Winston Churchill once observed that the best argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the man on the street. That conversation is no longer metaphorical. Now it is there for all to see in the person of Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump is not merely an oaf, although he is surely that. And it is perhaps overstating the obvious, at least to the apparently shrinking community of the sane, that Trump lacks even a basic understanding of Constitutional checks and balances, and that he is utterly clueless in both domestic and foreign policy. And then there is the temperament of the speaker to consider.
All of which leads to an inescapable conclusion. The nuclear codes of the United States should not be turned over to a man with the temperament of a 15-year old schoolboy. Especially someone who aspires to be Commander-in-Chief but doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is.
Perhaps what is, or ought to be, most disturbing to libertarians and libertarian leaning conservatives is the immense structural damage Trump has wrought. That damage grows daily. There now exists the possibility, if not probability, that Trump will remake the Republican Party into an empty vessel as devoid of principle as he is. As a result, the party of Lincoln will no longer be in a position to credibly promote limiting government power and expanding individual freedom.
Consider what Trump has already proposed. For example, he would weaken the first amendment by making it easier for politicians to sue news organizations. And his declared intention of tilting of policy against Muslims certainly runs astray of the free exercise clause. His whole-hearted support of Kelo v. City of London (2005) eviscerates the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which proscribes the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Note that in the Kelo decision the Supreme Court justified the state’s transfer of private property from one private owner to another for the purpose of economic development. Trump, the real estate operator, thinks this is just fine. No surprise there.
Trump makes little attempt to mask his authoritarian tendencies, as when he implicitly encourages his supporters’ use of violence against political opponents. Even worse, he has explicitly promoted the use of torture in pursuit of enemies, and he has advocated “going after” the families of terrorists. How is that for due process? And not to put too fine a point on it, deporting 12 million illegal residents would require turning America into a police state.
Trump’s willingness to attack the natural rights of individuals even though they are clearly protected by the Constitution is not an accident. We are not talking about a latter day Edmund Burke here. The trash-talking Trump does not understand that manners are small morals, and that demeaning opponents is antithetical to the government’s main task of securing unalienable rights endowed on men by the Creator.
Trump, who complains that the system is rigged, brags about having bought off politicians to do his bidding for years. Trump, who routinely accuses the media of lying about him, also said according to George Will that “it doesn’t matter doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass”. Not to mention implying that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Or that Trump’s appreciation for nuance and subtlety is about on par with that of Brittany Spears.
As of this writing Trump appears to have locked up the support of what we euphemistically call low-information voters. We can only hope that chunk of the electorate is relatively small or that it loses interest by Election Day. Regardless of the election outcome, there is a flashing warning signal that libertarians should take note of here.
The warning signal is this: Donald Trump is not the cause of our political woes—he is an effect of a seriously degraded civic culture. The basic institutions that protect freedom (property rights, rule of law, the nuclear family, free speech and civility to name a few) have been under unrelenting attack for years by the left. The weakening of these and related institutions has paved the way for an authoritarian ignoramus like Trump. It is not sufficient to merely stop Trump. There will always be more like him waiting in the wings. The civic culture has to be rebuilt. Libertarians and conservatives should be able to make common cause here. Before it’s too late.