Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Practical Trump Agenda

    One of the frequent criticisms leveled against Donald Trump by much of the thinking class is that his agenda is too outlandish, and he will never be able to accomplish all or even most of his policy goals. This is true, in a way, but no more so of Mr. Trump than of any other presidential candidate.

    Mr. Trump has floated a lot of ideas over the course of his campaign, but has produced relatively few  concrete policy plans, most of which are explained in detail at his website. A lot of the reason for this is his unusual communication style: sales. Honed over his decades as a salesman, Trump’s style consists of making lots of creative proposals (often with considerable hyperbole), seeing what excites his audience, and refining his many proposals into a few solid points of action that he’ll stand by. Trump is making deals with the American people, not expounding an immutable ideological creed, so it shouldn’t be surprising when he shifts his positions to win popular support.

    Nevertheless, Mr. Trump’s most central and enduring priorities remain clear. He will build a wall to secure the southern border and stop the illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and sex slavery that currently prevail in that region. (With the wall in place, the United States will continue to admit more legal immigrants than any other country). Trump also is keenly aware of America’s decline within the global economy, and intends to make America more competitive through tax cuts (our current corporate tax rate, 35%, is the highest in the world) and trade reform, bringing back millions of jobs otherwise lost to foreign countries.

    For those with an ear for music, a song expressing Trump’s basic platform can be found here.

    Among Trump’s other concrete positions are reforming the department of Veterans Affairs, promoting Second Amendment rights, repealing Obamacare, and pursuing a less interventionist foreign policy, albeit with harsh and decisive action against entities like ISIS which openly make war on the United States. He also has promised to appoint strong conservatives to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. This last point deserves special attention: although Trump is not a conservative ideologue, his populist principles and hatred of oligarchy have led him to support principled originalists who respect the separation of powers. His recent list of eleven potential nominees has been described as a “Federalist Society All-Star Team.”

    All of this theorizing begs the question: will it work out in practice? For the answer, conservatives should look to the presidency of Ronald Reagan who, like Trump, ran on a promise to make America great again. Reagan championed a host of conservative issues, and the agenda he brought to Washington was impressive: recover the hostages in Iran, end the recession, reign in federal spending, balance the budget, eliminate the Departments of Education and Energy, EPA, and other newfangled regulatory agencies, ban abortion, curtail the entitlement state, roll back the Iron Curtain… you get the idea.

    Did Reagan succeed? Only on a few things. He recovered the hostages, ended gasoline rationing, and got the country out of the recession, leaving the economy, if not in ideal conditions, then at least in much better shape than he found it. And he won the Cold War, leaving as his greatest legacy the downfall of European Communism.

    Reagan failed on nearly everything else. But because he delivered real and effective change on a few out of many issues, he is considered a great president. His accomplishments are unparalleled in modern American history.  (To be fair, I don’t have much regard for what passes for reform among Democrats – picking up an issue like health care and churning out tens of thousands of pages of regulation that nobody really understands but everybody has to live with won’t solve much of anything).

    I expect that Trump will be a great president in the sense that Reagan was a great president. Will he enact his agenda in its entirety? No. But then again, what can we expect from someone who isn’t a king, who, while powerful, must work within a system where most of the government’s power is vested outside of himself? The American government isn’t a democracy, where the passions of the mob carry sweeping reforms, and it isn’t a monarchy, where a solitary ruler writes policies according to his personal agenda. As much as I’d like to say we’re a Republic, nowadays our country is looking more and more like an oligarchy. Either way, the president is only the first among many powerful officials.

    But even if Mr. Trump delivers on only a few of his proposals, he’ll be a great president. If we as a country want all the problems fixed, it won’t be enough to elect a great president, we’ll need to elect great Senators, Representatives, Governors, state legislators, and local officials.

    This November, I’ll be casting my presidential vote for Donald Trump. But I am no less concerned about the Arizona primary in August, where I’ll be voting for Kelli Ward for Senate. I will also be running for precinct committeeman within my local Republican party. Conservatives must project power from all of these offices if we are to set policy in the future.

    While Trump may have started the ball rolling, the practical Trump agenda – like any president’s agenda – will require many hands to carry it out.

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