Danielle Allen is a political theorist at Harvard University and a contributing columnist for The Post.
Donald Trump’s motivations for running for president have been transparent from the start. He wants everyone to know what a success he is as a real estate mogul. What better proof could he give of that than securing the White House, the one piece of U.S. real estate currently beyond his reach and, arguably, the most valuable property in the world.
He told us his goal in his announcement speech. “I’m building all over the world, and I love what I’m doing. But they all said, a lot of the pundits on television, ‘Well, Donald will never run, and one of the main reasons is he’s private and he’s probably not as successful as everybody thinks.’ So I said to myself, you know, nobody’s ever going to know unless I run, because I’m really proud of my success. I really am.”
Nobody’s going to know what a successful real estate mogul he is unless he runs for president. That is the logic of his argument.
So what will it take for him to satisfy his need to prove his real estate chops? He generally seems to expect to prove his success by pulling off real estate deals that people say can’t be done. His father told him not to enter the Manhattan real estate market. He proved his father wrong:
“I was told don’t come into Manhattan, don’t ever come into Manhattan, it’ll be the wrong thing, you know, by my father. I love my father, but he said you’ll never — I mean it’s not our territory, it’s not for us. And I came into Manhattan and did great. It’s basically I’ve seen it all and it’s my own instinct for economics.”
Like his father on the subject of Manhattan, the political class, he charges, said he could never enter Washington and add the White House to his real estate portfolio. He wants to refute them, too. He got his toehold by leasing the Old Post Office Pavilion from the government, which should have been, he says, “impossible.” He plans to convert the building into a luxury hotel, and the construction site has over it the largest sign you’ve ever seen. It reads: “TRUMP. COMING 2016.”
He has filled the American landscape with his name, on skyscrapers in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, and on casinos in Atlantic City. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this month, Trump had his daughter Ivanka in tow, and “they were as likely to invoke their trophy properties and the logistics of pouring concrete as they were trade.” If you’re contemplating voting for Trump, you have to imagine something like the “Hollywood” sign hanging over the White House but this one will read “TRUMP.”
The shenanigan king of casino land has a genius for one thing only: branding things with one word slogans. “Loser.” “Moron.” “Trump.” He attributes the bulk of his wealth to the brand of his name, and Forbes confirms that he’s prospered through his casino corporate bankruptcies because it would have been too costly for his creditors to rebrand the gambling houses. Of his many corporate bankruptcies, he says, “Basically I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage and to other people’s advantage.”
Think about it. Acquiring the White House is the best possible business strategy for the real estate mogul. Consider how unassailable his brand would be then. Notice the good it would do for his business if the name on all of those trophy properties were that of the president of the United States. Imagine all of those other old government properties that need to be flipped into the private market. And don’t stop there.
Imagine the deals the shenanigan king would be able to line up to take advantage of after he leaves office. Imagine how much he’s marking up his net assets right now just because of the free PR of this campaign.
A property on Pennsylvania Avenue may be an option in Monopoly, but the White House itself isn’t one of the properties available to the real estate tycoon. Why not? Because it’s the people’s house. We permit our servant to live in it. We require selflessness.
The shenanigan king is the most selfish politician of them all. His eye is on the real estate and what it will do for his brand. He’s in it for himself and, on top of that, deep down he’s still just trying to prove the father figures wrong. Turns out his animus for Jeb Bush points right back at himself. “Loser.” “Moron.” Basta. Shenanigan King.