Trump: Good, Bad, and Ugly

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There seems to be a certain air of inevitability that Trump will win the GOP nomination for President. According to a new poll, 57 percent of Republican voters expect that Trump will be the party’s candidate next year. Why is that important?

Expectations Beat Preferences #

It’s important because expectations are far better predictors of actual winners than preference polls. From a 2012 NY Times story by David Leonhardt:

Over the last 60 years, poll questions that asked people which candidate they expected to win have been a better guide to the outcome of the presidential race than questions asking people whom they planned to vote for, the study found.

That study, by David Rothschild of Columbia University and Justin Wolfers of University of Michigan, is worth a read. The reason “who do you expect to win” beats “who do prefer to win” is because the former question effectively broadens the survey by a factor of 20 as respondents mentally poll up to 20 of their friends and family.

Additionally, late deciders usually break for the candidate they expect to win by about 60/40, consistent with studies of other animals.

Brace Yourself #

While I believe Trump’s nomination could be bad news for the Republican Party, for conservatism, and for the United States, I do think Trump’s candidacy has done some good. And I think Trump could evolve into an effective president.

So here’s everything I see, good, bad, and ugly, about Trump:

The Good #

From a sampling of Trumps oft-evolving positions:

** Political correctness is probably dead, and that’s good thing ** The First Amendment is stronger because “offensive” speech is a matter of taste, not law ** There’s a new determination to stop illegal immigration ** Trump has people talking about making America great again, and that’s what we all should want ** Trump has long decried foreign currency manipulation and unfair trade practices ** His position on the important of work is excellent ** He says he opposes crony capitalism ** He supports a 0% corporate tax ** He opposes the mindless war on drugs ** He supports school choice and competition ** He supports domestic energy production ** He opposes environmental extremism while supporting environmental responsibility ** He stresses the importance of strong families ** He opposes Obama’s Iran deal ** He opposes Chinese human rights policies ** He opposes warrantless government searches and monitoring of American citizens' communications ** He opposes ObamaCare ** He supports peace through overwhelming strength ** He recognizes the meaninglessness of official unemployment numbers ** He acknowledges that some people use Social Security Insurance to avoid work ** He supports tax reform and eliminating deductions, short of a flat tax

The Bad #

From the same source:

** Trump supports high tariffs in a fragile world economy, which remind me of Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of 1930 ** Trump supports Affirmative Action ** He seems to support continued government funding of Planned Parenthood despite the organization’s continued human right violations ** While speaking against crony capitalism, he has practiced crony capitalism most of his life, bragging that he “buys politicians” in the first debate ** Trump has corrupted the minds of otherwise sensible people with his birthright citizenship nonsense. Persons born in the US are US citizens with very few exceptions, like American Indians not taxed, persons under diplomatic immunity, and invading armies. ** Trump’s immigration plan gives people a false hope that the immigration problem is easily fixed through executive order and legislation. It is not. As Judge Andrew Napolitano points in this video, every illegal we try to deport is entitled to a hearing and an appeal. The most such processes we’ve adjudicated in a single year was 250,000. There are between 11 and 13 million people here illegally. As Judge Napolitano says, “do the math.”

And The Ugly #

From my observations:

** Trump encourages anti-social behavior ** He whines about “unfair” treatment from the press, and some people believe that’s a sign of strength ** He shows little interest in fostering a sense of community and purpose beyond “making America great again” rhetoric. I am all for rejuvenating the American spirit, but I want all Americans to participate in that rejuvenation. ** He encourages a dangerous and fantastical notion that he can do anything as President, as if expecting some authoritarian or dictatorial power. ** He has inspired otherwise level-headed people to cheer on this idea of an autocratic President–even people who have for years complained of Obama’s autocratic behavior. I would like the next president to prove Obama’s autocratic tendencies an error of history. But if we replace an autocrat we don’t like with an autocrat we do like, then the precedent will probably be set for years to come. What follows our autocrat could be far worse than Obama.

My biggest concern about Trump is the Ugly. I think America needs a unifying leader at this point in history. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for anyone who earns the contempt of the Republican establishment. And Trump has earned that in droves.

Summary #

From a policy perspective, Trump and I have rather minor differences. If I could influence Trump in only one area, I would like him to learn about conservative solutions for poverty and family breakdown.

If he’s to become the nominee, I hope he will explain his changes of heart more clearly, particularly regarding abortion. His vague “I changed my mind” rhetoric makes me suspicious that he’s simply saying what Republican primary voters want candidates to say.

While I appreciate his candor and lack of political correctness, he could supplement the strong language with clear and bold statements of positive purpose. He could, for example, stress that every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work. He could also emphasize that poverty and upward mobility are highly correlated with:

*1. strong, in-tact families, *2. racial and economic integraion, *3. school quality, and *4. social capital (like strong churches) (Cheety, et al, 2014).

If Trump would augment his speech with positive ideas to rescue our most vulnerable citizens from the twin horrors of government and poverty, he could win over skeptics and critics like me. But to win me over, Trump will need to demonstrate leadership, not just chutzpah. We are at a time in history where we need a unifying leader who can inspire cooperation. We need a leader who eats last.