I am a liar. There’s no getting around it, I am a bald-faced liar. And this post is going to prove I’m a liar. Having said that, even though I’m going to go through with this post, I do want to apologize. I don’t particularly want to be a liar and so I ask for forgiveness for my lying. Now, based on recent national events, I believe a majority of people who read this will forgive me. Because really, don’t we all have skeletons in our closet? Aren’t we all guilty of imperfections? And hey, I did say I was sorry, so…that should cover me, right?
You see, in my last post, I promised that I was done commenting on this election. At the time, I meant it. Nevertheless, sometimes things happen that can change a person’s intentions. In this case, I was tagged in a Facebook post and asked my opinions on Mr. Trump’s recent Contract with the American Voter (which can be read here for those who are unaware of what I’m speaking about) that he unveiled in Gettysburg, PA. When I was tagged in that post, I must admit that I was completely unaware of the contract as I have been doing my best to stay away from election coverage. Anyway, I read it and realized that my thoughts could not be succinctly placed into a couple of sentences and that maybe a Facebook post might not be the best forum to share those thoughts. So, I thought to myself, “Hey, you’ve got a blog. Might as well use it, right?” And so I shall. Therefore this post comes with a warning. Election commentary ahead. If you wish to avoid it, stop now. I completely understand. This post is mainly for one individual anyway. On the other hand, if you are one who can’t look away from bad car wrecks and also can’t stop following this election despite your best efforts, Read On!
First and foremost, from a strictly strategic point of view, I think this contract is an incredibly good idea. I would even venture to say that this is the type of thing many Republicans have been waiting for from their candidate for months. In my opinion, the only criticism I have of the tactic is that it is being released woefully late. Nevertheless, it does give us an opportunity to discuss the policies at play with Mr. Trump as opposed to the man. And for me, that is a welcome discussion. So, if I may, I will begin at the beginning and hit each point, addressing them strictly from a view of how I feel about the policy, not the man behind the policy. And then I will sum up my thoughts on both at the end. With that said, Let’s Begin:
Part 1. Clean Up Corruption and Special Interest
- Constitutional Amendment to Impose Term Limits – I know going back to 1994 and the original Contract With America, that this is a favorite issue of conservatives. In 1994 I agreed with it. However, I have come to believe that term limits have an inherent flaw. They limit the freedom of the people. If the majority of the people believe their representative is doing a good job, they shouldn’t be forced to get rid of that representative. It is a limit to the people’s freedom of speech. Now I know the argument; an incumbent has built in advantages that are hard to overcome. True! So what? If you want another person’s job, wait until they retire or prove you’d be better at it than they are. Don’t force America to throw out good representation with the bad. Because if you think a corrupt political machine is dependent solely on long time incumbents, you are sadly mistaken.
- Hiring Freeze On All Federal Employees to Lessen Federal Work Force by Attrition – Admittedly, I’m pretty ambivalent on this one. I understand the concept and I am for shrinking the size of government. However, in my own experience of putting this action into practice, it rarely works the way it is supposed to. The people you would like to see go don’t go and the people who actually get stuff done end up overloaded and burnt out.
- No new Federal Regulation Without Two Regulations Being Removed – Again, in theory this sounds good and I am for the lessening of federal regulation, especially when it comes to job growth at a small business level. However, once again I have to point to the law of unintended consequences when laws are passed that are this broad and non-specific. Not every regulation is bad and there are plenty of people who would be happy to take advantage of situations where good regulation is removed without much scrutiny as part of a package deal.
- 5. 6. Lobbying – I am not crazy about the five year ban on lobbying for any White House or Congressional Official becoming a lobbyist. For example, if someone is truly passionate about stopping abortion in America and then either gets defeated or chooses to leave public office but then wants to work as a lobbyist for the Pro-Life movement, I think that is perfectly reasonable. However, with regard to the lifetime bans on lobbying for foreign interests and foreign interests raising money for American elections, I am on board with that. But if we do this, we need to be ready to stop meddling in other countries even if we see a national interest. Fair is fair.
