Why Not Trump?
Five (Flawed) Reasons to Vote Trump
There are many reasons that people do not like Donald Trump or at least oppose him becoming president. Much of the criticism focuses on the provocative things that he says, his supposedly shady business dealings, or what can only be called his “Donaldness.” He has been labeled a fascist, nativist, racist, narcissist, chauvinist, demagogue, and all-around obnoxious ass hole.
This blog post is not directed toward people who cannot stand him and it will not reiterate many of these standard accusations. It is also not directed toward those who strongly support him and will vote for him no matter what. Instead, it is directed toward those who are not particularly comfortable with the idea of either Trump or Clinton as president and are asking themselves, “Why not Trump?” Are there legitimate reasons to consider voting for him? Would he really be all that bad?
After wracking my brain for a bit, I could only think of five decent reasons to consider voting for Trump. Each justification, however, has significant flaws.
1) You are a diehard Republican: Of the four reasons to vote Trump, I think that this is probably the best. The president is merely the head of one branch of government, and without a Congress controlled by his or her party, there is a limited amount that any president can accomplish. Any significant political achievement must be a cooperative effort of the executive and legislative branches. So if a voter is convinced that the Republican political platform is far superior to the Democrats, then he or she should vote party line across the board. And if nothing else, a Republican president can stop Democrats in Congress from pushing their agenda. A Republican president will also have a chance to make sure that open spots on the Supreme Court are filled by more Republican-friendly justices. These nine justices, after all, have more power to shape domestic politics than any other federal officials.
In this particular election, however, there is a problem with simply voting partly line. Trump, after all, is hardly a conventional Republican. He has not proposed much in the way of spending cuts, wants to impose government sanctions against American businesses that outsource jobs, and may not be a true believer when it comes to promoting family values. He won the nomination by harshly criticizing the Republican establishment. So it is a gamble to assume that Trump and congressional Republicans will sit down and play nice in order to push anything like the conventional Republican agenda.
It may actually be wise for many Republicans, particularly those of the libertarian and socially conservative variety, to not vote Trump. Because if he wins this election, then the nativist wing of the party will have officially taken over. And if the Republican Party becomes the party of Trump, it does not bode well for the GOP’s future. This is not just because fiscal and social conservatism will be put on the back burner as Trump pursues whatever agenda he pleases. It is also because the United States becomes more ethnically diverse every day, and young Americans make up the most diverse generation in our history. Four more years of being subjected to Trump’s mouth will push increasing numbers of young people to be Democrats for the rest of their lives. A sound defeat of Trump in this election, however, may create the opportunity for more reasonable factions of the GOP to assert control and develop a politically viable path forward.
2) You are a nationalist: As stated above, Trump is not exactly a conservative. If he has any coherent political philosophy, it could only be called nationalism. His campaign has largely been based on a few key ideas. He wants to enforce immigration laws and build a wall in order to keep illegal immigrants out, thus protecting American jobs and preventing excessive foreign influence on American culture. He wants to take more aggressive actions against terrorists around the world – including bombing the shit out of certain places and using tactics many would label as torture – and implement stricter measures to keep potentially dangerous Muslims from entering the country. And finally, his proposed threats to impose tariffs and give American businesses incentives to stop outsourcing are designed to bring back working class jobs for average Americans. With his promise to make America great again, Trump has shown a willingness to step on toes and say things that some people do not want to hear in an effort to fight for “true” Americans. The physical wall he claims he will build is essentially a metaphor for his entire agenda.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with a certain amount of nationalism. There are definite benefits when the population of a country rallies around the flag, comes together as one, and seeks to promote its common interests. History has shown, however, that nationalism can often take an ugly turn, with people becoming the most nationalistic when there are enemies out there to rally against. It can be very difficult to separate passionate love for country with hate for the enemy. This is why war brings out nationalism like nothing else. And once people get riled up into a state of rage, it can be hard to control them, and they will sometimes follow their heroic leader in whatever direction he cares to take them.
It is also important to note that diversity has historically been one of America’s greatest strengths. And in a nation like ours where birthrates are steadily dropping, a healthy inflow of immigrants is one of the keys to our future success. This does not mean, of course, that borders should be wide open. But a “build a wall” mentality threatens to not just keep talented and hardworking people from having a shot at the American dream. It also fosters a less open, innovative, and productive environment that alienates people around the world and prevents talented people from even wanting to come here.
