After writing at great length in my last post about some of my many issues with the continuing success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, I had hoped to be able to concentrate on some other topics for a while. However, since Trump-centric discussions have been pretty much everywhere during the past week, I guess I might as well talk about him some more, as well -- though, hopefully in a shorter burst this time.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the controversy of the week -- Mr. Trump’s suggestion that no foreign Muslims should be allowed into the U.S. until the government “figures out what’s going on.” If that means until our leaders and bureaucratic agencies accomplish the daunting task of developing an extremely accurate way to determine which prospective immigrants or visitors could possibly commit or support terrorist activities at some point in the future, the temporary ban might last quite a long time indeed. I will say that I do not think that the proposal would be unconstitutional, because our Constitution doesn’t grant rights, such as freedom of religion, to everyone in the world. (It could be dangerous, though, to give the Supreme Court a chance to weigh in on something like this and risk having them fabricate an inventive ruling that applicants for admission to the U.S. may not be disqualified for things that would be considered protected speech, exercise of religion, etc. for American citizens.) I also think that, if a temporary moratorium on entrances to the country were to be adopted, it might be less problematic to make it universal rather than limited to one religious group. After all, Trump’s suggestion that people would simply be asked their religion at, for example, an airport, doesn’t seem to be a particularly accurate way to verify such information. In any case, even though these types of policies may be legally permissible, that does not mean that they would necessarily be wise or that they would not create or exacerbate as many problems as they solved, and their consideration should not be taken lightly. I also agree with those who have said that Trump’s announcement this week of his proposal regarding Muslims entering the country was likely prompted by recent poll results suggesting a lessening of his lead, especially in Iowa, where one poll showed Ted Cruz was now ahead. Based on the pattern of the last several months, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mr. Trump figured that the best way to divert attention from that development and refocus it on himself was to say something controversial, and it worked. Odd as it may sound, this seems to just be business as usual for the Donald Trump campaign.
I’ve said (repeatedly) before that I’ve found it stunning that any sizable group of people would consider someone like Donald Trump their top choice to be President of the United States. From a certain perspective, though, I suppose that I should not be surprised at all, as Trump’s popularity fits in with the trends seen in the last couple of presidential elections.
Barack Obama was able to win twice despite lacking prior experiences showing particular qualifications to be president and even though some of his main positions and proposals (such as “Obamacare”) were opposed by a majority of the people. Many of his supporters were devoted to him, and policy details or any critical information about Obama were not important. This has been called a “cult of personality,” and that seems to be a fitting description -- just remember the accounts of the enthralled crowds at Obama’s campaign events in 2008, complete with people fainting when overcome by the awesome experience of being in his presence. Obama encouraged people to view him in this way when he spoke of the amazing changes that would happen if he would be elected -- why, the entire planet would be healed as the sea levels would fall if he were victorious. In both of Obama’s elections, people disregarded potentially damaging facts about him, including, in 2008, his past associations with people like Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Wright and, in 2012, the events and lies surrounding the Benghazi attack. None of this mattered to many voters -- Obama was their guy.
Similarly, Donald Trump’s supporters this year are unmoved by any arguments against him. Even if they describe themselves as Republicans and often as conservatives, they are not dissuaded by his past (or present) support for liberal positions, his lack of experience with foreign policy and other presidential matters, or his vague and shifting views during this campaign. Any rude or insulting comments he directs at reporters, a captured POW, an entire state of voters, or his opponents are acceptable, because he’s standing up to the oppressive political correctness problem in the country, even if he’s reiterating and amplifying the very attacks (as in the case of Ben Carson) these same people criticize the media for using. I’d imagine that having a pre-established fan base from his television show, along with general celebrity name recognition, didn’t hurt Mr. Trump in establishing his campaign. Now, it seems that most of his backers will stick with him no matter what he says or does, and whichever position he takes on a given issue is fine with them. As for Donald Trump himself, he certainly does not downplay his own importance. He says that media members tell him he is the best interview and that even his opponents compliment him on his winning debate performances. If he is elected, he will “make America great again” and negotiate tremendous deals with other countries. It isn’t necessary for him to provide a lot of specifics regarding any of his plans, because he has assured us that he will bring in fantastic people to handle every issue.
While in office, Barack Obama has continually claimed more power for himself. He has issued a great many executive orders, even in cases where he had previously admitted that he didn’t have the authority to do so. This week, Donald Trump said that, if he were president, he would sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a police officer. Now, I’m certainly unhappy with all of the police-bashing that’s been going on the last couple of years, and support for law enforcement from the Oval Office would be a welcome change, but this suggestion might be rather too broad. Whatever the merits of the idea, I can’t see how Mr. Trump’s proposed executive order would possibly be within the president’s authority, as it would seem to be usurping the powers of local, state, and federal legislatures and courts. Republicans and conservatives have often criticized Obama’s power grabs and unlawful executive orders -- are many of them now OK with the idea of a mega-powerful chief executive circumventing the separation of powers established by the Constitution as long as the one in charge is (at least momentarily) affiliated with their party?
So, on one hand, Republicans nominating a quite liberal, deliberately abrasive reality-show celebrity (yes, and businessman) with no government experience as their presidential candidate would be a rather novel development. But, on the other hand, a victory for Donald Trump would just show once again that the American people have developed a preference for presidents who, to put it nicely, have very high self-esteem and are willing to assert (or exceed) their authority to accomplish their goals. We’ve already had two terms of a, as Bobby Jindal might put it, narcissistic egomaniac in the White House with Barack Obama. The election of Donald Trump would only give us a third, and that type of continuity hardly seems desirable.