Trump’s grifting isn’t new -- ‘conservative elites’ have been ripping off the base since 1964: historian
Donald Trump at at Trump International in New Jersey (Shutterstock)

Allegations that Donald Trump illegally "grifted" his MAGA base out of more than $250 million for an “official election defense fund” that did not exist was not an aberration, but a continuation of a pattern from conservative elites, according to a historian interviewed by The Washington Post.

"Small-dollar donors use scarce disposable income to support candidates and causes of their choosing to make their voices heard. Those donors deserve the truth about what those funds will be used for. Throughout the committee's investigation, we found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates mislead donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) at Monday's hearing of the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol."

"Not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff. Donors deserve to know where their funds are really going. They deserve better than what President Trump and his team did, Mr. Chairman," Lofgren explained.

Greg Sargent revealed why he thought historian Rick Perlstein was an excellent choice for analysis on the subject.

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"Historian Rick Perlstein, who has written many books about the American right, is uniquely suited to place this story in the larger context of the modern conservative movement’s predilection for such grift. At least since the 1960s, Perlstein argues, conservative elites have seen extremist tendencies on the right as a ripe target for manipulation, for the purposes of mobilizing mass political movements," he wrote.

Perlstein explained the pattern he sees.

"This phenomenon of conservative Republican leaders seeing their constituencies as a pool of marks to squeeze money out of really does go back to the beginnings of the conservative takeover of the Republican Party in the 1960s. As is so often the case in the Republican Party under the Trumpist reign, it takes normal historical patterns of behavior and turns them up to 11," he said.

Perlstein is the author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan; Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America; and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.

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"It’s partially an opportunity to raise money. It’s also partially an opportunity to keep power. The important thing to understand about how grifting works in conservative culture is that the two things work together," Perlstein said. "It’s impossible to understand where the ideological con ends and the money con begins. They work together."

The way these dynamics work together sets the stage for far-right domestic terrorism, Perlstein wrote.

"Successful movements on the right always manage to persuade their followers that the stakes are apocalyptic. The preeminent example is fundamentalist Christianity, in which the stakes are the fate of humanity itself," he explained. "If you think the stakes are whether civilization itself survives, and that you’re dealing with a cabal of shadowy enemies, of course you’re licensed to use any means to stop them. If the stakes are racial replacement, and the shadowy enemies are the Jews said to be controlling the replacement of Whites, then it’s okay to kill Jews. It’s okay to shoot up Black churches. It’s okay to shoot up a Walmart."

Read the full interview.