Donald Trump’s theme, “Make America great again,” is perhaps the most ironic of campaign slogans, for his election is actually a step in the possible downfall of the United States. In the arc of history great nations reach high points, and then, for assorted reasons go into decline. The election of Donald Trump constitutes a step in this negative direction. History shows that powerful nations inevitably develop weaknesses which undermine them. Liberal elements attempt corrections, but are thwarted by entrenched conservative interests. With problems unresolved, rot sets in, leading to widespread discontent. Eventually a demagogue appears who, rather than addressing the actual faults that have caused the problems, appeals to the bigoted emotions of  the masses by blaming the innocent. Once the demagogue gains power, these scapegoats are persecuted, and since the real problems are not solved, the nation’s decline continues, sometimes to the point of collapse.

This sad scenario is what has been happening to the United States. The major problems in our country were largely the consequence of President Ronald Reagan. Lowering the income tax rate on the highest earners from seventy percent to twenty eight (By 2012 it was down to 16.7%. Obama raised it to 39.6%), along with the weakening of labor unions brought extreme income disparity which was a major cause of the 2008 recession.The other was poor banking regulation, leading to unsound banking practices. Another more long range problem was insufficient technological innovation, especially the technology of energy creation. (Symbolically, Reagan removed the White House solar panels put there by Jimmy Carter.) Basing energy mostly on carbon based sources  instead of “renewables” has been an economic drain. Moreover, the excess of carbon dioxide has been causing weather changes that can be in the long run catastrophic. Finally, he abolished the “fairness doctrine,” in broadcasting that insured reasonably accurate news reporting. The result has been widespread inaccurate right wing ideologically driven news analysis. (Biased left wing news is less influential, and, according to fact checkers the percentage of lies is lower.)

In his run for the Presidency, our contemporary demagogue, Donald Trump made no mention of these real weaknesses, instead promising tax cuts for the rich, increasing carbon fuel usage, blaming hispanic, especially Mexican immigrants for taking American jobs, and the loss of factory jobs to Asian countries, especially China. Yes, many things formerly made in America are manufactured overseas, and there are instances of trade imbalances, but this is not really an economic problem because their factories pay much lower wages allowing the American consumer to pay less for these goods, and what they save on those purchases can be re-directed to buying high end luxuries and services made in America. Furthermore, even with the loss of factory jobs, our nation’s output is greater than ever. It is just that with robotics, less workers are needed to maintain production. Therefore, promising that the “old” factory jobs can be brought back is a fiction. Trump’s other claim that immigrants take jobs away from native Americans is a shibboleth used against foreigners since the 1850’s. The truth is that immigrants are opportunists who only come here because there is a demand for people to perform jobs that native Americans do not want to do. (Ironically, net immigration in recent years has been very small.) Trump’s other claim that illegal immigrants are bringing a crime wave is another fiction. Statistically, crime is much lower among immigrants than native born, and there is a logical reason for this. Crime is risky, therefore, criminally minded folks prefer the relative safety of their home countries to the more dangerous environment of a foreign land where they are unfamiliar with the culture and language.

Why do so many believe the demagogic propaganda? One element is a media that is often via advertising, controlled by those causing the problems. But the other, more important one is human nature. Too many citizens who can grasp physical concepts have trouble with abstract reasoning, making them unable to intelligently understand law, sociology, and economics. (see my essay, “The Trump Phenomenon.” ) At one end of the mental spectrum are the rational, scientific, irreligious thinkers whose grasp of abstract reasoning is high. At the other end are magical thinkers who, while embracing technology, dislike, or at the very least, are uninterested in the science that underlies it. Most are religious folks who often believe in such superstitions as tarot cards, astrology, and lucky charms. Their political judgments are based on media propaganda, the prejudices in the culture, or their gut feelings, all of which are usually erroneous.

These magical thinkers are the least critical, and most susceptible to demagogues like Mr. Trump, believing his lies and exaggerations. Many thought that Trump’s success as a businessman made him better able to perform the Presidential duties, but running private businesses has next to nothing to do with being a political leader. Herbert Hoover was a fabulously rich self made mining engineer. He failed as President. Jimmy Carter who turned a teetering peanut farm into a prosperous enterprise has not been judged a successful President. On the other hand we have Thomas Jefferson whose inherited plantation was always close to financial disaster. He is considered a great President.  Prior to Harry S. Truman’s career as a county chief executive, United States Senator, and well respected President, he was a retailer whose most noted accomplishment was filing for bankruptcy.  On top of this there is the irony that Donald Trump’s record in business is at best spotty. After building Manhattan’s Trump tower with money furnished by is fabulously successful real estate developer father, Donald had one failure after another. Several casinos went bankrupt. The Trump Shuttle went belly up. He lost control of the Plaza Hotel. After the court judged  “Trump University” a fraud, he had to pay a twenty-five million dollar settlement. He had a reputation of cheating contractors. His one notable success was being the host of  television show, “The Apprentice,” where his talent for self promotion and glibness made him a terrific showman. In the real estate world, Trump has for the most part not been a developer, but rather a gifted salesman who licenses his name on other people’s projects.

Rather than labellingDonald Trump as a great real estate developer, I would use the following words to describe him: Mountebank, charlatan, imposter, flimflammer, hustler; and a scary thing about such people, is that they often believe their own lies, and ironically are themselves susceptible to hustles. The question with Trump is not whether or not he will be a good or bad President, but rather, just how much damage he will do.