, long before my time. There never was a time you couldn’t buy the Board of Aldermen […] A politician coming forward takes things as they are.”

Sound familiar? Trump has similarly used bankruptcy laws and eminent domain — meant for “public use” — to his advantage.

Trump’s outspoken beliefs and motivations have already earned him the spite of many fellow billionaires, but he doesn’t seem to care. Instead, he has established his base among the less-educated, blue-collar voters across the country.

With promises to secure jobs at home and kick ISIS’s ass abroad, Trump has amassed a committed base of support. Based on a New York Times analysis, Trump support correlates strongly with white people who ethnically identify as “American,” those without high school degrees, and those who live in mobile homes.

Many of Trump’s supporters look to him as a paternal figure capable of redirecting America’s wealth back to its forgotten citizens. Paul Weber, an attendee of a Trump rally in Iowa, complained that recent immigrants are “getting pregnant and coming here and having babies,” allowing them to “get everything and the people that were born here can’t get everything.” Many also chalk up Trump’s personal success, multiple declarations of bankruptcy notwithstanding, as a sign that he would have better control over economic fluctuations. “I like him because he’s a businessman,” explained Trump enthusiast Linda Wilkerson. She added, “We’re in terrible financial debt. I hope he can bail us out.”

So, what can we expect from Trump based on Tweed’s trajectory? For one thing, Tweed’s subsequent downfall demonstrates just how fragile Trump’s popularity may be. He too is dependent on single group’s allegiance, and any hit to his tough-guy reputation could prove fatal. It’s just like that old saying about putting all your eggs—or Trump steaks—in one basket.

But where will this decisive blow come from? Trump’s media presence, currently one of his greatest assets, could become his undoing.

Like Trump, Tweed had a less than amicable relationship with the mainstream media. Perhaps in another world, the two men would meet in a penthouse to sip some vintage brut and scowl at caricatures of bloated bellies and bad comb overs.

Tweed was a favorite target of cartoonist Thomas Nast, nowadays most famous for his design of the modern Santa Claus. Nast portrayed Tweed as a sleazy criminal who stole funds from public projects while wearing a diamond on his shirt and a money sack over his head. The efforts of Nast and other journalists eventually exposed Tweed’s fraudulence and damaged his popularity among immigrants. He died penniless and imprisoned in 1878.

So far, Trump has dodged every media attack, somehow turning each gaffe and insult into a display of American authority. However, Trump will not be as invulnerable should he ever have the responsibility to govern. He has little to lose as an outsider candidate, but any corruption in office would reveal him as the hypocrite he is.

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13 responses to “Is Trump The New Boss Tweed?”

  1. Daniel Jones says:

    Considering that I have called the national Capitol “Tammany Hill” since the late 90’s–which can be confirmed in the comments I have made for this ad-raddled news outlet–allow me to smugly say **I TOLD YOU SO**. Really, people.

  2. “…He and his colleagues created an early welfare system that supplied the immigrants with food, jobs, and housing in exchange for political support. Historian Kenneth D. Ackerman writes that Tammany Hall provided “state money for schools and hospitals, lumps of coal at Christmas, and city patronage jobs to put bread on family dinner tables.”

    From that description alone and on the surface, it sounds like a “Socialist System” was ensconced in the good old USA, but without the usual European/Soviet connotations and comparisons. But then again, if such generosity is extended to one’s own “group”, it’s OK. It’s when those of the “Other” category receive aid that the “S” word instantly crops up.

    If anyone were to compare such aid, albeit for political purposes, as was extended to the first wave of immigrants to America with the rabid ravings of certain extremist elements of today, one would clearly see hypocrisy and/or a woeful lack of knowledge of history on the part of said extremists.

    A large segment of America “worry themselves to anemia” (to quote Aunt ‘Em of the Wizard of Oz) when it comes to offering aid to those in need. Such an offering of assistance is instantly equated with socialism/communism and is considered an anathema.

    The former counsels of Jesus Christ are largely ignored and discounted by many who profess themselves to be believers.

    (One can’t help but wonder if self-proclaimed “informed voters” and those who like to cite irrelevant statistics are aware of such historical information).

    • FireBaron says:

      Aaron, the first thing to remember about Republican politicians and candidates is they have custom mirrors created so they do not see the same flaws in themselves that they point out as obvious in others.

      The second thing to remember about the Evangelical Christian Wing of the Republican party is they stopped reading the Bible after Judges, and skipped everything until they got to the Epistles of Paul and John’s Revelations.. Their entire concept of Christianity is based on Leviticus and the actions of Moses, Joshua and the Judges, and the “moral” preaching of a former Saducee who made his living prosecuting the followers of Jesus. They pay no attention to the teachings of Jesus as expressed in the four Gospels. The concepts of caring for those who have less is alien to them.

      The third thing to remember is the Democratic Party has allowed the Republicans to control the dialog since 1980. All through the Clinton and Obama administrations, the Republicans controlled the dialog. All through the Reagan and both Bush administrations, the Republicans controlled the dialog. The Democratic party has to stop “reacting” and start “acting” if they expect to overcome the Trump Juggernaut.

      • 2ThinkN_Do2 says:

        The First thing to remember: They all have Mirrors and Smoke, not just one party. In addition, they all want you believe the other party is the problem.

