Against Trump

My postman seems to have misplaced my copy of the National Review issue that caused such a fuss last week. As I wait to sort it all out I would like to toss my two cents into the internet ether.

Against Trump

Electing Donald Trump to the presidency would be a disaster for the United States. Selecting Trump as our nominee would be a disaster for the Republican party.

From the moment he announced his candidacy in a rambling speech last summer Donald Trump has been a one man circus. His outrageous statements have kept him in the headlines and as the Iowa caucuses take place he is still the odds on favorite to win. His themes of getting control of the border and restoring American greatness have resonated with a lot of voters but Trump still has a number of deal breakers that make him a bad choice.

He Is Not A Republican
Donald Trump is not really a Republican. Months ago he announced that he was running for president as a Republican but his history with the party is checkered. Over time Donald Trump has been affiliated – in membership or donations – with Republicans, Democrats, and the Reform party. There are examples of politicians who have changed parties in the past. Earlier in his career Ronald Reagan was a FDR supporting Democrat and a labor union leader. His views changed over time and he eventually became a successful Republican governor and president. Democrat Georgia Senator Zell Miller switched to the GOP in 2004 and wrote a book detailing his complaints against his former party. In both cases these were men who felt that the party they once belonged to no longer represented their ideas and beliefs and so they made a difficult decision.

Donald Trump has affiliated with whatever is convenient in the moment. Before he was going on about President Obama’s birth certificate, Donald Trump praised the president for “doing a great job.” In both cases he was tying his name to the most popular view at the moment. His donations have also been very skewed in favor of Democrats This is not a man of principle that chose the party closest to his views. Trump seems to simply have chosen the vehicle he thinks can get him into the White House. Consider that other billionaire New York City politician who also thinks he can be president. Michael Bloomberg was a Democrat before he was a Republican before he was an independent. Opportunism is not principle.

He Is Not A Conservative
Much like his questionable fealty to the Republican party Trump does not seem to stand on conservative values. Exceptions exist but Republicans are usually thought to be the party of small government, traditional values, and support of business and entrepreneurial energy. Conservatives are sensitive to overreach by government at any level. Again Donald Trump fails the test.

In 1999 Trump proposed a one time wealth tax to be levied against wealthy people and used to pay down the national debt. On its merits it would likely be a job killer as the wealthy would direct to the taxman resources that might have been used for investment. It might have also succeeded in chasing the wealthiest Americans, the ones who pay a large share of taxes, out of the country. This would have set the precedent for the government to try to raid the rich every time it could claim a fiscal emergency. Soaking the rich is not usually a Republican tendency.

The Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London upended the understanding Americans had of eminent domain. The Fifth Amendment’s takings clause allows the government to take private property with just compensation for the owner. The key here is that private property is put to public use in the form of a road or government building. In Kelo the Court decided that a city government could use eminent domain to transfer private property to another owner that could generate greater tax revenue. Donald Trump supported the decision to transfer private property to other, more connected, private hands. He had used that tool himself in Atlantic City against, among others, an elderly widow.

American conservatives understand that the power of the government must be used carefully. That quote often mis-attributed to George Washington sums up the caution with which conservatives approach government:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Like so many Democrats, Donald Trump is just fine with the power of government as long as he is holding the reins.

He Is Inconsistent
Donald Trump’s announcement of his intention to build a border wall with Mexico and send our neighbors the bill was met with cheers by Americans that are frustrated with the government’s studied non-enforcement of immigration laws. His claim that he would deport all 11 million illegals was also positively received but few noticed or seemed bothered by his intention to expedite the return and grant legal status for “the good immigrants.” Wouldn’t this be hugely expensive and pointless if most of the people that were deported got to return?

Trump spent the summer bashing China saying that the country has been manipulating its currency to undercut American manufacturing only to turn around and claim that he “loves China.” He proposed a tariff on goods imported from China only to soften his stance on the rate. Incidentally this shift is a good thing as an import tariff would hurt American production and consumers but why propose something like this in the first place? Does Donald Trump have real advisers who are experts in their fields or yes men?

