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Thursday, March 03, 2016 

The history of America is the history of the charlatan.

How did Donald Trump get to be where he is today, asks the Graun's leader:

And how did the US get there with him? These are the questions that matter most in the wake of his Super Tuesday victories because, whatever else may be true about Trump’s candidacy, this is emphatically not politics as usual in the United States. Politics are not normal when a charlatan can rise so rapidly to the top.

Presumably the emphasis there is meant to be on can "rise so rapidly", as otherwise the history of America is practically a history of charlatans rising to the top, or damn near it. You've got your religious ones, from William Miller to Joseph Smith to L. Ron Hubbard. You've got your political ones, Nixon, Reagan and Dubya. And then you've got your financial ones, Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay and a whole myriad of others.

Not that this makes America by any means unique: every country has its hucksters and frauds.  The point surely is that in America wealth tends to give you even more of a pass than elsewhere.  I've lost count of the number of spam emails I've had advising me to adopt Trump's patented plan to increase my wages threefold, for example, which tells you how quickly other scammers catch on.

This is then transferred down to the choice offered to the American voter.  Today's spat between Mitt Romney and the Donald is a microcosm of what American democracy has become: a billionaire disagreeing, sometimes violently, with another billionaire.  The difference is that Trump, unlike his fellow oligarchs, has made clear that he can't be bought.  It's driving the Kochs and the GOP hierarchy insane, and has struck a chord with a left and right equally frustrated with how nothing seems to change, and how the promise they and their children would always be better off has been broken.  Trump is a charlatan sure, but he's a charlatan speaking the same language as those previous charlatans did, just updated for America in 2016.  It really isn't much more complicated than that.

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