Grifterismo: The Final Stage of Capitalism

Fascism is just griftification plus murder

As Ron DeSantis proves to be less charismatic than a coffee colonic, and Trump continues his death march to primary victory, the most important story about the Republican primary to your girl here is that Trump’s superPAC has already spent over $40 million on legal fees and attorneys.

It’s a relatively safe presumption that Trump has no liquid capital, the vast majority of his wealth tied-up in real estate and development, and he’s constantly rolling over various grifts to keep cash flowing through his vast empire of sand, which is why he’ll never release his financial records. Sure seems like his 2016 political campaign was largely designed to bankroll him for another half decade (which explains his absolutely barebones primary campaign staff and his constant but unproven claims to be “self-funding”) and then when he started winning his narcissism overcame all other concerns. And anyway if he became dictator for life his financial woes would be over.

It didn’t quite work out that way, and now his bumbling and poorly organized fascism has left him facing a series of severe and probably unwinnable criminal cases. When the indictments first dropped, and proved to be so absolutely rock solid, I was convinced he would leave the country. But there’s a reason he’s the world’s greatest grifter, and I’m just a girl with a day job and an internet connection.

Instead, he has decided to run an unwinnable campaign for 2024, and as it has become clear that Desantis doesn’t have a meatball’s chance in hell at the Republican nomination, Trump’s strategy has come into clear focus. He has spent his campaign intensely rallying his base, throwing far-right red meat like starting his campaign in Waco and claiming this is a final, apocalyptic battle of us vs them. Of course, primary campaigns are all about the party base, but there is little evidence of the faux-populism of his 2016 campaign that reached out to just enough disillusioned Dem voters.

The media has always fixated on whether or not he believes his own hype, but like any true confidence man, he has an unerring instinct for believing his own lies until the exact moment they stop serving him, at which point he pivots. He really does believe he can win the 2024 elections, enough at least to keep the fundraising going.

As his massive traveling road shows, his Nuremberg-as-farce rallies of the 2016 campaign, prove less and less effective at drawing crowds and giving him the deep and obvious pleasure he desired, he has settled into a leisurely campaign strategy. Based out of Mar-a-Lago, his most fervent activity is emailing his base four-to-five times a day, although he gets out in front of cameras whenever he feels the urge.

Of course, he barely needs to campaign, so it makes sense that he is doing pretty much nothing as Ron DeSantis performs political harakiri in the form of nazi meme videos and actually being seen by the public at large, burning through 20 million dollars over a year for the incredible benefit of a single percentage point in some national polls. Trump has always been blessed by having absolute dip-shits for opponents, and this campaign is no different.

So Trump is simply frothing up his base, pumping them for donations, and funneling that money into his legal defense fund. He’s also constantly talking about how the prosecutions are meritless, political theater, while making motions and demanding to have the trials delayed until after the election.

To the media people who are too smugly enamored of the legal system to think that it can be played and manipulated—you could tell that the commentators who watched and wrote about Trump’s arraignment had never been anywhere near a criminal court, and were shocked, SHOCKED, to learn even a basic fact that wasn’t covered on Law and Order—they note that this strategy wont work, and that Trump is going to have to face the music. No smarter than his supporters, they believe that he’s hoping to get into the white house as a way of purging his legal woes.

But, as I wrote on Bluesky (yes I have one, no I don’t think it’s any good), I don’t think he or his legal team are quite that confused. Instead, I think he is going to fundraise through the primary, winning handily and after the convention coronation enter into general election fundraising with a big show of strength, sincerity, and hullabloo.

All of this money is gonna be spent on a "lean" electoral campaign as the PACs pay for his legal fees, and then, a few weeks into the general, he’s gonna flee the country.

The justice dept, sanguine in their knowledge that they’ve got him dead to rights and also unbelievably casual when it comes to rich people, has put no restrictions or controls on his travel and movement during the trial lead up. In a country in which over 400,000 are rotting in pre-trial detention at any time, Trump’s private jet hasn’t even been grounded. If this situation doesn’t change before 2024, when he wins the primary, they, like all the gullible marks in the media, will be convinced by then that he intends to stay and try to win.

And yeah, he'll show up for early arraignments while making legal maneuvers to delay the trials as long as possible—remember, he just needs them to be delayed until sometime during the general election. For the justice department, this is no problem: they’re happy to have his trials during the general election, which would almost certainly guarantee, in their mind, that his cause is unwinnable.

People will be convinced he really is trying to become president to gain immunity, because, despite almost a decade of watching this man cannily wriggle his way out of an infinite number of unbelievable catastrophes, they still think he’s that stupid. But he has a pretty clear and easy path to freedom: fundraise infinite legal fees, then flee the country to "conduct his campaign in exile". From there he can claim that the cases are pure politics, a witch hunt, and that if there was real freedom he’d be able to be in the US and win.

Would this disillusion some of his base? Sure! But remember, a huge number of these people believed that he was a god-king who was going to institute martial law in order to purge the country of a pedophile cabal and thereby bring about the political rapture. It’s not that hard to sell “I’m being persecuted politically” when, you know, he’s being prosecuted for his criminal political actions, to people who have spent 8 years getting absolutely grifted to within an inch of their lives by testicle-sun tanners, supplement peddlers, raw water drinkers, essential oil MLMs, Q Shamans, keto dieticians, anti-soy activists, pick-up artists, TERFs, child labor advocates, free-speech nazis, and the rest of them.

The thing about being a sucker is, the longer you double down on believing the grift, the longer you can delay the shame of realizing you’ve been had. Grifts work because the victim doesn’t want to admit they’ve been victimized. As Matthew Remski argues in this fantastic episode of the Consprituality podcast, the dynamics that keep people in abusive relationships, cults and fascist political movements are all very similar: you’ve been promised something that you really, truly want and need, and the person controlling you keeps telling you it’s just around the next bend.

To give up on the dream, to admit that you were vulnerable, and that that vulnerability roped you into a situation where you deepened your own harm and harmed others, is deeply shameful. And fascism, which is increasingly visible as a telescopic series of grifts, promises to constantly delay this realization of shame, to in fact finally destroy the shame of the harm you’ve caused others by fully transforming the world into a projective image of your own shameful self-loathing.

So if Trump gets the Republican nomination, expect him to use the money to fund his legal defense, as well as his retirement in a nation without extradition. And when he’s steamrolled in the election he can maintain the story that it was because of the cases, thereby keeping as much of his cult of personality, aka his funding base, as he can while dodging prison and not needing to do the annoying labor of actually running the country, which, it always seemed, he kinda hated anyway. If this happens, odds are he’ll die rich and happy in a gaudy mansion, like so many dictators before him, leaving the rest of us to pick up the pieces.