I don’t know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend one of those scam get rich seminars like Trump University, but they all follow the exact same pre-packaged tried-and-true three step method to fleece people out of money.
First, the presenter goes on at some length about how great and successful he or she has been. This is the key part of the whole presentation – which is always aimed at people who feel like life has cheated them out of the success they deserve – because it sets the hook that the presenter has the unique insight that they’ve been missing this whole time. It feeds the belief that successful marks have that they, too, have the capacity to be rich and wealthy if only they knew some mystical secret that actually rich and successful people possess.
The second part is where the presenter brings this feeling out into the open by saying that the attendees haven’t succeeded in their lives because they’ve made a series of silly but easily correctable mistakes. It’s important to feed the attendees’ sense of inferiority and anger at the way outside forces have forced them into not having the success they’ve always known they deserved. But it ends with hope – don’t worry, I can fix this problem. Don’t worry, the solution is shockingly easy, and I know what it is.
The third part involves a promise that if you buy some premium service – whether it’s the deluxe $35,000 year long mentorship at Trump University or extra course materials – the presenter will unlock his secrets for you and untold riches will flow unto you. Specifics are never offered at this point, only fantastic and seemingly unrealistic promises. To soothe audience skepticism, the presenter again returns to the first part of his presentation by reminding them of how great and rich and successful he’s become, as proof that his method works and has worked in the past.
This is pretty much exactly the pitch Trump uses for his campaign speeches. First, he talks about how great and successful he’s been as a businessman. For proof that he’s also a great and successful politician, he spends a great amount of time emphasizing the success he’s had or is having in the polls. This is very important to Trump’s image – everything he touches is gold, everywhere he goes, he creates success. Even the bankrupted casinos are evidence of how successful he really is because he knew to get out of Atlantic City before everyone else did.
Next, he launches into his diatribe about how America doesn’t win anymore and hasn’t been successful because her leadership has made a number of silly but easily fixable mistakes. We lose to China because our leaders are stupid. Some slick (but nonsensical) doubletalk is offered as to how we wouldn’t be losing to China under Trump. We lose to Mexico but there’s a very easy way to make them just pay for the wall. Nobody respects our military might anymore because our leaders have stupidly let our military get not awesome. And so on and so on.
Then, part three, if you pay the premium (in this case, vote for Trump), you will learn what needs to be done to make America rich and successful again. You say you’d like more details about what, specifically, his foreign policy would be like? Sorry, you have to vote him into office to get that, but trust him, it’s going to be great. Want to know what his healthcare policy will be, other than selling across state lines? You have to make him President first, but when you do, you’re going to see – we’re going to have the best health plans you’ve ever seen. And so on and so on.
There’s a reason these stupid scam seminars still exist and that people like Trump make pretty good money offering them – it’s because this pitch works, especially on the less sophisticated and those with lower incomes. It feeds on their class envy, their belief in the magical powers of those who have actually attained success (which has eluded them all their life), and their belief that success should be easy, if only they had access to what the successful and rich people actually have. And there’s a reason Trump is doing so well in particular with – as he calls them – the “poorly educated” and lower income voters that he loves: because he’s had a lifetime of honing this scam pitch to them and he is really good at it.
But while the pitch works, the seminars themselves do not. No one gets rich by putting into effect the principles they’ve learned from these seminars. No one actually becomes successful and famous. While they might leave the seminar itself convinced that they have received great and useful information that’s going to transform their lives (as many of the Trump University plaintiffs initially did), when they go out and try for weeks or months to actually put them into practice, they learn that all they’ve really received from the experience is a lighter wallet. And usually, they’re too embarrassed and ashamed to actually go and report the scam artist who sold them the seminar to the authorities.
I think Cruz won the debate last night but Rubio said the most true and important thing: that Trump is trying to do to America what he did to the Trump University students. Let’s hope America wakes up before it’s too late.