Donald Trump has always been a huckster. Had he not been born into wealth, he would have been the overly enthusiastic salesman we see on cable TV at 2 a.m. pitching gutter sealant or knives that slice through tomatoes and metal with the same ease.
His skill, which he admittedly has perfected to a near art form, is the ability to get a lot of people to believe just about anything. As Trump himself said just before the 2016 Iowa Caucus, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
His post-2020 election con has been that he only lost because of fraud, which is a documented falsehood. However, as Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
I’m never quite sure whether Trump believes all the things he says or whether he is simply as comfortable with the lie as the truth. Trump’s post-truth world hinges on people willingly believing what he says, while attempting to discredit opposing views and even facts.
That existence is reinforced by sycophants, and it is a breeding ground for even more outlandish cons. The most recent came last week, set up by Trump’s advance billing of a “major announcement.”
Trump supporters were energized. They had been waiting for Trump to do something big following his announcement that he’s running again in 2024. That eager anticipation was met with this big reveal: A video where Trump announced he is issuing trading cards. (The absurdity of the grift obfuscated Trump’s claim that he was a better president that George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.)
More specifically, these are non-fungible tokens, digital art that is supposedly unique and has some value. In this case, Photoshopped images of Trump’s head on the body of a superhero, a western sheriff and several other depictions.
Think about this for a minute: In one of the images, the former leader of the free world is pictured with lasers coming out of his eyes. And you, the lucky collector and Trump supporter, can purchase these NFTs for the low, low price of $99 apiece. By the way, the proceeds do not go to the Trump campaign, but apparently to Trump himself.
Even Trump’s stalwarts were embarrassed. Steven Bannon said, “I can’t watch it again, make it stop.” He added that whoever came up with the idea and sold it to Trump “ought to be fired today.” Right-wing internet personality “Baked Alaska” (Anthime Gionet), who just pleaded guilty to participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, tweeted, “I can’t believe I’m going to jail for an NFT salesman.”
Others questioned why Trump would venture into NFTs at a time when crypto—and NFTs—are crashing. Even high-risk investors figured out months ago that NFT images have no intrinsic value and are only worth what people are willing to pay for them over a short period of time, which is the very definition of a bubble.
But Trump may get the last laugh, which is often the case with a skilled con man. The first issuance of the trading cards sold out in a matter of hours. Buyers can gaze adoringly at the cartoonish images while Trump and the creators of the NFTs pocket an estimated $4.5 million.
Yes, as P.T. Barnum said, “There is a sucker born every minute.” And no one knows that better than Donald Trump.