I’m currently writing a really long (and hopefully good!) blog post on why policy matters and why Donald Trump isn’t a good solution for Sanders voters. Furthermore, I posit that policy really does matter. This election, there has been a lot of what a good friend of mine calls ‘meme’ing about candidates, as the cost of policy. Mark Cuban (a Trump supporter, for God knows what reason), has nonetheless been rather on point in identifying and describing Trump’s appeal. As early as July of 2015 Cuban said of Trump:
I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.
Yet my argument along these lines falls in line with Chris Cilliza’s argument that Trump’s honest bombaste is hollow. He’s not being honest with policy, he’s being ‘honest’ in that he accuses Obama of being a terrible negotiator, and Jeb of being low energy. He points to a huge wall as being a solution despite substantial evidence that such a wall would be ineffective, and furthermore could not be built. He speaks broadly of a tax system that favors the rich and how he would make some magical changes to fix it, but when he was forced to put out concrete policy, his policy massively reduces tax burden on the rich, and doesn’t do much for the poor. It leaves a massive deficit, despite the fact Trump calls for an expansion of infrastructure spending, Social Security to be propped up, and an expanded military presence. Sure, he proposes that we force our neighbors to pay for our military backing. But it’s a hell of a free rider problem. Predictably, when pushed on how he would force allies to pay, Trump comes up short.
Along these lines, I posit that one reason for Donald’s support among the misinformed and uneducated is that they value his ‘truthiness’ more than they value actual policy discussion. However, this should go without saying, both populism and a misinformed public have been around for a long time. Why then, are people considering Trump over Clinton despite this rhetoric? Why are people who are relatively educated getting on the Trump train despite the fact that a lot of his policy has been substantively rebuked. I think it’s because Trump does a great job keeping separate his relatively reasonable core positions from his memorable sound bites.
On paper, without specifics, a fair bit of Trump’s key policies sound pretty moderate. He wants more legal immigration, but we have laws to uphold. This includes deporting illegals, but if you remove that specific, it sounds reasonable.
On Iran, he could have gotten a better deal.
The existing establishment just talks and doesn’t get stuff done. Trump just talks as if stuff is getting done.
On taxes he speaks of making the tax structure worse for the rich and better for the working class and the poor.
In short, Trump makes himself broadly appealing to any low information voter, or a voter who wants to like him. And Trump is, in some respects, a likeable guy. Despite his massive unfavorability readings, lots of people really like the Trump persona. Furthermore, his campaign platform of Make America Great Again really is one that everyone should want to support (if we remove again!).
The three Trumps can be broadly categorized as such.
The first Trump is just a non-politician being human. Un-politician. Anti-establishment. Good traits this election cycle.
The other two are the ‘moderate’ and the ‘memorable’.
The ‘moderate’ Trump looks good on paper to those who look at his policies looking for answers, but can’t be bothered to investigate how the positions would be implemented. Good for those disengaged non party affiliated voters who just want solutions, not partisan filibustering.
The ‘memorable’ Trump reaches out to the disaffected, who are drawn in by his bombastic statements, and give them more credit than the underlying more ‘moderate’, mainstream positions. This is good for those who just want to burn everything down, or are racists. It also gets him massive media attention.
On immigration ‘moderate’ Trump says that we need legal immigration but we can’t let people break the law. Hence we need a strong border but better legal ways for immigration. But, notably, ‘memorable’ Trump speaks of rapists and building a wall.
On the economy he says we’ll take back jobs and win again! Big, bold rhetoric! I’ll take back the jobs that have vanished! But ‘moderate’ Trump says we’ll have tariffs. They’re reasonable, right? Sanders certainly advocates for them.
In any case, I could provide more examples, and will in the finished writeup. But along these lines, Trump cannot lose? Why? No specifics, ever, except for ones which are adequately outlandish to be written off. I’ve seen it already. His supporters don’t know what he’d actually do, and don’t care. In fact, Trump has provided no substantive reasonable workable policy. There is no nuance in any of his policy considerations. All the specifics are outlandish and memorable, not real policy. Trump realizes, should he release real policy, he’ll be beholden to it. And he hasn’t thus far.
One may question him as being extreme, racist, and bigoted.. A supporter can point to his moderate beliefs on paper, and how he’s between the two parties. He wants better immigration opportunities, just to deal with those who have broken the law!
Those who support him on the bombaste certainly won’t be dissuaded by the accusation of him being fringe.
Nobody will ever question him on being establishment. His personality, background, and policy proposals, if you can call them that, clearly show that.
To some degree, what Trump says is so non-specific and absurd that it’s hard to pin him on anything. It’s his feeling, his message that his supporters have been abandoned, that has sway. The only way to truly shut him down (in a meaningful way) is to hold him accountable to his policy, and make him provide policy. If he doesn’t provide policy, the American people must be made to see that both his existing proposed policy is bad, and that the lack of policy proposals is a bad thing. I have no idea how one should go about this, but until then, Trump will be really hard to pin down on any substantive matter. His reputation among his supporters can’t be damaged if the statements he’s attacked on are viewed as non-credible or figurative, the credible statements he’s made are reasonable, and his policy positions are too vague to provide a good idea of what he’d actually do.