Education of a Quick Study Presidential Candidate
The Donald never ceases to amaze. Much like the developer's ladder he climbed under the tutelage of his father, Trump has scaled the political ladder with equal speed and facility. He has risen from the no-chance dilettante candidate to the GOP's nominee in a (current) statistical tie with his Democrat adversary for the White House. Friend and foe alike are nonplussed. But the quick-study presidential candidate would be no surprise to Alexis de Tocqueville.
Sent to the United States by the French government to study prison reform, Tocqueville encompassed the entire republican experiment, publishing his reflections as Democracy in America.
The New World's break with aristocratic Europe fascinated him; immediacy, dynamism, and action took the place of refined, unhurried contemplation. "The democratic social state and democratic institutions lead most men to act constantly," Tocqueville wrote; "now, the habits of mind that are appropriate to action are not always appropriate to thought."
Critics of Trump will read into these sentiments an indictment of the Republican presidential nominee, whose early campaign was marked by cringing off-the-cuff statements and unfiltered appraisals of his opponents. The Democrat contest, in contrast, praised itself for policy-heavy debates – never mind that dialogue consisted of nothing more than Sanders's sixties-era socialism and Clinton's nostrums to Progressivism.
The 2016 match-up echoes the political confrontation sketched by Austrian economist F. A. Hayek: intellectuals' ideological constructs versus the practical world of everyone else. Intellectuals pride themselves as leaders capable of planning myriad socioeconomic interactions; while normal citizens don't have the luxury of social engineering daydreams – they have "real world" jobs to do.
For Hayek, this was a fatal disadvantage, since their lack of expertise left political neophytes vulnerable to socialist intellectuals who not only enjoyed policy know-how, but had drawn up the terms of debate, too.
But Donald Trump, real estate developer and reality TV star, frustrates Hayek's framework. Trump has defied the intellectuals and charted his own course. Contrasted with Clinton – Obama's avowed third-term surrogate – he runs the tables in a political season yearning for novelty from failed past policies. Political correctness and establishment verities be damned.
The Trump campaign signals change under the banner of "Make America Great Again," in pursuit of which The New York Sun has chronicled two important shifts in economic policy.
An external component consists in fighting back against bad trade deals, the mantra of The Art of the Deal author, who promises renegotiation that puts "America First." Such braggadocio sets free traders' teeth on edge, and supporters are at pains to explain how a trading nation is to prosper under the threat of tariff walls.
By using protectionist leverage to end currency instability – with China being Trump's main bugbear for undervaluing the yuan to give exporters an unfair trade advantage. "He's going to have to find a way to turn his abhorrence of monetary manipulation into systems reforms designed to restore predictability and confidence to the international and domestic economies," a Sun editorial issued forth. "In other words, he'll have to seize the lead in the monetary debate."
A debate, The Sun contends, America desperately deserves. Quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve is one key factor contributing to economic malaise – with punitive taxation policy, regulatory obstruction, and redistributive disincentives rounding up the usual suspects. Removing these government hurdles will highlight Trump's internal reforms for American growth.
"We finally have a candidate who is getting to the bottom of the so-called Obama recovery," was The Sun's Hallelujah moment; for "... in using the phrase 'false economy' Mr. Trump has signalled that he comprehends that we need to reconnect the economy to some measure of value that is real." Or as editor Seth Lipsky sums up: "Bullseye."
In Tocqueville's judgment, America will reward the practical man of affairs: "The rapid view of a particular fact, the daily study of the changing passions of the crowd, the chance of the moment and the skill to grab hold of it, decide all matters there." Donald Trump has evolved from missteps to sure-footedness on his path to the White House, demonstrating that the candidate not only embodies the showman's skill but evinces every indication he can transition to a serious statesman.
Stephen MacLean maintains the weblog The Organic Tory.