Don’t clutch your pearls just yet. I have, since the start of this election cycle, vehemently opposed Donald Trump, and still do, along with most all of my ideological co-religionists. I believe that Donald Trump is little more than a narcissistic, egotistical, self-promoting strongman who is undeserving of the office of the Presidency, being more reminiscent of Chavez or Berlusconi than most American presidents of yore (well, except maybe Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan). And I am enthusiastically supporting Johnson-Weld 2016 (who also, IMO, have the best, and half-satirical, hashtag of the cycle thus far with their #feeltheJohnson bit).
But, let’s assume the bogus fiction that we have to choose between two disliked general election candidates nominated by the two major political parties, solely because they are the only (allegedly) legitimate choices. In that world, I hope Donald Trump becomes President of the United States.
Maybe I’ve lost my mind. But then I found this Conor Friedersdorf article in the Atlantic, laying out in less pointed language exactly why I feel this way:
Donald Trump is as well positioned as anyone to be elected leader of the world’s oldest democracy. If he wins, I hope he tires of America quickly and leaves us for a younger, Eastern European country. But if he puts his name in gold letters atop the White House and stays for four years, our next best hope is that right and left, Congress and the courts see new urgency in safeguarding civil liberties, reining in executive power, limiting surveillance, and tyrant-proofing the White House like helicopter parents moving into a new place with a badly behaved toddler.
Donald Trump is bad. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that. His “policies” are incoherent, his rhetoric is odious, and his campaign is bringing out the very sort of vulgar mob mentality that the framers feared.
The thing is, most reasonable people agree on that. Granted, Donald Trump is polling very well compared to where most everybody thought he would peak, but if you dig down into the numbers (or actually talk to a Trump supporter), you’ll find that much of the support comes from a combination of political ignorance, frustration with left-wing fascism, and anger at the condescension from most of our political elites. Frankly, I don’t blame them – given how detached our political processes have become from the people ostensibly in control of those processes (you know, “We the People”), and given how frustrating it is to be told, implicitly or explicitly, that politicians “know better than you” (despite their only qualifications typically being an advanced degree [maybe] and the ability to pander well enough to fundraise enough to win an election), I think anger is perfectly justified, albeit poorly expressed.
I think support for Donald Trump is woefully misguided, of course. But I get it. And the virtue of Donald Trump is that he is brazenly autocratic, causing progressives, establishmentarians, movement conservatives, and libertarians alike to denounce him. A Trump administration would be one of the most opposed and rebuffed, in bipartisan fashion, since the Nixon administration, if not before then. Judges, Senators, and Congresspersons of all political persuasions would find it easy to stand against the excesses of a Trump administration, just as they are already doing. I tend to think that a Trump administration would make separation of powers great again, which would in turn “make America great again,” albeit not in the way Trump means it.
Not so, however, with a Clinton administration. Consider this fawning ode to autocracy from Matthew Yglesias over at Vox:
Clinton is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas. . . . [This is] an enormous source of potential strength. Committed Democrats and liberal-leaning interest groups are facing a reality in which any policy gains they achieve are going to come through the profligate use of executive authority, and Clinton is almost uniquely suited to deliver the goods. More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned.
Ah, yes, “profligate use of executive authority,” “deliver the goods,” “levers of power,” “procedural niceties.” Procedural niceties, you know, like the basic virtues that inform our political order:
In the government of this Commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers, or either of them: The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: The judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.
That bit, coming from the 1780 Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, formed the template for the separation of powers which our Framers carefully considered and enshrined into law in the Federal Constitution. But, you know, “procedural niceties be damned.”
When the Donald starts spouting off about how he is going to “build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it,” everyone jaws about how he lacks the authority to do so unilaterally, how that would be gross executive overreach, etc. But when it comes to advancing leftist cause celebres, all of a sudden the “profligate use of executive authority” becomes a virtue (we’ve seen that for the past eight years, and we saw the same from the other side for the eight years preceding that). And, of course, now that we once again have the prospect of “history” being made, such an attitude is likely only going to spread and increase (as an aside, I’ll just note that I don’t find much historically novel about a major party nominating a career politician and out-of-touch plutocrat, and I am surprised to find such jubilation from the left over this when we are simultaneously told by them that gender is fluid and one’s genitals-of-birth do not define “gender identity,” thus making it irrelevant (at least logically) for keeping historical score – but I digress [frankly, I just don’t get modern “progressivism”]).
Bottom line: I’ll take the devil I know most sensible people can’t stand, and who will be constrained by a resurgent love for constitutional order; as opposed to the devil I know half the country will dutifully fall in line behind and celebrate while brushing aside complaints about excess and overreach.
But, in the meantime – since I am actually politically fluid and do not identify with the party of my birth or the political binary – I’ll happily #feeltheJohnson, while crossing my fingers that, whatever happens this election, we feel our way back to first principles, before they are irretrievably lost.