Perhaps that’s not the most austere or politically correct headline, but since Trump’s appeal seems to be that “it may not be presented in a pristine, PC way, but we’ve been having that crap pushed to us for the past 40 years” and “he’s not afraid to tell it like it is,” It seems appropriate. I haven’t really figured out what Trump is doing–I will do that analysis in another post–but what I do know is Trump hasn’t made a single campaign promise he can deliver on. I am unclear on whether this is because he doesn’t actually understand the American system of government, that he’s just making stuff up to appear and feel powerful and competent, or that he simply plans to overthrow the Constitution in favor of a fascist dictatorship if elected.
Given what we’ve seen from him so far, none of these are implausible. In any case, Donald Trump’s campaign mouth is writing checks his presidential ass won’t be able to cash in the unlikely event he gets elected (he won’t, so nobody should be worried about that).
Wall Along The Border
There will be no wall along the border. He boasts that a 94 story building is more complicated than a 1900 mile wall. This is something that sounds good at first but falls apart upon basic scrutiny. For this wall to be anything more than a symbolic boondoggle, it has to be wired, has to have power, cameras, sensors to detect people tunneling under, sensors to detect people chiseling through, sensors to detect people going over. I’m not knocking the complexity of a 94 story building, but there is over a century of experience with that. Trump is not a “builder,” as he claims, he’s a guy who hires architects and builders to figure out how to do things. There are lots of people around the world with experience building a 94 story building one can hire, if that is the goal. Nobody in the world has any experience building the wall he describes. And he has no clue how we will pay for it, which leads to his next wildly impractical promise:
Mexico Will Pay For It
Mexico has already said they won’t, and the only way Trump could initiate this is by violating NAFTA and imposing tariffs on Mexican goods. This would be illegal and also could launch a trade war with Mexico.
More likely, they would simply appeal to the WTO who would almost certainly find in their favor and order the tariffs removed. Bush tried this with steel tariffs in 2002, and was forced to back down. The United States doesn’t just get to bill other countries. One can almost hear Trump saying “you know what, if they don’t pay, I will sue them for it. That might be fun. I’m good at it.” It sounds tough, it sounds strong, and it sounds unrealistic. This is one of those claims that make it appear that Donald Trump thinks he’s running for President of the United States in an action blockbuster movie, not the real world. It’s one of many that sound like that.
He Will Create Jobs
Trump doesn’t know anything about creating jobs. Trump is a wealthy businessman who hires people. There is a difference, and it isn’t semantic. Creating jobs means expanding commerce in new ways that create a higher demand for labor. Trump has never done this. He doesn’t innovate, he just builds a new skyscraper or golf course and hires people to design and build it. The jobs end when the project is complete. Everyone working on constructing one of his projects does not get a position within the business entity they constructed, they get to find a new project to work on. This is the difference between creating jobs and hiring people. By contrast, the birth of the Internet created jobs. There are jobs today that didn’t exist when then Senator Al Gore pushed through the legislation that made it possible. Unless Trump’s plan is to just hire everybody, the way Rick Perry “created jobs,” Trump has no job creation experience relevant to his claims. On a side note, former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry was quite successful at putting people on the government payroll, so there are precedents.
He Will End Birthright Citizenship
No. Just no. Contrary to his argument that it could be handled with an act by Congress, we’re talking about the 14th Amendment here. That means it’s part of the Constitution, which–not to be glib–trumps Trump’s assertion. In his confrontation with Jorge Ramos, Trumps cites “some of the greatest legal scholars” to support his claim but–consistent with his pathological lack of specificity–fails to name a single one. This would actually have been a great moment to name a credible legal scholar or two, but he defaults to his usual “I’ve talked to some people and they are much more versed than you in this and they agree with me” line of
The 14th Amendment is pretty clear:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In short, there is no “unless the mother was here for just one day” clause or other exception he likes to cite. There are no “great legal scholars” who agree with his position, but there are a lot of right wing pundits and scribes who insist he’s right–perhaps Trump has the two confused, but I see shades of McCarthy’s “I have a list of Communists” improvisational pomposity in arguments like this and the utter nonsense he babbles on every subject.
Trump opposes Common Core, which would be reasonable except his position on it is utterly ridiculous: “Common Core is a disaster. . . We have to end [it]. Education has to be local.”
The whole point of Common Core is to localize educational content and curriculum while adhering to broad national standards. In other words, schools teach how they need to teach to reach their students. Only the standards are national. How local schools achieve them is supposed to be up to them. The failure of Common Core isn’t in the concept, it’s in how it’s being implemented. The local schools are, to be Trump-ly blunt about it, screwing it up–another topic that deserves its own post. He can’t deliver a better alternative to making education local unless he changes the cover page to the Common Core standards and puts “Education The Trump Way” on it. Which, really, is probably what he would do–over a steely gazed picture of himself.
He Will Make America Great Again
I am not even sure what this means, but if Trump plans to make America great, he has his work cut out for him. He would need to reform our prison system to reduce our inmate population and recidivism rates, rebuild our infrastructure to bring it at least up to speed with the rest of the industrial world (although to be great suggests we would have to surpass them, perhaps with a smart power grid and smart roads), reduce our infant mortality rate, raise our educational rankings internationally, restore funding for research and science, reduce healthcare costs while increasing availability, reduce poverty and homelessness rates, decrease unemployment, eliminate wage stagnation, reduce income inequality, avoid military adventurism, soften America’s tone on the International stage, and, for good measure, return to science and reason again as a basis for public policy and start taking serious steps to address the climate change crisis.
Do any of these things sound like remote possibilities in a Trump administration?
The bottom line is, Trump isn’t making legitimate campaign promises, he’s pandering to a core of people who want to hear these things but have no clue what what it would entail to accomplish them. I’m not even convinced he believes his own claims. His comments, his bombast, his manner, it isn’t presidential. It’s a populist appeal to the basest core of nativist voters. The danger is that he’s stirring up an angry mob, and history teaches us that angry mobs tend to run amok. I fear that the law of unintended consequences may lead to tragic results if he continues on this path. He is stirring up a beast he will have no control over.
There is a lot of time between now and November 2016, and the public is fickle. He is a novelty now, but it remains to be seen if he can actually win primaries. What is certain is, if he does manage to win the election, his supporters–who are lauding him for promising to deliver what conservative politicians have denied them for years–will be even angrier than they are now, once they realize he never had any desire or capability (still trying to figure out if he’s lying or naive) to deliver on any of them.