Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Thoughts on the Election

It seems almost certain that the two major party candidates will be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, not an inspiring vision. Of the possible bad outcomes, which is least bad?

The answer, I think, is for Hillary Clinton to be elected president with a Republican House and Senate.

The reason is not that I expect Trump, if elected, to shut down the New York Times, order all his opponents arrested, turn his fans into a legion of storm troopers, abolish the Constitution and end democracy in America. However bad his intentions, he cannot do those things by himself. Moves in that direction, even considerably less extreme ones, would be opposed by some Republicans and all Democrats, which means a majority of the House, Senate and Supreme Court.

My worry is in a different direction. A Trump election would almost certainly also give the Republicans a majority in both the House and Senate. A Republican congress can probably be trusted to resist moves by a Democratic president to expand the size and power of government, in particular of the executive. It cannot be trusted to resist similar moves by a Republican president--did not when the president was Bush. 

Insofar as one can guess Trump's real political views and insofar as he has any, they seem to be center left, a fact obscured by his efforts to get Republican primary voters to vote for him. If he acts on such views, probably with wrapping designed to make them as palatable as possible to conservatives, he will probably have support from most Republicans in congress and some Democrats.

Or in other words, I think Trump will be in a position to do considerably more damage than Clinton will be. There is much to be said for gridlock, considering the alternative.

As for the election, if I vote it will be for Gary Johnson on the Libertarian ticket.


August said...

Trump is more likely to be treated like Jesse Ventura was. The Minnesota politicians just wouldn't cooperate with him. It is doubtful they will play ball, unless Trump can find enough of their backers willing to make them.

The problem with Hilary + republicans is war. She is likely to continue them, and most Republican politicians seem likely to support any war.

Gary Johnson has been smoking too much pot. This incoherent blathering about racism just doesn't fly, especially when you are the Libertarian candidate who should have the courage to say even racists ought to have the right to freedom of associate and private property.

Voting is rather problematic for me. There isn't a candidate who won't violate the constitution.

Thomas said...

Don't forget the Supreme Court. Hillary will not appoint justices who are likely to favor limited (i.e., constitutional) government. But at some point a GOP-controlled Senate (especially one that includes several RINOs) will cave in and confirm Hillary's nominees. (There probably will be additional vacancies in the next 4 years.) Trump's list of prospective nominees isn't binding, of course, but it suggests that Trump may make better appointments than Hillary. With the right Supreme Court, the worst excesses of any administration can be held in check. With the wrong Supreme Court, the Constitution will be shredded and forgotten -- perhaps forever.

Leonard said...

Yes, don't forget the Supreme Court. Already the progressives are sensing blood; did you read this piece? I don't think America can absorb the damage from another Brennan Court.

David Friedman said...


I'm also not happy with what Gary Johnson has been saying, which is pretty watered down from a libertarian standpoint. My guess is that he believes this is an opportunity for the LP to finally get a substantial number of votes and is willing to run as a "more libertarian than the other candidates" candidate rather than a "libertarian candidate" in order to do so.

David Friedman said...

Thomas and Leonard:

I agree that Trump is likely to appoint better Justices than Hillary. On the other hand, I think Leonard is underestimating how much damage America can absorb. To quote Adam Smith, responding to the claim that a recent defeat in the American Revolution would be the ruin of England, "There's a lot of Ruin in a Nation."

jg said...

1. judicial appointments

2. vast majority of congress will still be conventional globalist/crony capitalist establishment or at least anti-outsider and won't give Trump cooperation on things they themselves don't want

3. how can you have a republican congress while still electing hillary? these seem pretty incompatible to me and hillary's winning would surely be contingent on strong D turnout. so you're recklessly risking hillary + pliant congress if you promote "don't vote Trump"; if Hillary were polling as the certain victor that would surely depress R turnout. [notwithstanding I believe that R have an easier time winning senate and house majorities, compared to winning POTUS]

Gordon said...

The Libertarian ticket will have more executive governing experience than either of the major party tickets.

Nomadic Ear said...

I tend to agree that Trump is the worse outcome, even if he is more pro-capitalist than Clinton.

As libertarians we know that the president is generally not as powerful as most people seem to think. Yet due to people's false presumptions he seems to become either the public scapegoat if the economy is poor or the brilliant mastermind behind it if the economy is good.