3) You are tired of politicians: Along with his unapologetic nationalism, Trump’s main appeal is that he has never been a politician. He is an outsider, a populist wealthy enough to run his own campaign and not be bought off by special interests. After decades of gridlock, incompetence, scandals, and the inability to come close to balancing a budget, many Americans are fed up with typical Washington DC politicians. So why not try an anti-politician? Can things get any worse?
The simple answer is yes, things can always get worse. And even if you accept the premise that people with political experience can never be trusted because they are politicians, there is no inherent reason why non-politicians would be any more trustworthy. American history is filled with stories of highly successful businesspeople who were not particularly terrific human beings. Who is it, after all, that is often buying off all of those terrible politicians? Electing a wealthy businessman may be just a way of cutting out the middleman. You don’t have to buy anyone off when you are now the one with formal political power.
But even if Trump is as great a guy as he says he is, the simple fact is that he lacks political experience. If this were any job other than political leader, few people would see inexperience as a virtue. We don’t want generals with no combat experience, airline pilots who are just winging it, or a rookie chef preparing us some blowfish. Experience does not guarantee competence, but it definitely increases the odds. It also gives the public a chance to see a person in action before electing him or her to positions of steadily increasing power and responsibility.
Trump has spent his career turning his name into a brand signifying success. This skill has translated extremely well into his presidential campaign. Selling a candidate is not all that different from pushing a product. Running a campaign, however, is a very different thing than running the executive branch of the United States government. If Trump had any sense, he would not want his first government job to be president of the United States. It takes a certain amount of arrogance for anyone to consider running for president. Running without any political experience tells me that he is either displaying false confidence or that he is as much of a narcissist as some people claim.
4) You think that Hilary Clinton is even worse: After 25 years of being in the public limelight and facing one supposed scandal after another, it is no surprise that many Americans don’t trust the Clintons. This goes beyond standard partisan politics. Bernie Sanders supporters often seem to despise her as much as the diehard Republicans. Trump may be the only Republican she can beat (and vice versa). But when these two unpopular candidates are criticized and accused of being corrupt, there is an important distinction. Trump tends to be criticized for what he says and the policies he proposes. Clinton tends to be criticized for corrupt, criminal behaviors for which she has been accused but not yet convicted. And in this internet age in which coming up with conspiracies is a national pastime for people on both sides of the spectrum, I take much of this “news” with a grain of salt and try to focus on stuff that is more verifiable.
I also think that Clinton haters have repeated the same tactical error again and again. They often describe Hilary Clinton as some kind of demonic, power hungry witch carrying out nefarious schemes and even killing those who stand in her way. But by painting her as the epitome of evil, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that she can keep getting away with it. If they did not go so far in demonizing her and merely accused her of more run-of-the-mill corruption, then their arguments and accusations would be more convincing. Clinton haters aren’t just crying wolf. They are crying Hitler, Marx, and Jezebel all wrapped up into one.
5) You like Trump’s policies: Trump has undoubtedly raised issues that have struck a chord with many voters. But even for a typical person running for office, Trump has been vague to say the least when it comes to specifics. His proposals tend to be aspirations rather than policies. He wants to stop illegal immigration, get tough against criminals and terrorists, bring jobs back from China, and stimulate economic growth through tax reform and rollbacks on regulations. Most people would agree that these are all noble aspirations. The devil, however, is always in the details. Anyone can talk about ways that the country could be better. The question is how specifically to make this happen.
It is also important to remember that we will not be electing a CEO or chief legislator in November. Especially when it comes to domestic policy, any president has a severely limited ability to carry out his or her legislative agenda. Congress does the legislating, and the only formal legislative power in the hands of the president is the veto. Presidents, therefore, can do a lot more to stop things from getting done than to actually accomplish anything. And in the current political environment in Washington, where neither party has the numbers to push its agenda, and compromise is seen by many as a sin, neither Trump nor Clinton is likely to fulfill their many promises.
It is in the area of foreign policy that presidents tend to have the most influence. One of a president’s main roles is to be our nation’s chief diplomat and spokesperson. Like it or not, the next president will speak for all of us, and the words spoken by presidents often have a bigger impact than any actions. There will be times, however, particularly with foreign policy crises, when a president needs to make quick decisions, and in an ideal world, this president will have both the temperament and the knowledge of the world’s complexities necessary to choose wisely.
In my view, Trump has given no indication that he has the self-control, intellectual curiosity, experience, and diplomatic tact to serve as our commander in chief, spokesperson, and diplomatic representative to the world. The fact that he has gotten this far is already a national embarrassment, and if he somehow wins in November, I will feel compelled to apologize to the rest of the world and remind them that he does not speak for all of us.