Trump Can’t Follow Through on His Promises—And Will Need A Scapegoat

The more he fails to deliver on his economic pledges, the more he’ll try to shift the blame.

Terry J. Allen

Gambling on the future in Trump Casino. (Terry J. Allen)

What happens when Trump will not, cannot, deliver on his core promises? And it is only a matter of time.

Trump will try to use the rabid along with the marginalized as storm troopers in a war against those he will scapegoat for denying or thwarting his success and snatching away his promised Great America.

One scenario is that his supporters will wake up and realize that they have been screwed again — not just by the usual system the rich and powerful have rigged against them, but also by a greedy con man who played and betrayed them. And they will turn on him.

Sadly, a more likely scenario is that Trump will follow his established pattern: bedazzling supporters with a platter of razzmatazz and a side of scapegoat. Whenever he abandons or eviscerates a promised program or policy, whenever news is bad, Trump will be Trump. He will outright lie (“I never promised that,” I did deliver,” or It was just campaign room talk”) and at the same time (logic was never his strong suit), he will blame any failure on the usual enemies — the media, Democrats, Muslims, minorities, professional protesters,” immigrants, nasty women, Mexican rapists, rude Broadway performers, etc.

When he wants a switch up from domestic fall guys, he can grab the time-tested path of ginning up a war, or scaring the bejesus out of the populace by hyping the imminent threat of freedom-hating terrorists lurking under America’s bed.

That most of Trump’s platform is built of smoke, mirrors, and bullshit will become increasingly apparent as it smacks up against hard reality. Some of his promises are simply impossible to realize: He cannot bring back coal mining or create millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs that provide under-skilled workers with a ticket into the middle class. He cannot restore the god-given entitlement and privileges white men still hold as their due. He cannot create affordable health care within a market system or build a 2,000 mile long wall on Mexico’s dime. Even aided by resurrected policy zombies like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, he cannot turn back the clock to the 1950s. Nor can he erase the fact that the halcyon past for which he pines rested on the exclusion and subjugation of non-whites and women. Words and wishing will not make America white again.

And then there is the heaping portion of Trump’s fantastical promises that fundamentally conflict with his interests and those of his natural allies: the moneyed class which quickly figured out that it has a friend, albeit an uncouth one, in Trump. The export of factories and jobs from low-wage countries the candidate so deplored is essential to the corporate bottom line, as is the import of cheap foreign goods, such as the low-cost Chinese steel Trump famously used. The mass expulsion of 11 million undocumented workers is not only logistically and financially precluded by reality, but it would throw into chaos such industries as farming, construction, leisure, service, and low-skilled health care. As for draining the Washington swamp of corporate lobbyists, one of the nascent Trump administration’s first moves is anointing a phthisic coterie of corporate shills and whores.

Sure, there will be some high-profile reform bones thrown to the hungry-for-change masses, but these will never fill the chasm of income inequality or reknit the safety net that was already too shredded to support the poor, the elderly and the working class. And sure, it will take time before his supporters feel the effects of trickle down taxation and the evisceration of regulations that protect our environment, food safety, health standards, and rights.

But eventually, the stink of failed promises will add to the miasma of fraud and deception and that surround Trump. And therein lies the danger: At the first sign that his base is growing restless and disillusioned, that they start understanding that they were used and betrayed, Trump will need to seduce them further down the rabbit hole of his delusions — chief among them that he gives a rat’s ass for the people he claims to champion.

He will distract with red meat — most often sliced from the bodies of his designated enemies. The more Trump fails to deliver, the more he will need to rouse and rally his supporters. They include useful racist minions and sexist bullies, but also America’s prisoners of low incomes and status and the millions clinging desperately to hope of living, or seeing their children live, the American dream. Trump will try to use the rabid along with the marginalized as storm troopers in a war against those he will scapegoat for denying or thwarting his success and snatching away his promised Great America.

What’s to be done? Well, signing petitions from the comfort of a couch is always an option. Then again, some people prefer the only thing that has ever worked: organize, educate, take off the gloves and fight like hell back.

Terry J. Allen is a veteran investigative reporter/​editor who has covered local and international politics and health and science issues. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Boston Globe, Times Argus, Harper’s, the Nation​.com, Salon​.com, and New Scientist . She has been an editor at Amnesty International, In These Times , and Cor​p​watch​.com. She is also a photographer. Her portraits of people sitting in some of the 1900 cars lined up outside a Newport, Vt., food drop can be seen on www​.flickr​.com/​p​h​o​t​o​s​/​t​e​r​r​y​a​l​l​e​n​/​a​lbums. Terry can be contacted at tallen@​igc.​org or through www​.ter​ry​jallen​.com.
ITT May 2023 Cover: The New Face of Black Lung
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Get the whole story: Subscribe to In These Times magazine.