Donald Trump has spent his whole life overselling an overinflated vision of himself and his success.
He was the outer-borough boy whose father’s “boxlike office” was on Avenue Z in Brooklyn; he always dreamed of making it to Manhattan and breaking into the big league.
With a hustler’s spirit and some sleight of hand, he made it, but not in total.
He made the move, made the money and made his mark on New York’s skyline, but he never quite made it into the inner sanctum of New York high society.
I’m convinced that this is part of his obsession with former President Barack Obama. Obama was quickly granted the thing Trump never had: upper-class acceptance and adulation.
For Trump’s part, his sin was even worse than being new-money: He was tacky rich.
No amount of money or success could completely rid him of the odiousness of being coarse and crass.
He upset social conventions.
For him, things had to be gilded to be glamorous. All modesty — either real or contrived to guard against exposure — was absent from the man. He was a glutton for attention and adoration. He chased the spotlight and pimped celebrity for profit. He valued flaunting over philanthropy.
In New York City’s elite social circles, Trump was persona non grata.
As many others have pointed out, he became the idiot’s image of an intellectual, the coward’s image of a courageous man and the pauper’s image of a prosperous man.
But rather than being crimped by his ostracism, he wore it as a badge of honor.
He became the Everyman of rich men. He was the outsider, too authentic and even acerbic to be tamed by the convention of the elites. He was the populist billionaire, still engaged in the rough and tumble, at home on reality television just as he was in overpriced real estate.
He was impolitic in the way that many average Joes would be if they came into wealth and not from it.
He swept into politics at just the time that message had its greatest resonance, when there were enough people leery of institutions and weary of the establishment; the wealthy, social, cultural and intellectual elites were on the outs, and there was an opening for an outsider who knew how to work his way in.
The elites who had rejected Trump were now the rejected class. They were the 1 percent, the Wall Street barons, the manifestation of the evils of income inequality. This was the time for a populist, or at least someone who could pretend to be one.
It was in that environment that Trump swept into the presidential election, with the same bluster and bravado, aggression and subversion that had worked well for him in business.
He was not book smart or well mannered. He was all gut and elbow and verbal barbs. For too many, he was refreshingly anti-polish and anti-convention.
And, as is Trump’s wont and calling card, he oversold his voters a bill of goods that he would never be able to deliver. The Pied Piper of pipe dreams did in politics what he had done in business: He got people to buy into a success mythology in which he was a wizard. In this mythology, ethics, honor and truth are casualties.
Everything is going to be the greatest and the best and the most successful simply because he deems it so.
But now, the legend of Trump, the one most rigid in his own mind, is rubbing up against the harsh reality of presidential politics, where cooperation is needed and accountability is demanded. In this new world, Trumpism appears brittle, hollow and impotent.
No matter your politics, Trump’s first weeks in office have been a disaster, as his rush to action, lack of focus and absence of acuity have led him to calamitous missteps and conspiratorial misstatements.
And now his oversold promises are being exposed for the lies they were — draining the swamp in Washington, forcing Mexico to pay for his ridiculous southern border wall, the incredibly defective Obamacare repeal and replacement proposal.
In January, Trump oversold again in an interview with The Washington Post about what he would deliver. The Post reported Trump’s comments this way:
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”
But the plan just announced and endorsed by Trump doesn’t even come close to delivering on this promise. Not only would prices most likely rise for many Trump voters, but millions of Americans would be at risk of losing coverage under the plan.
Not only that, but as NBC reported last month:
“Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are likely to be hit the hardest if he makes good on his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and embark on trade wars with China and Mexico.”
The report continued:
“An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6.3 million of the 11.5 million Americans who used the A.C.A. marketplace to buy their insurance last year live in Republican congressional districts. Policy analysts say that a rollback of the A.C.A. would hurt older and rural Americans — two populations that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.”
As he has done his whole life, Trump has sold those who follow him as some sort of money-drenched messiah a bill of goods, but this time the lie is likely to manifest in loss of life, as sick people lose coverage.
Donald Trump has sold his supporters — and by extension, this country — a ticket to hell.
<CHARLES M. BLOW