One of the reasons that training and practice are so important is that there are situations that happen so quickly that they require reflex reactions. Execution of a maneuver in a sport or dangerous situation often requires split-second timing during which some people say “the training takes over.” Governing by reflex is hardly advisable but having a set of principles that are firmly held and understood by all can help an administration make its way as conditions shift. If a president doesn’t have a coherent governing philosophy he will not be able to respond as effectively when a curve-ball comes his way.

Consistency is also important for voters. Most voters do not have the time to read policy papers or dive deep into a party platform. Prospective voters learn about candidates from issues that affect their daily lives as well as media and friends through a process known as low information rationality. They also have an idea of what a candidate stands for based on party affiliation. One of the frustrating things about the No Labels organization is that it is difficult to know where they stand on certain issues. This happens to independent candidates for office too. During the 2014 cycle Greg Orman, the challenger in the Kansas Senate race, was an independent who didn’t seem to understand how the caucus system worked in the United States Senate. He seemed to believe that he could work with one party or another depending on the issue. Voters would have a difficult time knowing what a candidate like this would do when he got into office.

He Speaks In Keywords
The idea that candidates can sway voters by speaking in meaningless keywords that they will recognize and support was on display in a 2012 episode of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Republican Jack and Democrat Liz have determined that the country is evenly divided between President Obama and Mitt Romney and that Jenna, one of the clueless stars of the show, can swing the election with an endorsement. They hold a debate to try to convince her to support their candidate:

Mr. Donaghy, your closing statement.

“When our founding fathers first set out. Time and time again. Our nation. Horizon. Prosperity. Dreams. Freedom. But, the spirit. Journey. Destiny. Mitt Romney values. Jenna values. I’ve met people. For this generation, and generations to come. Thank you, America.”

Doesn’t this sound like Donald Trump? Immigration. Wall. China. Stupid. Jobs. Rich. Make America Great Again! The fact that the speeches are unstructured rambles and that some of the component parts don’t fit together or contradict each other doesn’t seem to matter. The keywords are all there and people are excited.

He Is A Coward
Following the FOX News debate in 2015 Donald Trump got into a feud with debate moderator Megyn Kelly. Recently he announced that he would not participate in the last debate before the Iowa caucuses to be broadcast on FOX News because he wouldn’t receive fair treatment from Kelly. This is the face of a coward. Vladimir Putin is scheming to restore the Soviet empire, Iran regularly shouts “death to America,” and takes our service men and women hostage, and China is engaged in a military buildup to back its claim to disputed islands and Trump is afraid to answer questions from a female reporter at a network that is generally friendly to the positions he claims to have this year?

“I wont talk to Russia until they elect someone who is nicer to me.” Yeah, good luck with that.

An Intelligence Test For Republicans
In 2009 it was easy for conservatives and Republicans to mock liberals. Their candidate was a community organizer who had spent some time in the Illinois state Senate before moving on to the US Senate and running for president without completing his first term.  He was an avowed leftist who, among other things, had former weatherman Bill Ayers ghostwrite his memoir and promised to bankrupt coal companies and raise electricity rates. People who did not pay attention thought he was the uniter from his 2004 Democratic convention speech and the then candidate himself said he was a sort of blank canvas onto which people projected their own views. Some of these voters were later surprised at who they had actually helped elect.

Donald Trump, in his latest incarnation, has not been a Republican for very long. His positions on important issues are all over the place. He sounds as if he is building a right leaning version of the cult of personality that propelled Senator Obama into the White House. So many of his supporters seem so fed up with a Republican party that they think has failed them that they are looking for the most flamboyant rejection of the establishment that they can find.

In 2008 the Democrats tested the voters of this country and a majority of us failed. So many of us were taken in by the soaring rhetoric and didn’t bother to examine the details. Let’s not put Republicans in the fail column as well.

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