Part 2. Protect American Workers
- 2. Renegotiate or Withdraw From NAFTA and Withdraw From Trans-Pacific Partnership – Here is where we finally reach the point where the man and the ideology are shown to be two distinct things. Free trade is a conservative bedrock. Not only that, these alliances are crucial to our way of life. Should Trump follow through on these promises, our everyday trips to Walmart would become excruciatingly painful on our pocketbooks. Mr. Trump would likely preside over inflation similar to that of Jimmy Carter and would likely suffer the same fate. It is astounding to me that anyone who understands basic economics would get behind Mr. Trump on these trade issues. I won’t go into this any further, but for anyone wanting a more in-depth explanation on the problems with renegotiating NAFTA, please look here.
3. Label China a Currency Manipulator – China IS a currency manipulator. However, for one country to label a major trading partner as such, said country better walk into that gunfight with a sizable advantage or else have Denzel Washington and six of his friends handy. It would be a correct call, but at the same time it is another cavalier approach to the economy that could seriously hurt the day to day life of average Americans. Proceed with Caution.
4. Identify All Foreign Trading Abuses That Unfairly Impact The American Worker and Use Every Tool To End Those Abuses Immediately – Great rhetoric! However, completely unrealistic. Unless Americans are ready to give up minimum wages, employer provided health care insurance, 40 hour work weeks, Social Security, Medicare, and every other benefit afforded the American worker, they probably shouldn’t venture down this road. Unless our work force is willing to live like third world workers, this is a no win battle for us.
5. 6. 7. Lift Restrictions On America’s Energy Reserves, Allow Vital Energy Infrastructure Projects and Use Climate Change Money Sent To The UN For US Water and Environmental Infrastructure Improvements – Sign Me Up!
Part 3. Restore Security and Constitutional Rule of Law
- Cancel All of President Obama’s Unconstitutional Executive Orders – Rhetoric!!! Donald Trump is not the Supreme Court and therefore not qualified to determine what is or what is not constitutional.
- Replace Justice Scalia With a Conservative Justice – Sounds Good!
- Cancel All Funding To Sanctuary Cities – Uhhh…could be some constitutional issues here.
- Remove Two Million Criminal Illegal Immigrants and Cancel All Visas To Countries Who Won’t Take Them Back – Blanket cancelling of visas is a sticky venture, but nonetheless, I think the basic idea here isn’t bad. If an immigrant here illegally commits a violent crime, they should be removed. Period. However, in this contract he uses a number that is very flawed and therefore creates a mirage that depicts a problem which is much smaller than he describes it. Just use real numbers and ditch the fear quotient and I can get behind this.
- Suspend Immigration From Terror Prone Regions That Can’t Adequately Vet And All Vetting Will Be Considered Extreme Vetting – A blanket proposal like this, especially in the face of all the images of refugees fleeing for their lives, is wrong. I can’t support it from a religious point of view and I especially can’t support this from a human point of view. This is atrocious and again plays to the fear rather than the goodness of the American people. It also creates an environment that is more conducive to radicalization of refugees against the US.
Part 4. First Hundred Days
- Tax Cuts – As with any proposition to majorly restructure the tax code, there are pros and there are cons. I do think lower corporate tax rates would spur economic growth. I like a proposal I heard from someone who suggested the lower corporate tax rates but with the caveat that corporations be required to provide health benefits to all employees. Possibly a great idea. Although it does sound a little Obamacare-esque.
- End The Offshoring Act – You start talking tariffs of any kind and you start talking higher prices for American consumers. Full stop!
- American Energy and Infrastructure Act – Absolutely love this idea! I wish he had made this the bedrock of his campaign instead of The Wall.
- School Choice and Education Opportunity – Again, love this idea and wish he had made his campaign more about this than The Wall.
- Repeal and Replace Obamacare – I love Health Savings Accounts! However, for low income folks, they are not a good solution as they are currently structured. You would likely need Obamacare like assistance for the poor. I like the idea of increasing competition in the health insurance arena, but I get leery of shortening any safety testing when it comes to drugs. Too many side-effects. Finally, I am disappointed that tort-reform is not part of his approach to healthcare. Without tort reform, I don’t believe we will ever see insurance costs come down.
