Why are Cons defended by their Victims? Why does Trump still get support from his base?

It’s been said and it’s true, the real problem in the country today isn’t Donald Trump per se, it’s his supporters. Hillary Clinton took flack for calling them “deplorables”, but she was over generalizing and the comment was a mistake. To be sure, those in the Trump base who support racism, bigotry, homophobia, any form of discrimination are clearly outside the mainstream of American thought and values and they are now embolden by having a President who allows them to come out from under their rocks preaching and practicing the harm they live for. However, that’s not the entirety of those who support and voted for Trump. Many who voted for Obama turned around and voted for Trump. Much of the Obama base were too wary of Clinton, giving in to the lies and disinformation provided by Trump’s Russian allies via Facebook and Twitter so they didn’t vote at all or voted for Trump. Now the reality is Hillary Clinton received more votes for President than any other candidate in the history of our union with the exception of Barack Obama; Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by 3 million and there wasn’t any voter fraud at all. Trump only won because of the 70,000 votes spread out over three key states that swung the Electoral College his way.

Those who voted for Trump were in fact conned. He promised a Wall that Mexico would pay for, he promised no cuts at all to Medicare and Medicaid, he promised the repeal of Obamacare to be replaced by cheaper insurance that would cover more people, he promised middle and working class tax cuts, he promised to not give in to Wall Street and make sure corporations and the wealthiest would pay their fair share of taxes and that they would hate him for it. Over a year later, it’s proven beyond all doubt he lied to the nation.  The Wall is not being built as he promised. What little that is being done now involves fencing that he was opposed to, and this will be paid for by American taxpayers. He recently submitted a budget rescission bill to the House to amend their last omnibus spending bill to eliminate $800 million from Medicare and Medicaid to help fund the tax cuts he signed of which 84% of the benefits went to corporations and the wealthiest 1%. Obamacare was not repealed, but has been sabotaged resulting in exponentially higher premiums than what was expected had he done nothing at all. Trump continues to create havoc in the health insurance market resulting in higher premiums for everyone. He promised to have the government negotiate directly with big pharma to lower prescription drug costs for Medicare, but instead told them to charge foreign countries more. Despite all this and more, a good portion of those who voted for Trump still defend him strenuously. Some have expressed buyer’s remorse but most still believe in this conman. Why?

One would think that if they were conned, had promises to them broken, as verified by reality, they would demand justice. In Trump’s case, many do; but others will not. They defend him. It’s as if there’s a symbiotic relationship between Trump and his victims. In fact, this phenomena is not uncommon. Let me give you an example.

Over twenty-five years ago I was assigned to Presentence Investigations for the Probation Department. Our job was to summarize the facts of the crime(s), gather statements of victims and interested parties as well as the defendant, weigh social and criminal history information and provide a sentencing recommendation to the Court based on what the law provided for.

I was assigned a case of a Pastor who over the course of a couple of years conned his parishioners out of well over a million dollars in a phony Alaskan Goldmine scheme. There were well over 50 victims, mostly elderly, who gave this Pastor money they couldn’t afford to give, in hopes of a big return on the investment and a more secured retirement. There was no goldmine and all the money this Pastor collected went to him or simply as he said “disappeared”. Many lost their life’s savings and were too elderly to go back to work. There were nearly a 100 counts filed against him for Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices. However, the Attorney General in this case allowed him to plead to one count on the condition he would pay all the victims back their losses. Many of the victims came to see me as a group to give me their impact statements. I had to reserve a conference room and I let them provide me letters, verification of their losses and personal commentary for my report. I was expecting this. What happened next surprised me.

I started getting letters from many of the Pastors’ victims telling me that he was railroaded by the AG’s office and that despite their losses, felt he shouldn’t have to serve any jail time or pay any restitution. As I collected these letters I noted they all were formatted the same. In fact all the letters made the same recommendation for a “class 6 misdemeanor” sentence. Problem is, there is no such thing as a class 6 misdemeanor sentence. What I found out was that the Pastor had sent a sentencing recommendation letter of his own creation to these victims, asking them to personalize it and send to me and the Judge. I received over 20 of these letters, about of third of the total number of victims in this case. Some of the victims sent me the original form letter that the Pastor had sent them.

So, despite being out thousands of dollars, having their retirements destroyed, despite a guilty plea from the Pastor and promise to pay them back, over 20 victims believed the man who conned them was in fact a victim of the system and fought for his freedom, ignoring reality and believing a false narrative he created. They were clearly victims but they trusted the man who victimized them.

I presented everything to the Court in my presentence report. As required by law, my report was factual, presenting all available information, both pro and con for the defendant. No personal assessments on my part was made to insure the report would be unbiased. The Court under the sentencing guidelines available to him gave the Pastor the maximum he could under the plea agreement, three years probation and one year in jail. A newspaper reporter was in the courtroom during sentencing, as this was a high profile case. He noted the Judge’s comment that the “facts of this case shocks the conscience of the court” and how the Pastor removed his Rolex Watch to give to his wife as he was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. The newspaper article ended “…for the wages of sin is death, and the Judge in that courtroom doesn’t accept plea agreements.”

He served his year, served his probation and did not pay back any of the restitution he was ordered to pay. At last check, he was a Pastor at another church. He still has some strong community support. I can’t say if he’s still involved in criminal activities, but his victims of 25 years ago were never compensated and many have since died, far less comfortable had they never met this con man.

I won’t get into the psychology of this phenomena in any great detail on this blog post. Suffice to say that there can be a symbiotic relationship between the con and the victim. Con men are practiced at identifying those who will believe them despite reality and defend them to the end. It’s no secret that mega-churches collect millions from elderly parishioners yearly, with the bulk of that money going to the likes of Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Robert Jeffress, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn etc. all of whom end up extremely wealthy while those who provided the money get nothing except prayers and a promise of going to heaven for making the pastor rich. It’s no surprise that such cons are common in religious circles nor that the core of Trump’s support are evangelicals.

Those inclined towards a religious outlook of life tend to be pray for those who make promises that can’t be kept and because they identify themselves as “men of God” are excused for behaviors that fall outside the tenets of the teachings of Christ as noted in the Bible. If anything, perhaps these are the “false prophets” spoken of in Revelations. However, the reality is victims who have been victimized will sometimes continue to defend those who victimized them ignoring reality, their own losses and harm done to them.

Some just can’t accept reality or reason and little beyond “one on one counseling” will work to bring them back to the real world.

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