Here’s something else I learned during my year in Iowa: When you tell Americans in the heartland they are being plundered, they don’t know where to look or how to react. “It’s just been so many times,” I told a farmer sitting with me in a hayloft the afternoon we conducted a farm-marketing survey of the crucial early-primary state. “When I say ‘The federal government is killing us,’ everyone says, ‘If you live on the prairie, they are killing you.’” With a clucking “ooh,” they nodded. “But I’m on the lake,” I said. “And they say, ‘Is the federal government killing you? It has a point.’” A woman in the hayloft beamed at me. I came home to New York expecting someone to use these comments to excoriate me for ideological bias. But then I looked at my family, and my wife, and my children, and I realized this conversation was nothing more than one more in a long series of triangulations, where I defend the concept of private property against the idea of social security and discrimination against gays and against Native Americans. It was not about complicated debates. It was just one more moment of real human empathy for an American audience that for all the intricacies of policy are just a bunch of knuckleheads to him.
And, because I happen to know that the people are to blame for this, I too found it fascinating. I mean, really. Yes, I mean Superspreader. Superspreader is the Washington post writer who announced that a Republican tax plan that cuts corporate taxes and eliminates all the estate tax and payroll tax was going to raise taxes for 65 percent of the country’s working-age population. Superspreader refused to believe that cuts would benefit the rich and that they would increase taxes on some of them but somehow relieve the burden of all the other people. Superspreader turned to me and my wife for answers, and to prove my point, I wanted to show her a white paper with facts and numbers that said, in no uncertain terms, “Nonsense.” But she looked at me and said, “I trust you.” I said, “You don’t see how totally messianic Superspreader is?” She smiled. “Very. Very. Yes.” I put the paper away. She looked at me and said, “He is so persistent in believing what he believes.” And that is how Donald Trump was elected. He was not Superman. He was Superspreader. He made a lot of people believe in him again. But when the truth about his tax plan came out — and I’m not sure how the country will be enlightened about its negative impacts — Superspreader will try to win the re-election anyway. He will say, “I stuck it to the liberals. I’m a strong conservative. I’m a Superspreader.” But the damage was done. Rather than making America great again, Donald Trump made himself incredibly destructive. We all know his faults. He is a narcissistic, egomaniacal, nonsensical blowhard. If he doesn’t like President Obama’s policy, he calls him “the single worst president in the history of the United States.” He told Steve Bannon, his campaign boss, “F*** Obama.” And then he just ignores the polls. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Let’s make our country great again by giving it away.”