Let’s just set aside reality for a moment and assume that Trump can somehow get past his ceiling of roughly 25% of mostly angry, aging, white voters and make it past what will one day finally be a unified Republican opponent (be it Rubio, Cruz, or my dark horse, Christie) and capture the Republican nomination.
Further, let’s assume that Trump does not get completely crushed by a Clinton campaign that would likely sweep up the entirety of the Latino and Black vote as well as the preponderance of the Independent vote. Yes, I am asking the reader and the Trump supporter to set aside all reason and logic that Trump would not in fact be the Clinton dream nominee as a Karl Rove Wall Street Journal op-ed observes that would lead to an electoral landslide not seen since the days of Mondale versus Reagan.
Would such a presidency be effective? Is there any way that such an oafish executive that has managed to not only alienate the opposition but also his own party would be able to work through the complexities of American and foreign politics to get things accomplished? I would argue that Trump has increasingly made it impossible to work with a Congress to get critical legislation pushed, and that question alone is based on the unlikely notion that Trump would actually have some sensible ideas to promote. Perhaps the freedom loving American needs to be reminded of the enduring power of the Constitution, which places the balance of rulemaking firmly in the hands of the legislative branch, both as a rule-making body as well as controlling the power of the purse. Trump’s grand plan to block all Muslim immigration? Not going to happen since a Republican led congressional leadership is already coming out against the plan. How about a giant and terrific wall on the Southern Border? Not a chance that Mexico much less U.S. Congress will agree to pay for that. The separation of powers and the leadership needed to get things done in our carefully crafted system designed intentionally to force debate and incremental decision making is not in any way the same thing as a Trump led reality show or even building a new Trump Tower. Whatever negotiation skills that he has would be rendered completely ineffective in such a system since he has by and large already undermined his ability to work within such a system. Fortunately in America, we elect a President and not a dictator. This requires the requisite leadership and diplomacy skills required to get things done. We don’t elect a CEO with singular chain of command, and I would argue that this is essential as a bulwark and as a preservation of individual liberties.
Turning to foreign policy, the most important foreign policy issues of the day coming out of the Trump camp seem to be that he will befriend Putin (an asinine pipe dream and I would argue is not actually in our interests), bombing Iraq and Syria indiscriminately and taking the oil, and banning Muslim immigration. I would argue that deftly managing events in the Middle East will define the foreign policy success or failure of the next President, and thus largely define their overall success or failure as judged by those looking back at the American annals of history. Trump has essentially already damaged the relationships his presidency would need to build with regional allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey by uttering such bombastic nativist nonsense. Thus, critical relationships that we need to actually solve the source of the migration challenge would be grievously upended. It should also be noted that foreign policy is a realm in which the President does have a great deal of power. Whereas Trump’s crazy utterings and plans domestically would be neutered by a combative Congress, his Executive power would allow him to create great and lasting harm to U.S. global interests. In an age of Middle East chaos, a resurgent Russia that increasingly meddles in foreign affairs, a rising and active China that pursues interests and policies that are inimical to U.S. and Allies in the South China Sea, the inevitable Iranian backsliding on the Nuclear Arms deal, among many other thorny and intractable issues, will require great statesmanship and wisdom. Can we imagine Trump at the helm during all of this? Will bluster rather than wisdom and knowledge prevail against these intractable problems? This should really scare us. This isn’t a game or a reality show. Real people’s lives are on the line and the seriousness of our institutions deserve a thoughtful and statesmanlike Executive authority.
A final note on Trump as far as the Republican party is concerned and the ideology of his base of supporters. I would argue that Trump is far from an actual conservative and more of a complete opportunist that is winning votes on personality and words alone and is capturing a subset of the electorate that is unmoored to any specific ideology. They are the democrats of old whose parents moved to the Republican Party beginning with the Vietnam era and accelerating with the Reagan coalition, who captured this group out of social stances rather than economic policies. With the waning of their own faith and religious observance, these descendants of blue-collar white families are left without a party allegiance and are thus aligning themselves with a candidate based on personality alone. I am afraid he is as much an actual misaligned candidate with their goals as well as the fact that he would be completely ineffective at achieving his stated aims if he ever stepped foot in the White House. Hopefully this is all an interesting thought experiment given that his path the White House can’t possibly be granted given his self-inflicted wounds and his electorate ceiling. There are only so many angry, aging, white folks to go around after all.
This Trump thing is an unfathomable Twilight Zone that I keep hoping we get out of…really soon.