As 2016 Super Tuesday results filed in, a sinking feeling could be felt across the country. Political pundits and lay voters alike realized that Donald J. Trump had a good chance of securing a majority of the states’ primaries, which meant that he could win Super Tuesday, and winning Super Tuesday could propel him toward the nomination, and if he won the nomination he could foreseeably win the presidency. That sinking feeling led to an eerie realization: The Donald could become president of the United States of America.
What had been an impossibility suddenly became real; what was for so long a joke was suddenly no laughing matter.
A chorus arose from the commentators, soft at first, but by Super Tuesday a full-blown bellow: Stop Trump! The Donald would be atrocious for American democracy, and we must do everything we can to prevent his nomination. People pulled out the stops; comparisons to Hitler were rife; Whoopi Goldberg threatened to leave America.
But, in reading over the commentary, hit pieces, and outright propaganda that arose to stop the unconventional candidate, it occurred to me that Trump really isn’t the worst thing for American democracy—the troop of anti-Trumpers and their logic are. Sure, Trump is a clown and has no business being the president of the country. But the anti-Trump haters are out-clowning him, and almost making a Trump presidency appealing because of it.
First of all, Trump is no Hitler, and calling him that shows your ignorance.
In an interview with CNN, former Mexican president Vicente Fox said that Trump would take the U.S. back to the days of conflict, and that he reminded him of Hitler, quite as if he was around in the 1930s. This is not some random reflection; it’s the norm. Pretty much everyone opposed to Trump compares him to Hitler. Cracked.com ran an article showing parallels between the rise of Trump and Hitler; The Huffington Post regularly compares Trump to Hitler; and even the Washington Post published an editorial in which the writer likened Trump’s rise to that of Hitler.
It’s not without reason. As a popular meme suggests, the similarities are striking, especially in their populism: Both Hitler and Trump rose to power as demagogic opportunists, vilifying a group of immigrants and exploiting a divided nation.
Okay, true, there is that connection. But, then again, pretty much all successful politicians these days can be said to have taken the same path—Hillary, Bernie, Obama, George W.—basically, the only way to rise to the top in today’s political system is to be a demagogic opportunist exploiting a divided nation. You don’t hear about politicians who aren’t demagogic opportunists because they don’t succeed. Rand Paul is an example of a politician who couldn’t be considered a demagogic opportunist, same with Scott Walker, and Ben Carson, and any number of others who fell out of the race early. Someone else who is a demagogic opportunist always beats them and takes the crown.
It doesn’t take much to see that the differences between Trump and Hitler far outweigh the similarities. Trump says some silly, vulgar, and often immoral things. But in no way has he ever advocated complete political upheaval, world domination, or genocide. He never would nor could—his supporters don’t want that despite what the folks at HuffPo say.
Trump-haters draw conclusions about his statements and actions, but they are always something of a stretch and usually he equivocates and makes the statement more amenable after all—he did so with his ban on Muslim travel to the United States. He has to equivocate on anything that borders on authoritarianism because he knows his supporters don’t want that and he doesn’t want that.
Argumentum ad Hitlerum is a logical fallacy for a reason. It bypasses rigor and can lead down a dangerous path. John Oliver hinted at the extreme when he suggested that time travelers will come back to this point in history to “try and stop the whole thing”. It’s the implication of statements like that which make the anti-Trumpers more ridiculous—more dangerous—than Trump, himself.
While no one should justify Trump’s demagoguery, it doesn’t help to exaggerate it either. At the very least, it would do the anti-Trump crowd well to recognize the fact that not all demagogues are Hitler. I can tell you the story of a leader who rose to power on the strength of a controversial race-based proposal by exploiting a divided country, after which he violated his country’s constitution, defied balances of power, prosecuted the deadliest war in his country’s history, and was hated by half of his nation’s population. That’s not Hitler. That’s Abraham Lincoln, someone whose greatness is hardly challenged by the anti-Trump group.
The problem isn’t Trump, it’s the system, and you don’t fix the system by trashing Trump.
In his effort to stop “the most dangerous major presidential candidate in memory”, Vox editor Ezra Klein said something very revealing. He said that being president is important because the president decides “which regulations to enforce and which to let go of.”
Of course, living almost eight years under Obama and eight under George W. Bush, it might seem as though the president is in charge of deciding which rules to enforce, or even what rules there should be, because that’s exactly what the system has become. If there’s a program that the president wants, he’ll ram it through until it’s law; if there’s a part of the law that he doesn’t like, he won’t enforce it.
The fact is that the executive office is not designed as a branch that writes the law and instead is a branch that enforces the laws that Congress writes. In our time, this fact goes unnoticed, as astutely pointed out by the jesters at Saturday Night Live.
The response is to be expected. If you think that the law of the land comes from the president, then it makes sense that you would do everything in your power to prevent Trump from getting to the White House. And yet you would be perpetuating a broken system. Keeping Trump out of the White House won’t solve the problem because that’s not the problem—the president dictating the law is the problem. Under such a broken system, any demagogue could come in and abuse power just as Obama is doing today. And that’s the real problem.
