Trump as Empire Builder?

Numerous prominent Republicans have long suggested that Donald Trump is unwilling to release his tax information because he’s hiding something important, maybe even a “bombshell”. Perhaps his reticence is about having an even lower effective tax rate than the one Mitt Romney revealed in 2012 or using the kind of barely legal tax havens he’s bashed in the past. In an attempt to head off the kind of controversy that now swirls around Trump, National Review published a piece declaring that if “Trump won’t release his tax returns prior to the GOP convention, the delegates pledged to him on the first ballot should abstain” from voting for him. The implications were that something devious or even sinister lurks in the paper trail.


Now that we're just a few weeks away from Election Day, Trump has now offered to trade his tax returns for Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails while still pretending his audit status prevents him from releasing his returns. He hinted that he might not actually even pay taxes at all!


In the first Presidential debate, Clinton raised a host of speculative theories about why Trump refuses to make his tax returns public. My theory is much simpler. See, I think the only thing that might truly diminish Trump for his supporters is his bottom line number. How much money does he actually have?


We’ve all seen the story play out before. A celebrity appears to have an immense amount of wealth but it’s illusory. Michael Jackson used to own an amusement park house for goodness sake!


This is why perception matters:


Trump’s primary appeal is his status as an empire builder. He describes himself as a winner and people believe it. After all, the strongest association we have with Trump is as ‘rich person’. In an America devoid of culturally significant dynastic families, it’s people like Donald Trump and the Kardashians who represent the 21st century image of American wealth. (We know nothing about most of the Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Kennedys and Rockefellers in our midst today.) We’ve already looked behind the curtain at the Kardashians and seen the ‘momager’ Kris Jenner herself. We know she’s the wizard.


We have no idea what we’ll see when the curtain is pulled back on the ‘Trumpire’. If there’s far less wealth than we’ve been led to believe, it will be disastrous for Trump. Not because he’s funding his own campaign, despite what he says. But because the core premise of his candidacy will be gone. It’s only his wealth that resonates as successful. Without it, he’s just another reality show star with bad hair and a bizarrely attached following.


Now that I think about it, I wonder if Todd Chrisley would have been a better choice?





 This is an update of a post I wrote several months ago.


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