Sunday, May 15, 2016

Prepare to be Disappointed


I will not be voting for Trump in November. As I've seen more and more Republican politicians fall in line behind Trump, I've come to the realization that this guy might actually get elected. Although that is a scary thought, part of me hopes he does win. Why? Because the alternative is Hillary Clinton. Now, just for what Clinton could do in four years, I wouldn't mind having her as president. The president is not a legislator, and she's not so popular that she would be able to ram legislation through Congress the way Obama did with the ironically-named "Affordable Care Act." The problem is that the president selects members of the highest legislative body in the U.S.: the Supreme Court.

You may think I made a mistake by saying the Supreme Court is a legislative body, but I did not. The court has shown a willingness to rule anything it doesn't like "unconstitutional." And while it is theoretically acceptable for the court to make such rulings on laws, this one has taken it to such an extent that it has completely usurped the power of Congress. Who needs a legislature to rule on the divisive issues of the day when the Supreme Court can make a decision with much less fuss? And the court's ruling is final, barring a Constitutional amendment, which is so rare as to be virtually impossible. The thought that Clinton might appoint two or even three judges in the next four years frightens me in the extreme.

The problem is that Trump might be worse. He probably won't be worse at Supreme Court picks, but I can't be sure of that because no one knows what Trump stands for except that he stands for himself. He is a lot like Barack Obama in that respect. Obama got elected with a paper-thin record and some stirring speeches. It's easy to say the right things, but difficult to make the right choices. People were able to project their hopes onto Obama because he hadn't done much to show he would be different from whatever they thought he would be. It is not surprising, then, if many of them have been disappointed with his Presidency, everyone from Bill Maher ("I thought we elected a real black president") to Bernie Sanders to, well, just about everybody who supported him ("The Disappointment of Barack Obama"
, "Barack Obama, disappointer in chief", "Obama has become a figure of American disappointment").

Trump is much the same way. He has literally no political record, so people can convince themselves that he will do what they want. All he has to do is to position himself as the person who is not like all the politicians that have been disappointing them since forever. He poses especially well as an anti-establishment candidate: never having been in the political establishment, he makes a more credible opponent of it than any career politician can. Unfortunately, people have misunderstood the reason that politicians are always disappointing us. They think that politicians, as a class, are corrupt and/or unprincipled, so the only way to get things done is to elect a non-politician. Obama was a non-politician in the sense that he had only a short political record. Trump is the ultimate non-politician: not only has he never run for office, he also completely lacks the tact considered essential to political success. His willingness to say things that no other politician would is, for his supporters, a crucial part of what makes him popular.

It is a mistake, however, to think Trump is blunt because he is more honest. In reality, he simply lacks the skill and experience to triangulate. Under normal circumstances, politicians can't say certain things and get elected; they know this, and behave accordingly. Trump either doesn't know this or doesn't care, which endears him to people who want to hear something different, and he happens to be running at a strange time when these people constitute a large section of the electorate.

But don't think that going beyond the political pale is a sign of innate honesty. Trump has changed his positions many times in the past, and he has contradicted himself even during this campaign. If you think Trump is going to be the kind of president that you want, ask yourself what evidence you have that he believes strongly in any given position -- not just passionately, but strongly as in his core beliefs dictate that his position is the right one regardless of opposition. If he becomes president, he will face a lot of resistance to just about anything he does. He's the kind of person that, I believe, would continue stubbornly in a position out of spite rather than moral certainty if he finds himself contradicted unexpectedly. But I think he could just as well be convinced that his stance is wrong. He hasn't thought much about political issues in his life, so he hasn't considered a lot of the implications of his beliefs. When some smart person is able to show some of these implications -- whether or not they are correct -- Trump will realize the shallowness of his own views and may convert with even more fervour than he had for the older, contrary position. I would not be in the least surprised if a President Trump announced after a few months in office, "Building a wall along the Mexican border is totally impractical! I don't know what I was thinking. We should instead grant amnesty to all immigrants in this country illegally."

Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm not. But I feel confident that no one can present any evidence that I am wrong, because Trump has not demonstrated any consistency on matters of principle other than his cardinal principle: self-promotion.

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