Many are excited about Donald Trump. They get excited when he says things like, “I will tell you I’ve been dealing with politicians all my life. They are all talk, no action.”
Actually, this isn’t true.
Politicians are all about action, as well as talk — and this is precisely the problem.
Over the decades, including recent years, politicians have taken all kinds of wrongful actions. They took the actions of creating the Federal Reserve, of instituting Social Security and Medicare, and later Obamacare, not to mention the alphabet soup of agencies (FDA, FCC, EPA, DEA, IRS) that impair individual liberty, not to mention foster expansive and unending taxation and debt.
Obama is all about both talk and action. He bashes capitalism, individualism, private property and economic freedom every chance he gets. Every single one of his legislative attempts involve increases in government power, authority, control, taxation or regulation. He has succeeded in most of his legislative attempts. The ones he cannot succeed in, such as environmentalism, immigration and gun control, he gets around by using executive decrees.
In order to evaluate a presidential candidate’s worth, you must look at (1) his ideas, and (2) his history of integrity (or lack of integrity) to those ideas, in practice.
Republicans have no discernible ideas, and no visible ideological orientation. We know that they intensely dislike Obama. We also know that they consider marriage as between a man and a woman, and that abortion is murder. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess what ideas they have. Perhaps that’s why we see so many Republicans now running for president that they won’t be able to fit on a single stage for a debate. This is what happens when campaigns are about personality, not philosophy or ideas.
Democrats, on the other hand, have very clear-cut ideas. The purpose of the individual, they maintain, is service to the state. Those who produce, must give; and those who need, will receive. It’s as simple as that. Government exists to ensure that those who make money will have that wealth transferred to those who do not have money. They are the party of the welfare-entitlement state, the party of democratic socialism. They say what they mean, they mean what they say, and they decisively implement every aspect of that ideology every chance they get.
Obama has been particularly aggressive in this regard, particularly in his willingness to utilize executive edicts over and above both the legislative and judicial branches of government. All talk and no action? Say what you will about Obama; that’s not Obama.
Trump enters this mess with a clear, blunt and unapologetic message. That’s certainly appealing. For the first 30 seconds, I found it appealing and refreshing as well.
But at a certain point, you have to ask: “What does he stand for? If he’s against Obama’s policies and ideology, what are his own ideology and proposed policies? And what reason do we have to believe that he’ll pursue them?”
Instead, we get this from Trump, in his recent interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly:
Putin, Trump said, “has no respect for our president whatsoever. He’s got a tremendous popularity in Russia, they love what he’s doing, they love what he represents. I was over in Moscow two years ago and I will tell you — you can get along with those people and get along with them well. You can make deals with those people. Obama can’t.”
Deal making. Respect. These are what Trump proposes above all else, not just in this interview, but in other comments and interviews he has done in the past.
But deal making is a tactic and a skill; it’s not a principle of leadership. Deal making is a good skill to have, but the question remains: What deals will you be trying to make? What ideas will you be trying to put into practice when you propose a deal, and why?
If you subscribe to individual rights, freedom and capitalism, for example, then you will propose and negotiate one kind of deal. If you subscribe to socialism, government control over the economy, and collectivism over individualism, as all of the Democrats (and many Republicans) do, then you will propose different kinds of deals.
It does us little good if Donald Trump uses his deal making to advance the interests of socialism or economic nationalization. We already have the Democrats, in allegiance with the impotent and hapless Republicans, to do this. Why would Trump offer anything different, other than perhaps a more righteous or arrogant style that some find appealing?
It’s disturbing that Donald Trump finds Russia’s Vladimir Putin admirable, as a leader. Putin is a bully. He thrashes the individual rights of citizens because the Russian people, after Communism, have not seen fit to hold their government to a higher standard. They have no Bill of Rights, not even a tattered and increasingly ignored one, as in America. Have we sunk so low that Russia is now our standard?
The idea that Putin is admirable rests on a faulty premise, held not just by Trump but by many Americans. The premise is: If you’re forceful and pushing people around, then you’re a leader. But these are not the characteristics of leaders. It’s true that you want a commander in chief to be forceful and pushy when dealing with an enemy like Iran, or ISIS, an enemy who could do mortal damage to important allies, or even ourselves. It would help, in fact, to have a leader who actually views and treats these enemies as enemies.
But the last thing we need, in the economy or elsewhere, is a forceful, pushy, bossy or ruthless “leader.” The kind of leader we need is someone who will remove government from the economy, decisively, ruthlessly, and without reference to screams and cries from the interest groups (in business and politics) who have spent decades living off the largesse of other people’s “resources” and money.
If Trump wishes to use his personality skills of pushiness, bossiness or intimidation to those ends — then I’m all for it. But he hasn’t said that’s what he wishes to do. He has only said that he seeks to be more authoritarian than even Obama or Hillary Clinton would be, and certainly more than any soft or squishy Republican would be. But how is that an advantage? And how is that not even a dangerous thing, especially if an authoritarian thug like Putin — nothing more than a legalized gangster — is his role model? Hitler or Stalin would qualify, by that standard.
Trump’s assertiveness and deal making are probably great for business, in many respects. But those qualities cannot save America from itself, or from the wrong-headed collectivist and statist ideas of the action-oriented politicians we repeatedly elect to take care of us, suckle us, soothe us, smother us and shield us from every conceivable pain or bump. Individual lives (including property) are not a business to be “run” by a competent businessman any more than an inept political hack. We are sovereign over our own lives, and the only valid reason for a government is to protect rights — not run our lives for us.
Trump represents a fantasy. The fantasy goes like this: “Get a competent, proven business man in there to run things, to show everyone how to do it right, to show everyone who’s boss.” What does that actually mean? We need someone to protect our right to run our own lives, not to “competently” run life for us. We need an assertive leader to get the government the hell out of our lives, along with protecting us from brutal thugs like ISIS, and even (potentially) the Vladimir Putin who Trump so admires.
The beautiful and timeless thing about the United States of America is that it was founded on ideas. You can read those ideas for yourself in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Those ideas are timeless, and they respect the facts of human nature — our identity as thinking, sovereign, self-responsible and individual human beings who require liberty to survive and flourish.
Those ideas can and will rise again. They eventually must, because the human race will not survive if we completely abandon them. Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not look like the man who will embody them.