- Child-care and Elderly-care – I actually really like this idea. Really Really like this idea!
- End Illegal Immigration Act (The Wall) – I actually really hate this idea. Really Really hate this idea! Anyone who believes we should get serious about addressing deficit spending should also hate this idea. And saying that Mexico will eventually pay for it without any evidence to support that idea is…Yeah
- Restoring Community Safety Act – This sounds too much like creating a police state. The problem with police states is that they are fine as long as you are not on the wrong side of them. Militarizing our police and giving even more latitude to federal law enforcement just makes me a little queasy.
- Restoring National Security Act – Love the VA stuff! Long overdue. Again, we either want deficit spending reduction or we want massive military spending increases. Can’t have both. I also am very leery of the idea that we only let certain people immigrate in. It might sound innocent, but that language has the potential to quickly turn ugly.
- Clean Up The Corruption In Washington Act – This is great stump speech material without having any substance.
So there you have it. Again, I think this is a very good move strategically. Except that it raises the one question I have had about this campaign from the very beginning.
Why are we only seeing this with two weeks left in the election? Why would a candidate who is so concerned about the media being unfair to everything he says wait until after the debates (his only real opportunities to make these arguments directly to the American people at large) to issue this contract? Why, when the strategy of getting something like this out early and then staying relentlessly on point has been so clearly demonstrated in 1994 and 2000, would you not release this sooner? It’s mystifying.
Unless, as I have long feared, this campaign was never about the voter’s definition of winning to begin with.
Just prior to the third debate, reporters asked Mr. Trump’s campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, about the possibility of Trump starting his own news network should he not win the election. Mr. Bannon’s response? “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” When pressed further, he responded again, “Mr. Trump is an entrepreneur.” He quickly clarified that they still believed they could win, but his initial response was telling.
And it makes me go back and evaluate Mr. Trump’s campaign from a new point of view. All along it has done a very good job of playing to the 30-40% of the Republican party that has made up Mr. Trump’s base all the while consistently making moves that alienate everyone beyond that base. It has basically thumbed its nose at Republicans who are queasy with his approach, in essence saying, “Screw you, get on board or get run down.” And outreach to moderate, or minority voters? None.
Furthermore, each time he has done something that resonates with voters beyond his base, he has quickly followed it up with a 3 a.m. tweet or something else that just as quickly alienates. No better example can be found than in the third debate when he performed admirably and then at the threshold, makes the statement that he won’t commit to upholding the election results. Now I know all the arguments in his defense. But this was not an off the cuff decision. His running mate had been asked about it the day before and stated without hesitation that the campaign would accept the results. His daughter had been asked about it earlier that day with the same answer. He knew the question was coming and he knew what the media would do if he failed to provide the stock answer. He did it anyway.
And the result?
His base is more behind him than ever and he continues to slide in the polls.
Donald Trump prides himself on being a winner. He also has a well documented past of doing what is best for Donald Trump regardless of the effects on business partners, his customers or the public at large. He is not a stupid man. He has had to know all along that his antics are not those of a candidate that will ultimately win an election. Which makes me ask: In this situation, how does Donald Trump define winning? I believe there is a strong possibility that winning to him was positioning himself for his own conservative television news network all along. A place where you have no responsibility and can be as big of a personality as you want. I further believe you can look across the conservative media landscape and pick out those who were probably hand-picked to join him. Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter. They have been all Trump all the time from day one.
So while I applaud this Gettysburg move by the Trump campaign, to me it looks like another calculated effort to show his base how serious he is, but timing it in such a way that it will have minimal impact on the rest the electorate at large.
And the worst part if I’m right? Winning in this case for Donald Trump will guarantee a continued string of losses for Republican presidential candidates for years to come. Which means the Republican party will get out of Trump just as much as those signed up for a degree from Trump University.