More than anything, this underscores a powerful misunderstanding the anti-Trump crowd holds: Really, the problem is not Trump but rather the system that made Trump possible. And anyone who wants to fix it should focus attention on the system, not on Trump.
This goes for the two most audacious stances Trump has taken, that on Mexican illegal immigration and that on the Muslim refugee crisis. Trump-haters complain about his views on Mexican immigration and his moratorium on Muslim refugees, and conclude that he must be the problem—because he’s so mean. But Trump is simply responding to a problem in the system. True, his proposed solutions are callous and rather asinine, but to focus on his proposals is to miss the point that we’ve got a jacked up system, and that’s what needs to be fixed.
To begin to solve the problems in the immigration and refugee systems, we’d have to sincerely look at the causes of those problems. For example, no one will doubt that we have an immigration problem. To truly consider fixing it, we’d have to look at our immigration policies, and the incentives pushing migrants north such as the drug war and our generous welfare system. Similarly, no one will doubt that the Middle Eastern refugee crisis is a major problem. To truly consider fixing it, we’d have to look at our foreign policy and that of the U.N. relocation system. We cannot fix the problems unless we get at the root.
It is easy for anti-Trumpers to view these issues from a purely compassionate perspective. The most compassionate here want to accept everyone into our country, place them in comfortable homes, and give them free university education. Of course, Trump sees such compassion from a business standpoint. And, from a business standpoint, as he has put it, we’re getting ripped off. Simply, the way the system works, we are in no way capable of accommodating such an influx. The welfare system has been stretched beyond functionality for some time, the debt is skyrocketing, and reform is not within sight. But without reforming our welfare and economic policies, the compassionate intake of any and all will be economically disastrous.
Trump sees this. What he is insisting on (however inarticulately) is the fact that the system is broken. Haters would be more helpful if, instead of trashing Trump’s silly proposals, they actually proposed solutions that took into account the very important considerations that drive Trump’s proposals. That’s harder than one might assume.
Ultimately, you can’t seriously consider opening borders without talking welfare reform and scaling back the drug war; you can’t seriously welcome all refugees without talking about reforming the U.N. refugee policy and scaling back our nation-building efforts. Perhaps the haters should refocus their energy on real solutions as opposed to just trashing The Donald.
If you’re going to criticize Trump for being undemocratic, you probably shouldn’t be undemocratic yourself.
In a Washington Post editorial, author Danielle Allen claims that it has become a matter of existential urgency to stop Trump before the general election. The reason, of course, is that Trump would destroy American democracy, so we need to prevent him from getting closer to the presidency. The problem is that the author’s proposal on how to stop him is awfully anti-American and undemocratic itself.
First of all, she’s a Democrat voting for Hillary, so her attempt to sway the Republican primary is disingenuous. It’s like the Slate writer lamenting about how Trump is destroying the GOP and what they need to do to rebuild. The only interest that Slate has in the GOP is as a whipping boy. They don’t want to see it go away, but it’s not in the interest of the GOP that it sticks around. Perhaps Ms. Allen wants Trump to go away, but it might be more self-serving than she lets on.
Second, the methods she proposes border on Trump-esque tactics. Journalists should not cover the Trump campaign to effectively censure him; Democrats should re-register and vote for Rubio; Republicans should renounce their support for Trump. These are suspicious measures for someone whose favorite candidate looks to face Trump in what will be an “unpredictable” general election. Certainly, these measures defy the democratic process, which, more or less undermines her whole argument.
This is only the start. We hear of protesters sucker punching Trump supporters, slinging insults, and, calls for assassination. As Dilbert creator Scott Adams put it, “The media, the public, and the other candidates are creating a situation that is deeply dangerous for Trump. I put the odds of an attempted assassination at about 25% before November.” One wonders whether protesters realize that violence against Trump and his supporters only proves Trump right.
Trump haters might oppose Trump for his anti-democratic ways, but they can’t be taken seriously if they too encourage their own anti-democratic ways. They might say that desperate times call for desperate measures—Trump is a bully and can only be stopped by using bullying tactics. Some bystanders will sympathize. And yet the ends can’t justify the means. If we lower our standards to defeat an obvious threat to our standards, then we become what we despise. Machiavellianism isn’t becoming of Americans, much less those protesting Machiavellianism.
The most democratic way to protest the election of Trump would be to move to another country. Of course, this common threat is counter-productive because many of those who would leave the country to protest are so despised by regular Americans as to encourage them to vote for Trump just to precipitate the mass exodus.
A third-party option would be nice, though none of the talked about candidates offer a Classical Liberal anything to get excited about. Ultimately, the best we might be able to hope for is that this circus-like election cycle proves how distorted our system truly is, and how much reform is necessary. If nothing else, it will agitate reform of the various systems that Trump is exploiting, and that should be positive whether or not he makes it to the White House.