News & Politics

Donald Trump Won't Stop Bragging About How Rich He Is—And GOP Voters Are Eating It Up

Why are Republican voters handing the billionaire the top spot in national and most state polls?

In an unus​ual press release for an American political campaign, Donald Trump's team sent out a statement in mid-July boasting about the candidate's wealth. The campaign stated, in capital letters, that Trump's net worth is “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS” and that his income last year was $362 million.

For Trump, this sort of credibility-via-wealth is a perpetual theme. Just look at what he​ said when he announced his candidacy:

And I have assets— big accounting firm, one of the most highly respected— $9 billion $240 million.

And I have liabilities of about $500 million. That’s long-term debt, very low interest rates.

In fact, one of the big banks came to me and said, “Donald, you don’t have enough borrowings. Could we loan you $4 billion?" I said, “I don’t need it. I don’t want it. And I’ve been there. I don’t want it.”

But in two seconds, they give me whatever I wanted. So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well over $10 billion. But here, a total net worth of—net worth, not assets, not— a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets— Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York— many other places all over the world.

So the total is $8,737,540,00.

Now I’m not doing that…I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to, believe it or not.

As arrogant as he sounds, this sort of rhetoric seems to be working for Mr. Trump, as he has come to be known among his fans.

The average Republican voter isn't rich (although upper-income voters do te​nd to lean Republican). So why are they handing the braggart billionaire the top spot in national and most state polls?

It's because Trump's financial success is seen as a moral good by conservative activists. Nigel Barber, an evolutionary psychologist, explains that conservatives “admire wealth because successful people are seen as having worked hard in pursuing a moral obligation to provide for themselves and their families in a difficult and uncertain world.”

As economist Tyler Cowen notes, “conservatives often believe that much of the poverty in the United States is an issue of insufficient disciplined and conscientiousness.”

In this worldview, Trump's wealth represents a sort of admirable discipline — one that stands far apart from his bombastic rhetoric that much of the rest of America defines him with. Some social psychologists say it “could be that conservatives endorse existing patterns of group dominance because they honestly believe that society operates in a reasonably meritocratic fashion.”

In that hierarchy, Trump is the most meritocratic candidate. After all, he has the most money, and he won't shut up about it. GOP voters are loving it.

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.