The Trouble with Trump

The Trump phenomenon reminds me of my 8th grade run for class president. My opponent (who went on to become the high school salutatorian) had intelligence and ideas. For my part, I handed out pencils with my name on them.

I still feel bad that I won.

There’s nothing to recommend Trump to voters beyond empty rhetoric into which voters can image their own preferences. Like Obama, he is style over substance. This may win over the sort of voter who evaluates arguments by the glamour of the person making it (the kind that believes Ellen Page owned Ted Cruz), but the trouble with alpha male chest-beating is that it ignores the sensitive realities of international diplomacy and the (admittedly unfair) nature of modern media. Expect many campaign ads to run clips of Trumpish machismo on sensitive base and wedge issues, driving Democratic turnout and splitting Republican voters. Trump may drive a certain kind of GOP turnout, but he can also drive Democratic turn out too.

It is (or should be) transparently obvious that his shift to the right is opportunistic. Why think he will govern as a conservative? The past is not always a predictor of the future, but it is often a very reliable guide, especially for someone as old as Trump (Proverbs 22:6).

Furthermore, there’s no tactical reason to select him. The evidence does not support the idea that he will beat Hillary (who is already a weak candidate). What do Trump supporters imagine the 2016 electoral map will look like? Does the path to victory go through PA? MI? WI? How does the Trump campaign intend to be competitive in swing states with the current shifts in electoral demographics?

On the other hand, one can imagine President Trump and Putin riding shirtless across the Great Plains, trading jokes about their latest sexual conquests and measuring the lengths of tank barrels. At least then Putin would finally be dealing with a leader who understands his opponent.

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