I have this (potentially irrational) worry that if Trump is elected and we experience some sort of debt crises or economic downturn - which seems very possible at this point - that it will more or less vindicate the entire political class. In other words, they will be able to point to Trump's lack of political experience as the reason for economic problems, or: "see, this is why you need us!". Just as in 2008 too, the market will be wrongly blamed because he is a Republican and they are seen by many as the pro-capitalist party. That pro-capitalist perception will be furthered too by the fact that he is a rich businessman.

If Clinton is president under an economic downturn I imagine that the opposite will happen since she is the clear embodiment of the political class. I think that Clinton could potentially be a great candidate for fostering distrust and contempt for government while Trump might spoil whatever anti-government sentiment he has tapped into by taking the blame for what we know are the long-term seeds that past politicians have sown.

Maybe I'm looking too far into an unclear future, but seeing as there's not much hope for either of them to actually downsize the government it seems to me that what people think is much more important than what the rulers do.

Attempting to be a Skeptical Thinker said...

"A Republican congress can probably be trusted to resist moves by a Democratic president to expand the size and power of government, in particular of the executive."

David, haven't you been watching the last 6 years? Republicans just keep rolling over for Obama and that, in part, explains the rise of Trump.

Jay Maynard said...

I see President Trump and a Democrat Senate as far more likely than a Republican Senate and a President Clinton. The Senate will be harder to hold than the White House will be to take. The Republicans are defending 24 seats, as opposed to just 10 for the Democrats, and they only need to flip 4 (5, if Trump is elected) to flip control.

Anonymous said...

non american here, ex soviet bloc citizen> i would pick trump before hillary anytime. the simple reason being that I honestly believe clinton could start a war with russia. that is unacceptable from our point of view. we are interrested in business, not war, and your current policy in Ukraine has made so much damage so far I don't even think you can start to understand from beyond the lake. clinton would just be a continuation of thank you. On the domestic issues, from what I can tell, the differences between them are marginal, so if you are interrested in more peace in the world, I can't understand why you would evaluate Trump as more damaging. From what I have read, the current establishment is afraid of him. That's reason enough to vote for him. johnson? please...if your argument is congress/senate balance, johnson would make it a congress 5year rule. That I think is far less predictable and more risky.

Misanthrope said...

A Republican congress can probably be trusted to resist moves by a Democratic president to expand the size and power of government, in particular of the executive.

A Republican congress didn't do this in Obama's second term

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for Johnson myself. Of course you and I are both Californians; the state will very likely go so strongly for Clinton that for us to vote for either Clinton or Trump would make no difference.

Gordon said...

I am curious what Obama legislative proposals got through Congress during Obama's second term.

Anonymous said...

I was a little bit disappointed in this post.

Trump's ideology is almost perfectly opaque. The only two issues on which he hasn't backtracked, AFAIK, are "building a wall" and raising tariffs and other barriers against other countries so we can "win" against China and Japan. (Does anyone know if Trump is familiar with the latter's "lost decades"?)

Trump is either profoundly ignorant or puts on a hell of an impression of such a creature. Even worse, Trump's behavior, aside from startling vulgarity and puerility, is tremendously erratic. Can close political observers remember the days around the Wisconsin primary during which Trump took five distinct positions on the abortion issue? He contradicts himself not from month to month or week to week but from sentence to sentence. Again, whether these actions reflect a deep truth about the man or just constitute impressive thespian skill, it doesn't matter.

Here's what matters: a man whose actions have proven to be unpredictable, volatile, flirtatious with incitement and subversive to norms of prudence is remarkably close to taking over the most awesome, powerfully destructive military in the history of humanity.

Shorter: Trump could easily get us into war, nuclear war. Over nothing.

He is unacceptable.

The Republicans, if they have any institutional intelligence, should use the serious ongoing litigation against Trump University as a justification to decline to nominate him. It wouldn't be the first time chicanery has been employed at a convention.

Post-script: Gary Johnson's contempt for Freedom of (Non-)Association and the closely related Free (Non-)Exercise of Religion make him utterly unacceptable. He has needlessly alienated many potential supporters. I would like to take this opportunity to make a falsifiable prediction: *He will not receive more than 5% of the national vote.* This, of course, is still a large number relative to all prior LP POTUS totals and enough to "cover the spread" in any number of states, given a close election.

Laird said...

Your position is premised on the Republicans retaining both Houses. That is not a given; there is a strong possibility of the Democrats retaking the Senate, at least. So I would argue that Trump with a divided or Democratic Congress is a far better, and also more likely, result than Hillary with a Republican Congress.

