Struggling With Trump vs Clinton

Don’t blame me for Donald Trump getting the Republican Presidential nomination. I said the man was a idiot. But he did win and now American voters have a choice: Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. Joy.

Many (conservative) Americans are convinced that another Democratic Presidency would be a disaster for America. I believe that both liberals and conservatives bring important ideas and convictions to the political table. Thus my own feeling has been that after Obama a Republican President would be best for correcting the mistakes, excesses, and missteps of Obama, just as Obama in his first term did a good job doing the same vis a vis his predecessor in international affairs. I had hoped this person would be John Kasich. However, the Republican voters of this country have deemed that Donald Trump is the best man to represent them and their interests. So is Trump the right man for the job? Would Clinton really be a disaster if he is not?

Clinton first. The last thing this country needs is a Clinton agenda on gun control. Or Clinton stacking the Supreme Court with liberal judges. Or another dysfunctional relationship between the White House and Congress. She of course holds liberal views on abortion, LGBT issues, discrimination, and associated issues that can be broadly lumped together as the American Culture Wars. That is fine to some extent, but will be at best unhelpful in trying to protect freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Liberal victory in the current iteration of the Culture Wars has meant that those freedoms are under attack by a portion of the victors, and Clinton is not going to defend those freedoms. She will not help business much, but is also unlikely to harm it significantly. She is overly harsh on fossil fuels without having good alternatives yet.

More seriously, she is fit to be a reasonable but not brilliant leader of US foreign policy. She is experienced in this regard. However, she is opposed to free trade, which means that she would undermine the TPP, which is the new cornerstone of US free trade and Pacific economic policy. This opposition is a populist pander, though her liberal inclinations almost certainly weigh in and will in the future. It will harm the economy and American foreign policy.

Clinton will almost certainly raise taxes and increase money for education, equality initiatives, Social Security, healthcare, and other domestic spending targets. I would characterize her as a reasonable candidate who will fail to implement needed reforms to healthcare, Social Security, and other domestic expenses in favor of throwing money at them at the expense of businesses and the military. Her gun control position is most problematic, but her likelihood to preside over stifling of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and economic growth are also troubling.

Donald Trump is harder to nail down on the issues. As a naked populist, he appeals to the fears of the lowest common denominator of the electorate in order to accrue power. In my opinion, he is the closest thing to the opposite of George Washington to ever have a good shot at the White House. When considering Trump, it is most useful to examine his worldview and inclinations in order to understand his responses to issues and potential situations. He is very much a zero-sum believer and a practitioner of identity politics. His group is pro-choice so he is pro-choice and everyone who disagrees is an outside and an idiot and will see themselves subjected to identity politics and the sort of loathsome ideology of dehumanization that drives genocide. In Trump’s case the result is less dehumanization than a devaluing of the Other as meaningful contributor to the discussion or political debate, but the thought process is not dissimilar. Trump would be better placed in a therapist’s office than an oval one.

His foreign policy approach is execrable. He would do just fine playing the “Great Game” in Europe over a century ago, or as a king having his servants fawn over him, his domestic enemies beheaded, and his soldiers used as gambling chips to expand the territory under his personal rule. And by “fine,” I mean he would be comfortable with the situation. I do not claim he would do it with any skill or success. In the modern era, he has promised to destroy the international liberal order America has fought for over the course of over a century and replace it with some sort of mercantilist system. He has alienated every nation south of Texas with his attacks on Hispanics and Mexicans. He is about as subtle as a 9-year old throwing a temper tantrum, and his policies might as well have came from the same place. He promises everything to his insiders while being able to deliver nothing, save by claiming Mexico will pay to build a big, big wall – essentially, it is a magic wall, paid for by magic. Because if I was Mexico there is one thing I would never do, and that is pay for Trump’s wall. And Mexico, or at least its president, agrees.

Businesses would presumably benefit from a Republican business-background president, but Trump’s populist stance, anti-free trade positions, alienation of Muslims and Hispanics, and predatory intent towards America’s allies combine to convince me that a Trump victory would harm the American economy far more than it could help. Nor was he a particularly good businessman, though he is a skilled showman. His tribal and micromanaging approach to business would also prevent him from using good management practice to run the country. He can also be relied upon to utilize every tool at his disposal to punish his enemies and reward his insiders. At times it seems as if a crackpot would-be dictator has parachuted in from some Central European reality television show and Americans are too mesmerized by his total lack of self-conscience and commitment to saying whatever his first thought is to realize what an appallingly poor leader he would be.

However, he is the conservative candidate and there is no way around it. So Americans are given two mediocre choices to be President. Most Republicans have been falling into line. I have been considering it. Trump would be a horrible President in my opinion, but I have to acknowledge I could be wrong. Maybe the millions of Republicans who voted for him know something I don’t. Maybe he will be a savior for the party and put America back on the right path where individual rights and responsibility are maintained as core American values. Or decades of learning and observation are correct and he would be everything I fear him to be. Hilary Clinton will mean four years of pain for conservative values, to be sure. But I think there is a reason Trump is popular in Russia and North Korea. It is not because they think he is someone they can talk with, though – it is because he could wreck the global order of trade and rules and law. Maybe they could talk to him, but I doubt it.

So I am going to follow my conscience and reject Donald Trump. He is a populist, racist, egotistical blowhard who does not belong in the White House. I don’t want Clinton in there (again) either. I will vote for a third-party candidate. Yes, it will be “throwing my vote away.” Or will it? If it sends a message of rejection of Trumpism, then it will be worth it. If I had a 35-year old turtle and got it registered as a national candidate it would probably beat either Trump or Clinton. Over the next four years, I want to work on electoral reform. People deserve the government they get, and I very much hope the party of Lincoln is better than Trump.