      • charleo1 says:

        A good point is made about the Right’s controlling dialogue, they clearly have. But the story is incomplete without mentioning how they have been able to do so. And how Trump learning no doubt by example, is controlling the news cycles, and choosing the subjects being discussed, and not discussed about the reality of any of his wild and fanciful claims of what President Daddy Trump is going to do if he ever gets in the WH. What his plan dunk winner plans are for his poorly educated, blue collar, left behinds, or the racist angry nativist xenophobes, he’s goy eating out of the palm of his white grimy hand. The Right’s first advantage in all this has been money. The monied elite have a message, and an agenda. Things they want, laws they want enacted, laws they want blocked. And they control the stocks in corporations that own majority shares in media outlets that write the paychecks of journalists, and editors who demand ratings to drive profits they look to the nightly news anchors, and opinion columnists, and the nightly cable comment shows to deliver. Quick disclaimer: They all protest there is any connection whatsoever in their message, and the corporate ownership that holds life and death decisions over their careers. But let’s try to remember what World we live in. As example of what I’m talking about, take global warming. A full half of these outlets in spite of the overwhelming evidence, question climate change is real at all. The other half question the science underpinning the phenomena by reporting the, “controversy.” In nearly every instance, by every network, each side is given equal time to state their own unchallenged, “facts,” by the reporter, who then without further ado, ends his or her completely uninformative piece. Leaving the viewer worse off, and more confused, or more convinced than ever, by yet another of these unsolved Left/Right, two cats in bag issues to be continued, and fought over yet other day hopefully into perpetuity, with always the same mantra, Stay Tuned! As if the long awaited resolution would surely be settled on the very next episode.

    • The lucky one says:

      “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist” – Dom Helder Camara

  3. I of John says:

    Somehow I don’t think we need to wait until he governs before things start to fall apart. One sharp smack to his ego could take him down and show everyone that the emperor has no clothes. His strong man image can fracture by showing just a glimpse of weakness. I wonder how he could recover should a woman crack that facade open.

  4. dpaano says:

    God, I hope we NEVER have to see what happens with Trump as president!

  5. 2ThinkN_Do2 says:

    Any corruption in office while he (if elected) was President? Is there any doubt?

  6. “FireBaron” and “2 ThinkN_Do2” several spots below have pointed out some key things; in particular, the latter has correctly pointed out that no Party can consider itself free of the baggage of making mistakes.

    Our political process currently mirrors a dysfunction that plagues the Religions of
    the past, although such dysfunction is NOT the fault of the Religion. Rather, the dysfunction is a result of a multitude of opinions that distracts the followers from seeing the whole picture and in the proper context. Partisan politics has come to be founded on the shaky foundation of “Difference of Opinion Without Seeking Consensus, And Catering To The Voices Of The Loudest and Most Influential In Society”.

    The affliction of misreading and misinterpretation, picking and choosing out of context, are some of the failings one finds in Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and other Religions. What they all lack is a specified “Standard” for understanding the inner meanings of their texts. (That’s a major reason, for example, of why so many Muslim fanatics become unhinged and run amuck when it comes to appropriately reading their Book or understanding how to apply teachings in the context of a modern era).

    Without such a “Standard”, differences of opinion arose to the level of arguments and the creation of sects—thus, the Religions were sapped of their original strength due to multiplicity of different interpretations without any guiding principle agreed upon by all, and everyone is on a “different page” as a result.
    Our political system in America, the system in Russia, the onerous strong-arm tactic in Syria, etc. mirror this syndrome of “Divisiveness”.

    BUT I STILL HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO ‘RESPONSIBLY’ VOTE based on my conscience, without someone telling me how to, or who to, vote for.

    • The lucky one says:

      “The affliction of misreading and misinterpretation, picking and choosing out of context, are some of the failings one finds in Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and other Religions.” You did say “other” religions but neglected to mention Christianity which clearly as bad as the others.

  7. I am not sure if Mr. Trump will turn out to be a bad president. His current behavior seems designed to win the nomination. But he should quickly find out how he can turn the anger his followers have now about the country into a useful tool to build a better functioning and prosperous country.
    I am also not sure if Senators Clinton or Sanders will succeed in building America to a greater height given their current rhetoric. America is in deep trouble with low quality and expensive education, low quality employment or at least low paying jobs and more or less relying on service-based economy that does not pay much to the majority and a system that creates greater inequality forever. I am afraid, the inequality generators people’s anger and may result in revolution and usher in poverty for all. A new approach to problem-solving and economic development is required.
    The next President of the United States of America would need to work with business leaders, labor leaders or American workers and citizens. Early on in his/her presidency, the President would need to convene a series of meetings to deliberate on the problem facing the country and what needs to be done to meet the needs of citizens and strength the American economy and raise the quality of life of all Americans.
    Citizens including students and workers need to have a voice in what problems need to be tackled first, and how these problems should be solved. Government and businesses also need to understand the priority problems to be tackled and contributed to the solution. The government should provide the anchor investment to which businesses and citizens can contribute to, to solve the education, employment and quality of life problems. Together we can win and build a formidable economy and a better future for our children and grand children. This does not mean closing our boarders or being protectionist. It just means citizens, businesses and government collaborate to build sustained prosperity and fairly distributed wealth. Senator Sander’s socialism nor Mr. Trumps tactics of slapping huge tariffs on imports will not work for America. If the Congress does not want to work with the President, citizens should make them irrelevant. Lets work together and make our country more prosperous, tolerant and loveable.

  8. The lucky one says:

    Nah, more like Boss Hogg.

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