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Donald Trump was near the bottom of my candidate choices during the primaries. I was among those who thought that his intemperate remarks would spell the end of his campaign, but they did not. That his campaign consisted of a few slogans rather than policies disturbed me. As someone who follows the Kremlin’s perfidy closely, Trump’s offhand praise of Putin was more than disturbing and elicited warnings from me. As a committed small-government conservative, I worry that Trump’s instincts do not mirror my own. In a word, I am an unlikely Trump voter, but come November I will pull the Trump lever without hesitation. I consider my reasons rational and want to share them with Ricochet.
First, there is no doubt that a Clinton regime will nominate Supreme Court justices who meet the demands of her extreme left-wing base. With a Supreme Court dominated by proponents of a living constitution, the protections of the Bill of Rights and the final check on an out-of-control executive will be lost — and lost for decades.
Second, although Trump is a high variance candidate, we know that Hillary Clinton is dishonest, a known liar and, through the email scandal and the Clinton Foundation’s wheeling and dealing, she places personal interests above national interests. If Putin has her emails, we could have a President subject to Kremlin blackmail. Trump may have blemishes in his background, but none compare to Hillary. Were she anyone other than a Clinton, she would be under criminal indictment.
Third, Trump’s foreign policy cannot be worse than Hillary’s failed years as Secretary of State. He has stated clearly that his foreign policy will be dictated by the national interest, not by the Obama-Clinton “citizen of the world” approach.
Fourth, Trump is correct in promising to solve the free-rider problem with America’s allies. If NATO countries are not willing to contribute their fair share to the common transatlantic alliance, they should suffer the consequences. Hopefully, Trump will allow for a designated transition period to give NATO members time to contribute their share.
Fifth, Trump has tapped into mainstream America’s disenchantment with Washington’s domination by special interests. The American people understand our national politics are broken and that both sides of the aisle are complicit. The people understand the problem is not a lack of cooperation but of corruption. A Clinton administration would mean even more of a broken Washington. Trump will have to battle the odds, including many in his own party, to make the basic changes in Washington that the working people of America want.
Sixth, economists of virtually all persuasions, including myself, favor free trade. Thus my initial reaction to Trump’s attack on trade (much of which had the wrong target such as exchange rates) was negative. However, one needs only to read the business-page headlines (such as China’s deplorable treatment of Apple and the banning of American chicken) to see that Trump’s call for fair trade is not without merit. We do perhaps need better negotiators to achieve fair trade, and Trump might actually improve free trade in the end.
Seventh, if a nation does not have control of its borders, it is no longer a nation. Nations must determine who they wish to enter the country for work and eventual citizenship. Most wealthy countries, like the US and those in Europe, need immigrants for their labor force and economic growth, but the choice of whom to admit should be determined by sensible rules, such as admitting very large numbers of highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs. Who gets into the United States should not be determined by unguarded borders, human traffickers, and family relations. America’s high school dropouts understand what Washington does not. Open borders drive down their earnings. We know that Hillary would not pursue a “rational” approach. Trump has promised he will.
Eighth, Trump has street-fighter instincts that the Republicans’ last two presidential candidates lacked. John McCain refused to go after Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers, and Mitt Romney insisted on playing the role of gentleman candidate. The Democrats can only be beaten by a candidate who is able to outpunch them. It is important that Trump’s attacks not be sui generis, but should focus on specific weaknesses, like Hillary’s sullied history and her failure as Secretary of State.
Ninth, Trump has launched an effective campaign against political correctness and has provided the Republican Party with a model for dealing with media bias. Instead of tip-toeing around political correctness and a biased media, Trump has shown how to attack dead on. His success in this area could neutralize the Democratic Party’s ability to control the language and semantics of political campaigns for years to come.
My reservations about Trump include:
First, he has not demonstrated an ability to run a viable general-election campaign. To do so, he must focus on the opposition and not on fellow Republicans.
Second, I do not know the depth of his anti-government, strict constitutionalist convictions.
Third, he must demonstrate that he is willing to do the study and work which is required to be a viable national candidate.
But my Trump reservations are minor relative to the alternative. Rational voters have no choice but to look at the alternative. On this, Trump wins hands down.
This essay reflects the views of the author and is not reflective of the views of the Hoover Institution or the University of Houston.