P.T. Barnum was the showman of the 19th Century.
As he was building his reputation, he created his own, more interesting reality. In other words, he lied…but in a way that got people really excited and made him a lot of money.
One of his early profitable hustles was his purchase of a slave, Joice Heth, who he presented as 161 years old, claiming she was George Washington’s nurse. When she died, he arranged for a public autopsy, charging 50 cents per ticket.
During a recent interview with Chuck Todd, Trump said that he took comparisons to Barnum as a compliment. After all, people need showmanship or, as Barnum put it, “The people like to be humbugged.”
Trump’s affinity for Barnum’s showmanship makes sense as we see in the early days of his Presidency.
- Bring back torture
- Build the wall. Humiliate Mexico into paying for it.
- Force local communities to function as a federal tool for deportations.
- Insist 3 to 5 million votes were stolen in the election he won…and not one went to him
- Describe the authors of the paper he cites for voter fraud as groveling to the press when they say, read the study on line, it says nothing like he claims.
- Says he will announce a major voter fraud investigation that no one can find a need for….but nothing about Putin’s propaganda influence on our election…and nothing about voter suppression activities.
- Claim repeatedly that he got bigger crowds, more votes and other made up alternate realities
- And on and on.
Does it work? Well, the Mar a Lago membership fee just doubled to $200,000, so it works for the Trumps…for the values upon which American greatness was built, not so much.
While Barnum was a showman and huckster, unlike what Trump seems to be showing us, Barnum was not one dimensional.
Here are a few quotes from Phineas Taylor Barnum that Donald J. Trump might well pay more attention to…
“Science is the pursuit of pure truth, and the systematizing of it.”
“He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.”
“Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.”
When a Barnum show was overcrowded, he hung a sign with the message this way to the egress. People followed it, walked through the door and only then realized they had taken an exit they did not seek.
Trump is not so different after all.