To say it’s been an interesting election cycle so far would be an understatement. Of course, most of the chaos revolves around Donald Trump, and where there’s chaos, there are people freaking out. When it comes to Trump and the magnitude of the changes he’s causing, the freak-out’s go in two directions: either he’s America’s savior or he’s Satan himself. Among the Republican segment of the latter group, the insanity is to the point where they’re defending the mob of violent socialists who disrupted one of his rallies in Chicago. If you’re prone to using overwrought historical imagery and therefore believe Trump is basically Hitler, then it’s no less fair to recognize those Sanders supporters as basically Bolsheviks. The stupidity of legitimizing them is boundless. In any case, neither half of the false dichotomy between deliverer and devil totally captures Trump. There’s good and bad in both situation & candidate, and people need to get grounded.
First the good:
- Trump revealed the liberal media as a paper tiger.
Republican politicians live in fear of the media. The emotion is understandable given the obvious hostility, but the way they let it control them (and therefore allow the media to control the framing of every issue and the “electability” of our candidates) has been disastrous. But now… the media hate Trump even more than the typical Republican, and yet their hatred has done anything but bring him down. His casual disdain for them mirrors how many Americans want to feel about big media. Few people like them, but many feel beholden. Among that latter group, Trump’s open disrespect is eroding the vestiges of their credibility and has defanged them to a remarkable degree.
- The GOP establishment is impotent and clueless
Well, the clueless part isn’t news to anyone, but the way none of them saw this coming underscores it. As for the impotence… Trump & Cruz are the only two candidates a large swath of Republican voters want, and the establishment hates them both. Until now, party elites dominated primaries with their selection of neocon (i.e. almost conservative) candidates. But more than Cruz, Trump took advantage of that building discontent and managed what to do what principled conservatives couldn’t—turn that massive discontent into clear electoral success and become the obvious front-runner in spite of their frothing hatred. Whether or not one wants him as the nominee, it’s a feat worthy of respect.
- Amnesty and open borders are the “unelectable” stances on immigration.
Build a wall? Repatriate? Pause Muslim immigration in an age of terrorism? The media and elites of both parties were aghast when Trump came out with that—they wouldn’t have been any more flabbergasted if he had suggested concentration camps. I think they really believed it would be the death knell of his campaign. And yet… this is one huge disconnect between them and the typical American. When it came to Republicans, it was the amnesty folks—Bush, Rubio, Kasich, etc—who were roundly trounced at the polls.
This is an extremely important issue, and Trump did a good thing by dispelling illusions about which policies can’t be talked about openly.
To be fair, these are some pretty significant accomplishments for someone who’s still merely a candidate. But if fairness is something we’re looking for, we need to look at the other side too.
- Trump is a corrupt, opportunistic boor.
I could explain why, but the media has already been jumping up and down on this like a child with a trampoline and a sugar rush, so I don’t think there’s a need. And is the point seriously in contention? All the divorces, bankruptcies, shady business practices, and general intemperance may not have the usual force of scandal because everyone knew who Trump was before he ran for president. However, that doesn’t make them all go away. He remains who he is, and I, for one, have had enough of this sort of thing in the White House.
- There’s no good way of telling what positions he will actually fight for.
The best example of this is probably his immigration proposals that were the big draw for many of his supporters. But then at debates and other off-the-cuff responses, he undercuts them quite a bit. So do his own personal business practices. His rhetoric is all over the place, to the point where it’s impossible to tell what positions he actually holds, what positions he’ll fight for, and what positions he’s cynically using to gather supporters that no one else was trying to represent.
- He is an elitist demagogue
He’s clearly not one of the party elites, but he is very much an elitist of a different clique. His derogatory attitude toward both supporters and opponents alike might be a practical way of displaying dominance, but he’s someone running on the backs of the “folks” who clearly has no love of the “folks.” In the end, his success is going to trade one establishment with contempt for its base, with whatever contemptuous establishment Trump ends up building in its place. It could end up even uglier, which would take a great deal of wind out of the sails of those fighting a corrupt establishment. Even their victory could become a defeat that nudges people back into the comfort of America’s liberty-destroying business as usual.
The list of cons is just as remarkable as the pros. We’re certainly in for interesting times. In a sense, both the people who adore Trump and the people who despise him have good reasons for doing so—he’s a naturally polarizing figure, after all. But which side wins out when both are true? Speaking for myself, I can’t help but notice that the good points are all effects of his campaign, while the biggest dangers are from a prospective presidency. So I’m grateful that he’s running, but I don’t support him for the office.
Can we learn the lessons Trump’s campaign has revealed without actually bringing the problems into the White House? I really want to say yes because I will not vote for Trump. I’ve never been one to bow to pragmatism at the polls and vote for someone who is unfit for the office. Nevertheless, if I’m honest, I can’t give a certain yes. A Trump victory in November might be what it takes to drive the lessons home. But in the end, I can only vote my own conscience, and I don’t need his victory for that. I can use his disruptive campaign as evidence and argument even if it ultimately fails, and I’d rather use Trump than be used by him.