There is, of course, the Supreme Court argument (already discussed here), as well as the track record of our current Republican Congress in its dealings with Obama (they have caved on just about everything), and the likelihood that even a Republican Congress would resist anything particularly bad Trump might propose (the Jesse Ventura argument, also already raised here). And there is also the simple fact that Trump is, at heart, a pragmatist, so while he may say some outrageous things to fire up his base the likelihood of him actually doing most of them is small. All of these things, in my opinion, favor The Donald over The Hillary. (Of course, I'm voting Johnson/Weld.)

gurugeorge said...

As a UK person looking on, my initial thoughts for most of last year was that the Republican establishment ought to have solidly supported one of the other candidates (I thought a few of them were ok, like Cruz, Rubio and Fiorina) because Trump would arouse the Left (and a substantial no. of independents) to #NeverTrump unity, in a context where the Dem candidates were otherwise uninspiring and the establishment Left was somewhat crestfallen generally.

Now, I'm not so sure, and I think Trump might be the best shot the world has, and in fact it might actually be quite urgent that he wins. I think the momentum Trump has built is the result of deeper forces at play, psychological and sociological, or in the broadest sense, memetic. I only fear it may be too little, too late.

There is something really, really ominous about (what one might call for lack of a better term) the SJW phenomenon that overrides almost everything else. I know this probably sounds a bit mad, but after the events of the last six months or so, I'm fairly convinced it's the beginnings of our version of the Great Filter - a mind virus that could actually overwhelm our memetic immune system (logic, evidence-based reasoning) with a sort of memetic "grey goo", that could (especially in a context of a connected world with nuclear weapons, and the volatile mix of political Islam and a resurgent Far Right) result in the end of our species.

The reason I'm thinking along these lines is that intersectional identity politics is a quasi-religious phenomenon that masquerades as rational. The power it has in society even now is out of all proportion to the numbers of its hardcore proponents, because of the way it induces virtue-signalling via the "Motte & Bailey" method. Think of it as Islam 2.0, a mind virus whose sole function is to replicate that, unchecked, could eventually cover the whole of society, converting reason into rationalization on an industrial scale, in a way that's going to be much, much worse than any supernaturalism-based religion has ever managed.

I think all the other, usual political considerations are, long-term, rather insignificant in comparison. The choice-point here is maybe the most important we have ever faced.

The situation in UK with Brexit is roughly parallel. The European version of the SJW phenomenon is the Habermasian ultra-bureacratic kernel of the EU, which will - again, if unchecked - lead to an unaccountable superstate, the end of democracy, and the total Islamification of Europe (vie Islamic entryism taking over the unaccountable bureacratic structure, aided and abetted by the same virtue-signalling syndrome as is operative in the US re. SJWs/feminists). The counter-movement is also analogous: the more the great and good, gurning celebrities, big business types and career politicians are paraded before us extolling the virtues of Remain, the more the GTFO feeling builds.

JWO said...

I agree with August above Hilary + republicans = war. She is such a war monger, she supported the invasion of Iraq and even after seeing the results of that she supported action in Libya and Syria! She almost seems to support wars to make the middle-east safe for feminism. Gary Johnson is not ideal but I will vote for him as a signal to the professional politicians that I want an end to these wars.

Dick White said...

Once I retained an expert in a difficult legal matter where the "right" answer really wasn't clear. He was able to advance a credible alternative but acknowledged the difficulty with the title of his expert report: "The Least Bad Solution."
A Trump Administration with a Republican Congress (the no check scenario) and all the horribles ascribed to him should be the desired election outcome.
The "why" lies in a favorite economist's query: "...compared to what?"

cinc210 said...

Supreme Court, the members live long and Trump may only appoint one person. I hate his trade policy and if elected Pat Buchanan reigns in the Republican party. Trump lost so bad in California which Republicans don't win in the election; but even Kern County one of the few that goes for Republicans almost voted more Democratic than Republican in the primary for president. Trump even caused Orange County also one of the few counties in California that votes for Republicans to have a higher Democratic turn out with both Clinton and Sanders over Trump and the other Republicans. I bet with results like these in Kern and Orange that Trump will lose Ohio and Florida to Clinton anyway. Also, I think Bernbots has moved the country in a left direction and the Dems will pick up in the Senate.

Mark Bahner said...


I won't say what I want to happen, and instead will predict what will happen:

1) Hillary Clinton will be elected President,

2) the Senate will flip to the Democrats,

3) Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire by early 2018,

4) HC will continue various bombings in the Middle East, and will expand to various bombings in Africa (all without any Congressional declarations of war, of course), and

5) If HC is re-elected, Stephen Breyer will retire very early in her second term. (If her approval ratings aver very low, he will retire by early 2019).