Hennessy's View

non sum dignus

How bad would Trump presidency be?

The world is about to end.

Or civil war is about to break out in Dayton, Ohio.

Believe it?

Glenn Beck, Erick Erickson, and other Republicans have convinced a lot of people that we are doomed if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination. I know some people who are nearly incapacitated with fear and grief after last night’s Nevada caucuses. Because they listen to Glenn Beck. Sad!

Here’s the thing: nothing is as bad as you think it will be while you’re thinking about it. 

Watch this great TED talk by Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert. It’s one of the top 20 TED talks of all time for a reason. Dan is a brilliant guy who studies happiness.

[ted id=97]

In case you weren’t paying attention, here are three big takeaways that will help you tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

One year after winning the lottery or losing the use of your legs, you’ll be just as happy as you were before the event.

These are the data. You failed the pop quiz, and you’re hardly five minutes into the lecture. Because the fact is that a year after losing the use of their legs, and a year after winning the lotto, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.

We are terrible at predicting how a future event will affect our happiness.

From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have. This almost floors me – a recent study showing how major life traumas affect people suggests that if it happened over three months ago, with only a few exceptions, it has no impact whatsoever on your happiness.

Happiness can be synthesized, and synthesized happiness is often better than organic.

Why? Because happiness can be synthesized. Sir Thomas Brown wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.“ What kind of remarkable machinery does this guy have in his head?

Well, it turns out it’s precisely the same remarkable machinery that all off us have. Human beings have something that we might think of as a “psychological immune system.“ A system of cognitive processes, largely non-conscious cognitive processes, that help them change their views of the world, so that they can feel better about the worlds in which they find themselves. Like Sir Thomas, you have this machine.Unlike Sir Thomas, you seem not to know it.

Let’s go back to November 2012. Remember how you felt after the networks called the election for Obama? And now think back to December 2012. Did you celebrate Christmas? New Year’s?

I’m guessing that between December 2012 and December 2015, you were just about as happy as you were between December 2005 and December 2008.

Don’t make your happiness contingent on an election. It’s not worth it. Glenn Beck will not give away his millions and live in a cave if Trump wins. He’ll go on saying crazy, insane things that ruin people’s days because that’s what Glenn Beck does. People pay him to ruin their days. (Stupid me–ruining people’s days for free.)

Yes, many people expected the next president would be a constitutional conservative. (I hate that phrase and love the concept.) But what’s the worst that could happen?

You think Trump will dissolve Congress and become a dictator? We thought Obama would do that. And, while Obama has overreached his authority as President, so far he’s done nothing that can’t be undone. The only undoable things that have happened were Supreme Court rulings. And only a constitutional amendment can undo those. A change in president won’t make much of a difference.

You think Ted Cruz would not enforce the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling? How would that be different from Obama refusing to enforce immigration laws? Cruz might not prosecute bakers who won’t bake cakes, but he’ll recognize same-sex marriages in the law. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t really believe in the rule of law, does he?

So what’s the worst that could happen with a President Trump? Let’s assume that he’s serious about the few things he’s talked about most frequently:

  * He'll build a wall and enforce immigration laws
  * He'll suspend Islamic immigration until we "figure out what's going on"
  * He'll rebuild the military
  * He'll fix the VA
  * He'll protect gun rights
  * He'll tear up the Iran nuclear deal and craft a new one that works
  * He'll demand fair trade practices from China, Mexico, Japan, and other partners
  * He'll cut individual taxes on most Americans and simplify the tax code
  * He'll cut corporate rates and repatriate trillions of dollars currently off-shore
  * He'll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better

Please tell me if accomplishing those goals would make you happy. Notice I didn’t ask if the list is complete, and I didn’t ask if you think Trump can do it. (He can, but that’s a different matter.) I’m asking you to tell me in the comments if you’d be happy if Trump accomplished all of those things. I know you’ll answer truthfully.

Maybe he won’t champion pro-life legislation, but it sounds to me like he’ll enforce the law on life. And I suspect he’ll sign pro-life legislation if any comes from Congress. A lot like Reagan. He said repeatedly he would defund Planned Parenthood unless they stop performing abortions. There’s no reason to disbelieve him.

He’s also talked about eliminating waste in government. Is that a bad thing?

Sure, I like Cruz’s and Carson’s tax plans better, but I’ll take Trump’s gladly. It’s a big improvement and actually would make it easier to get to Cruz’s later. And Trump told Adam Carolla he likes Cruz’s plan a lot better than the status quo. So if Cruz can get Congress to pass his tax plan, Trump will sign it.

Now think about this: would it be any easier for Cruz to get the flat tax through Congress as President? Kemp-Roth had a team of dedicated members of Congress working for years to get that overhaul through. Years. If Cruz’s plan does not have a coalition to push it now, it won’t when he’s President.

So the chances of enacting Cruz’s tax plan are actually better with Trump in the White House and Cruz working full time in the Senate. No one in Congress can champion Cruz’s plan like Senator Cruz can, right?

If you look at Trump’s life, it’s easy to see him accomplishing most of the goals on his list. I think he can. He really does have a history of getting stuff done when no one else could figure out how.

Further, I think Trump is probably the most likely of the remaining Republican candidates to win in November. I know what the conventional wisdom says, but the conventional wisdom has been completely wrong about Trump since day one.

The fact is, Cruz’s November strategy was tragically flawed. He banked on a groundswell of evangelicals who didn’t vote in 2012. But he was wrong. Evangelicals voted in large number in 2012–more than in 2008. The voters who didn’t vote in 2012 were working Americans–the very people Trump has fired up. Many of them are also evangelical, but they’re not Cruz evangelicals–they’re Reagan Democrats and Ross Perot voters. Those record turnouts in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada were largely owing to Trump, not Cruz. (I wrote extensively on the subject here.)

And Rubio’s strategy is Romney’s strategy warmed-over. With less money. And a less accomplished politician.

If Trump continues to defy conventional expectations through November, he will win in a landslide.

And, again, I ask: with a Republican Congress, how terrible would a President Trump be?

Having read The Art of the Deal, I am confident that Trump is not a globalist and he loves America. He really, really loves America. While I disagree with a number of his positions, some strongly, I truly believe he’d make a much better president than Hillary or Obama. He might cause some face-palm moments for us, but not because of groveling to a tinhorn dictator.

I’m not telling anyone to abandon your favorite candidate right now. I’m saying think critically about what a President Trump would really be like. I can promise you that it won’t be as bad as you think it will be when you’re thinking about it–and it might be a whole lot better.


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