Arrival at Destination

It’s been more than two years since the last post here at Rhoades to Madness. The reasons for this lengthy hiatus are many, but the reason for my return is singular:

We have arrived at madness.

A little less than two weeks ago, my country elected Donald Trump as its President, a stunning end to a revolting election cycle. As a straight white man, I was horrified. I can’t begin to imagine what a gut-punch this must have been for women, minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community that Trump’s campaign repeatedly threatened and now has the means to carry out those threats.

I can and will speak more to all of that…later. The fact is, Trump won on the back of these hideous threats, not despite them. America’s complicity in this is an even more horrifying prospect, and needs more room to unpack.

Today, I’m just going to talk about something that seems inexplicably destined to be a footnote in Trump’s ascendancy: The Trump University Fraud case.

On Friday, Trump settled with over 6,000 former students of Trump University, all of whom alleged that the instruction they received was either inadequate or non-existent. At least one claimed to have spent over $35,000 in tuition at the University and that all he got was “books he could have got at the library.”

During his campaign, Trump was emphatic about his desire to win this suit and clear his name. He has also repeatedly railed against the very concept of “settling” and has even attacked other businessmen who’ve settled suits against them. In May, he even attacked a judge handling two of the cases, claiming that the judge’s Mexican heritage would unduly affect his decisions. Despite all of this, the judge granted a delay that put the suit out of play until after the election. Now that the election is over, however, and Trump is victorious, this suit is apparently beneath his attention.

Trump Tweet

At first, the $25 million settlement might look like a victory for the claimants. It might even look like a kinder, gentler Trump is emerging, one who is willing to put the country’s interests above his own. He was, after all, determined to fight (and win!) this thing.

But then, we do the math.

Naturally, only a fraction of that $25 million actually goes to the claimants. Much of it will go to lawyers, court costs, and other fees. But even assuming that every penny went to the over 6,000 people who brought the suit, they’d receive less than $4,200 each. That barely begins to recover the tuition paid to a school that allegedly taught nothing and now doesn’t even exist.

These 6,000 people were Trump’s first supporters. They believed that the Trump name and Trump’s business acumen could help them achieve a better life. They thought that if they could get just a fraction of his knowledge, or be imparted just a bit of his skill, they could improve their standing. Well before Trump declared his run for President, well before the rallies, well before the red “Make America Great Again” hats, these people believed in Donald Trump.

One of Trump’s foundational campaign promises was jobs. Jobs will be created, jobs will be brought back from places like Mexico and China, jobs will return to America one way or another. And here was a golden opportunity! 6,000 Americans, students of his own University, could have been put to work somewhere in his real estate empire or even in his administration. Trump could have returned on this investment in him. He chose not to.

Trump’s current supporters should be taking a long, hard look at this settlement. If they really believe that a President Trump can make their lives better, that the trust they put in him will be repaid, that he can create millions of jobs…well. He couldn’t even create 6,000.

Perhaps Trump University has something to teach us after all.

One thought on “Arrival at Destination

  1. I think I hit saturation point on disgust for this election cycle some time before the primaries. I wish I could say I’m surprised by this outcome, but really, I’m not. Even if we ignore the way Trump leveraged bigotry to get votes (which we shouldn’t), it’s not hard to see how this happened. He emphasized the “I’m not an insider, get rid of the insiders” angle (try not to laugh while looking at his transition team), and the Democrats ran the most inside of insiders they could, and stacked the deck in her favor with such a heavy hand that it never felt like she was the peoples’ choice for the Democratic Party — just the DNC’s. And notably, from what I’ve read, there wasn’t this big upsurge or switch to voting Republican… the Democrats just didn’t show up. I strongly suspect it was a combination of feeling disenfranchised (due to not wanting her as the candidate), and complacency (most news outlets were predicting an 80% or greater chance of Clinton winning.) Granted, I’m guilty as well, I voted third-party out of protest. But at least, being in Oregon, I could do so with the sure knowledge that my vote meant little; Portland’s so deep blue that there was no chance of Clinton losing Oregon.

    In my voting lifetime, there have been a few times when I’ve felt like I could say I was voting for a better candidate, but usually it’s been for the less-bad candidate, which is not the same thing. The problem with choosing the lesser of two evils is that one is still choosing evil. Frankly, it feels like the Democrats and Republicans have been playing a game of chicken, seeing who can get the American public to blink while they run increasingly extreme candidates. Well, the inevitable wreck finally happened.

    Too right about how minorities are going to feel about this. Even with the awareness that I don’t have to worry about being deported or being made to wear a sign stating my religion, I think the next four years are going to suck for Native Americans. He has the potential to be one of the worst presidents for Natives in decades. Mind you, Clinton wouldn’t have been good — her response on Standing Rock was basically “We’re listening to everybody, now fuck off, this is happening”, and I’d expect more of the same legal obstruction as during Bill’s administration — but it’s possible she may have been less bad for us than Trump, if only because she doesn’t actively encourage the stereotyping Trump does. (Also angry with Obama’s stance on Standing Rock. He’s done some good for Natives here and there, even canceled oil rights by private corporations on Blackfeet land just a few weeks ago, but for the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Pipeline, he’s decided to “let things play out”, which basically means he’s passing the buck onto Trump. Considering the way things have been playing out, he’s essentially ending his presidency with a tacit endorsement of genocide.)

    I have been trying, not entirely with success, to find a silver lining in the funnel cloud. So far I’ve come up with two things. One is that Trump is not a subtle person, so the damage he’ll do in the next four years should be obvious and comparatively easy to fix, and thus likely to be fixed relatively quickly, unlike the damage Clinton would likely do (which would be far less in volume, but far more subtle). The other is that both parties have needed, for a long time, to recenter and start listening to the people more. The Democrats just got their wake-up call, which they wouldn’t have if Clinton had won. And the Republicans at least have some potential to take a step back and recenter, even though their candidate won, considering the prominence of anti-Trump Republicans in this cycle.

    But no. Not happy. Wasn’t going to be happy. But I’m angrier than I had anticipated being.

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