The Only Book You Need to Understand Donald Trump's Popularity

This writer has watched with amusement the struggles of politicians; pundits; political analysts; campaign managers; and, well, just about everybody to explain the Donald Trump train wreck juggernaut.

Here is a man who has never held public office and has achieved less in business than Paris Hilton; who, except for the real estate knowledge, connections, and fortune, all of which he inherited from his father, has failed at pretty much everything except real estate and, of course, self-promotion; who touts himself as a champion of the little guy while being "famous for not paying his bills" to the "little guys" who service him; who is known for threatening to sue critics; whose political views change constantly (for example, opposed raising the minimum wage in the first primary debate, now supports it); who "switched political party affiliations at least five times since the late '80s, according to voting records."

Who says he will "bomb the **** out of" ISIS" but is afraid of a five-foot-six blonde bombshell.

Who speechifies like this:

And I asked Jerry, and I asked some of the folks, because I hear this is a major theme right here.  But two Corinthians, right?  Two Corinthians 3:17.  That's the whole ballgame. Where the spirit of the Lord – right?  Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  And here there is Liberty college. … But this is really, is that the one?  Is that the one you like?

Two Corinthians walk into a bar…

Recently, Trump said, "[W]e're gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries."

Not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Trump, but what about sewing your own shirts "in this country, instead of other countries"?

And in a January 26 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is stressing his bona fides as a dealmaker who'd be able to enter the White House and work with congressional Democrats to hammer out agreements.

So now cutting deals with Democrats is good?  What's next?  An endorsement from Bob Dole?  Oh.  Wait.

But never mind all that, because Trump's deals are fabulous!  Like this one, for the Plaza Hotel:

  • Paid $407.5 million.
  • Lost $74 million the first year.
  • Plaza in bankruptcy protection just one year after Trump bought it.
  • Plaza eventually sold for $325.

Not to mention, of course, the casinos.  And the New Jersey Generals.  And the Trump Shuttle.  And…well, they're all there for the Googling by those willing to take the trouble to look.  And for those who do, be sure to Google Trump's connections with Philip "Chicken Man" Testa, Nicademo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, and Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno.  Despite having never met Messrs. Testa, Scarfo, Leonettie, and Salerno, they don't sound to this writer like the kind of guys a presidential candidate can throw under the bus as did Barack Obama with Jeremiah Wright.  Or refuse a favor should that candidate someday occupy the Oval Office.

Enough baggage to fill a 747.  Twice.  And yet neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the adoring throngs of Trump supporters from flocking to his rallies, filling his stadia, cheering, applauding, hanging on every boast, every non sequitur, every poll number quote.

What explains such devotion?  Why are so many GOP voters, at least for now, flocking to Trump?  The answer, in fact, is as simple as Donald Trump's single-sentence bromides for each and every problem besetting America.  The Trump rise is simply the latest iteration of an unfortunate quirk of human behavior that has manifested itself repeatedly throughout history – a quirk about which a perceptive 19th-century Scot named Charles Mackay wrote a seminal book in 1841.  It's the only book one needs to understand both the hoopla surrounding Donald Trump and the imperviousness to argument of his most devoted supporters:

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, per its Wikipedia entry:

... is a history of popular folly by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841.  The book chronicles its subjects in three parts:  "National Delusions", "Peculiar Follies", and "Philosophical Delusions[.]"

For now, "Trumpmania" appears to reside relatively safely within the Peculiar Follies category.  Let us pray that it does not metastasize into a National Delusion.

Back to Mackay, who, in his book's foreword, writes (emphasis added):

In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do.  We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions is essentially an encyclopedia of all of the fads that have titillated – and often ruined large segments of – the public throughout history, the most famous of these arguably being the tulip bulb mania of the 17th century.  Another is the Mississippi Scheme.

The great investor Bernard Baruch, who, like many great investors, amassed a large fortune by recognizing and betting against the extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds in the financial world, observed:

Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible – as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead.

Trump's crowds, of course, are yuge.  And, sadly, the task of getting Trump's supporters to do a little Googling, read up on the man, see him in his entirety, over his entire career, as he really is (the links in this article's second paragraph are a good place to start) is even yuger.  Having been disappointed so many times by "the establishment," Trump's supporter very, very much wants to believe.  In one man.  In a Trump ex machina, heaven-sent…

…who will save them…

Trying to dissuade someone who thinks Jesus sent Donald Trump to save us to see through the emperor's patently transparent clothing is like trying to dissuade a 17th-century Dutchman from trading his house for a single tulip bulb.

As Jonathan Swift famously said, "it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."

But quite useful to anger a man into something he was never reasoned into.

So, the good ship Trump sails on, and there is nothing for those standing on the pier, watching the Titanic steam into the sunset, to do but hang on, "keep our heads when all about us are losing theirs," and hope that a sufficient number of Trump's supporters come to their senses before it's too late.

Gene Schwimmer is a New York licensed real estate broker and the author of The Christian State.  Follow Gene Schwimmer on Twitter.