Sometimes even the obscene and grotesque can be beautiful. Forty Seventh Congressional District candidate Amy Phan West proved this with on Aug. 11 with a press release on her attendance at President Donald Trump’s recent Hamptons fundraisers.
“I was fortunate enough to attend the highly publicized event in New York with the President this past weekend and agree with our Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that it is very obvious now the support for our President Donald J. Trump is in fact unprecedented,” West said in her press release. “President Trump being on the top of the ballot in 2020 will in fact help Republicans retake the House.”
The fundraisers were hosted by Stephen Ross and Joe Farrell. Ross is a billionaire real estate developer who owns Equinox Fitness clubs, Soul Cycle, and the Miami Dolphins, while Farrell builds luxury homes for really rich people in New York. According to the New York Post, during the events Trump “made fun of US allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union—mimicking Japanese and Korean accents—and talked about his love of dictators Kim Jong Un and the current ruler of Saudi Arabia” (speaking in a mock Asian accent is nothing new to Trump). He also talked about kamikaze pilots during World War II because Republican Party politics are an absolute dumpster fire:
Trump spoke about his friendship with [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe and how fascinated he was with Abe’s father, who had been a kamikaze pilot. Trump asked Abe if the kamikaze pilots were drunk or on drugs. Abe said no, they just loved their country. Trump remarked, “Imagine they get in a plane with a half a tank of gas and fly into steel ships just for the love of their country!”
And of course West attended these fundraisers. She parrots much of Trump’s most outrageous and antagonistic rhetoric and policies. Hell, she probably walked out of there with the promise of a cabinet post if she loses (though given the considerable registration advantage the Democrats hold in the 47th, this might be more than a mere “if”).
“I was so honored to be among other supporters of the President who believe, as I do, that his agenda is working for the people of America, and putting them first,” West said in the press release. “We do not want socialism to breed here. The President spoke about denuclearization of North Korea and about how other countries are finally stepping up to pay their fair share. These are the issues that resonate with our base, who is really, frankly, sick and tired of being taken advantage of by the liberal global elites. It’s our tax money made by hardworking Americans and for too many decades it has just been squandered on things other than taking care of Americans. It needs to stop. And there is nothing racist or wrong with wanting our tax money being allocated to help Americans for a change.”
It’s really remarkable how every word in that paragraph is wrong, but what’s really messed up is the whole Hardworking Americans vs. liberal global elites dynamic. That right there is the perfect encapsulation of the whole Republican Party grift. The whole feeling of grievance, of “hardworking Americans” being ripped off by the “elites” of the world is straight out of historian’s Richard Hofstadter’s theory that the right had degenerated into the “paranoid style”:
America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.
Of course, the grievance–leveled at immigrants, foreign nations, or whatever–is completely bogus. The U.S. remains the richest and most powerful nation in history. And white people, who make up the bulk of today’s Republican Party, still control virtually all the major societal structures (law enforcement, law-making, banking, corporate management, and so on).
On the other hand, Republican policies toward poor people (even white poor people) are immensely cruel. For instance, Trump–who has long claimed to be a billionaire himself though he also refuses to release his tax returns which would show his true net worth–recently announced that he wanted to tighten up the rules governing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would deprive three million Americans of food stamps and hundreds of thousands of students of free school lunches. This makes sense, given that the Republican party handcuffed itself to wealthy elites like Ross and Farrell decades ago.
For Republican politicians, all they have to do is turn all this on its head and it becomes political strategy. For West, who’s either too dumb to understand the grift or just desperate to get in on it, there’s no option except to stand in a billionaire’s mansion and denounce nameless “elites.” This accomplishes two goals simultaneously: it enrages Republicans, who are mostly authoritarians now, so they go vote, and it makes Democrats cry foul, which Republicans further take advantage of by calling them “unhinged,” as Republican National Committee Chairperson Ronna McDaniel said recently (and which West quoted with admiration in her press release).
It’s all a scam, funded the billionaire class that would be taxed out of existence if there was even scant justice in this country. But it’s also a proven success: Trump raised $13 million in the Hamptons, $3 million more than his campaign planned. The Republican Party may be a grift these days, but it sure as hell pays off for the grifters–as long as dupes like Amy Phan West keep playing along.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.