“No more politicians for President!”
— A Donald Trump supporter, on a conservative web site today.
I have been reading and periodically shooting down the comments of Trump supporters on a series of websites in my continuing and desperate quest to find a single, substantive, intelligent, informed argument for why anyone should support Donald Trump for President. I’m only looking for one. You would think there would be one. Yet so far, my research hasn’t yielded any more valid that the unethical quote above.Why is it unethical? It is unethical because it shows that the speaker is incompetent at citizenship, and has failed the basic responsibility of those who live and benefit from democracy: understand how the government works, and what leadership in a democracy requires.
No, “He can beat Hillary Clinton” does not make the grade. First of all, he can’t, for the simple reason that if someone like me, who knows Hillary Clinton’s record and character well, rates ethics and character as prime qualifications for President, and who regards her as approaching Richard Nixon as the most dishonest and flawed individual ever to run for the office (but without his talent and skill), would still vote for her to avoid the disaster of Donald Trump, he can’t beat Hillary. Second of all, it is a Rationalization #22, “It’s not the worst thing” excuse, and that’s all it is. It is, to evoke “Jurassic World,” like releasing the T-Rex because you want to stop the Indominus. (Actually it is Trump who is the Indominus, the unnatural monster.)
The quote—I could name the writer, but he is no more deserving of special embarrassment than every fool who has voted for Trump so far, and less so than the venal hacks at Breitbart, fanatics like Ann Coulter, and disgraces to their office like Chris Christie—is at the core of the Trump phenomenon, and epitomizes the civic ignorance that brought us to this precipice. Equivalent statements are…
“No more computer nerds for IT!”
“No more athletes for NFL quarterback!”
“No more career military officers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff!”
Only someone who literally has no idea how the government, politics, leadership, legislation, foreign affairs, diplomacy, indeed the world works could believe such nonsense or be willing to express it in public.
How stupid and ill-informed is the quote? Let’s limit the list to five, in the interest of brevity.
ONE: It is used to justify supporting Trump, yet the only shred of an argument for Trump is that he understands some aspects of politics. Those who know what they are saying when they say “no more politicians” should be voting for the ridiculous Ben Carson, who really believes that no relevant experience or skills for the most difficult job on the planet is an asset. Amazingly, as unfit for the office as Donald Trump is, he is better qualified than Carson because he has some political skills. What do people think Trump is talking about when he speaks of “deals”? He’s talking about persuasion, negotiation, compromise, quid pro quo, threats, bluffs, promises and pay-offs, all of which are political skills. Business, the military, the arts, all of these require politics, but the variety of politics is materially different in each sphere, and they do not easily transfer from one to the others. It they did, we would have had other tycoon Presidents in two and a half centuries and maybe a music industry mogul or two.
TWO: Governing and leadership demand the most careful and skillful politics of all, and the longer an individual has practiced it, the better he or she is at it, though, as in all things, some individuals are more naturally gifted than others. The transparently ridiculous fact that “anger” at the failed Obama administration is driving people to Trump shows how little these voters understand Obama or Trump. Obama has failed substantially because he was not an experienced politician, and has no talent for the substantive politics that accomplish things. It isn’t that he is a politician that has caused the mess the U.S. is in, but that he isn’t a skilled or effective one, except when it comes to campaigning.
THREE: Washington, D.C. is a world inhabited by politicians, and the President must live, work, persuade and thrive there. For all the mythology about outsiders and idealistic amateurs, an alien personality with non-governmental skills has no chance of being effective, and a frightening chance of causing chaos, both because of political incompetence and because of the contempt of professionals towards arrogant amateurs. The closest the United States has had to true Washington national political virgins in the office of the Presidency are the generals: Washington, Taylor, Grant and Eisenhower. Even though Grant was smart–about twice as smart as Trump—he found military politics didn’t translate well to Washington politics, and he was eaten alive by the pros and crooks in his own party. George Washington is an anomaly for obvious reasons; Jackson’s not on the list because he had experience in elective office; Taylor died before he could crash and burn (though he was on his way), and overseeing World War II in Europe required Ike to deal with military, international and Washington politics simultaneously. He was a fast learner. Business politics, where Trump’s skill lie, are even farther removed from national leadership than being a general. The United States has never had a President with such a deficit in relevant political experience, and for a good reason: up to now, voters have been smarter than that.
FOUR: Trump has already made one amateurish political gaffe after another that show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be dysfunctional in the White House and rapidly self-destruct. The only reason these haven’t sunk him is the Bizarro World logic expressed by the quote: the fact that he makes mistakes that a professional politician would never make proves that he isn’t a politician, and thus is qualified to be President. Or, in the words of Bizzaro I: “Me be going now, Hello!”
This reasoning is the equivalent of someone who believes that MDs shouldn’t be heart surgeons pointing to a series of dead patients from botched operations as proof that an amateur doctor is ready to do a quadruple by-pass.
FIVE: Leadership requires skill; political leadership requires political skills; professionals usually have superior job skills to amateurs.
Meanwhile, the search for a persuasive—oh, never mind persuasive, I’ll settle for non-idiotic— argument for Donald Trump continues.