Sunday, November 13, 2016

Four Possible Trumps

1. The Nightmare. A wild man who offends all our allies and enemies and everyone else and declares war on Kyrgystan to punish it for being too hard to spell.

2. Promise Keeper/Paladin of the Right.  Trade barriers up, immigration down, many illegals expelled. Everything the government was doing that offended his base, from restrictions on burning carbon to pressuring colleges to lower their standard for convicting students accused of sexual assault, cancelled or reversed.

3. Virtuous Traitor. All the bad ideas on immigration and trade either retracted, forgotten, or deliberately proposed in versions Congress won't pass. All the good ideas–school vouchers, reduced regulation, legalizing interstate sales of health insurance, replacing Obamacare with something that works, simplifying the tax code–implemented.

4. Hillary+. Lots of ideas the left likes–increased government spending, increased borrowing, free colleges, student loan forgiveness–implemented with the support of most of the Democratic party and parts of the Republican.

All of these are possible. The first is less likely and the last more likely than most commenters, especially on the left, think. The belief that Trump is crazy is based on his performance during the campaign, repeatedly doing things that would obviously result in his losing. Since they resulted in his winning, one has to revise that judgement and consider that perhaps he is crazy like a fox. 

The belief that he is a right winger is also based on his performance during the campaign. There too, the fact that it worked suggests that his positions may have been tactical, not ideological. We do not know what ideological beliefs, if any, he actually has. Things he has said in the years before are at least equally consistent with viewing him as center left.

That is half of the argument for the final possible Trump. The other half is George Bush. Bush was elected as a conservative. He proceeded to sharply increase spending, the deficit, and government control over education. Spending money is generally popular, lowering taxes is generally popular, and there are usually political points to be made by "doing something" about whatever people at the moment want something done about.

My guess is that the two least likely outcomes of the election are the first and worst and the third and best.

30 Comments:

At 8:07 AM, November 13, 2016, Blogger Jay Maynard said...

That's Kyrgyzstan.

 
At 9:07 AM, November 13, 2016, Anonymous Bruce said...

Trump didn't campaign on a promise to deliberately break US coal mining. Trump hasn't taken a half-billion bribe from Microsoft's competitors to sic the Justice Department on Microsoft and break the dot-com boom. Trump doesn't run a half-billion dollar bribe foundation. Trump isn't partnered with race-riot protection rackets. Trump might not continue Obama's Moynihan plan to jack the price of ammo and break the 2nd amendment- not as bad for the Republic as Moynihan and Ralph Nader breaking Detroit, but still bad.

Casino money is dirty money. Forty years in New York real estate must have left Trump connected with people worse than the casino mob, maybe even worse than the Clintons. He has never been elected dogcatcher before. But I'm glad I voted against Hillary.

 
At 9:32 AM, November 13, 2016, Blogger Jeff Dorsai said...

ok you are using the word possible in a way that tells me you don't have a clue what the word means ... and you are projecting scenarios based on some sort of Trump mind reading that flies in the face of reality ... I'd have to guess it just some sort of virtue signaling ... which tells me you are a moron ...

 
At 9:55 AM, November 13, 2016, Blogger Bravin Neff said...

I hope you are right, but I fear you are over discounting a lot of evidence for #1, which long predates his campaign. The list of litigiousness, vindictiveness, pettiness and sheer apparent joy at being a bully is downright terrifying for a man we just handed the most dangerous keys in the world.

 
At 12:05 PM, November 13, 2016, Anonymous Power Child said...

I've been saying for at least a year that 1) Trump would win the election, and 2) his presidency will be some version of #4, which you've summarized here a lot better than I did at the time. In fact, I feared--then as I do now--what his powers of persuasion could achieve if hitched to Clintonesque national policy.

The one thing I expect Trump to actually try to do that he talked about doing during the campaign is renegotiate the NAFTA/TPP treaties. You're right, he has no apparent ideological beliefs, but that one spot does seem to be a genuine fixation for him, since he's been talking about it for decades.

BTW, Bush Jr. not only did the non-conservative things you said, but more importantly he pushed for the minority lending programs that contributed to the Great Recession, and Muslim immigration increased after 9/11(!!!) under his administration!

 
At 7:34 PM, November 13, 2016, OpenID whswhs said...

Mostly yes. In particular, I don't have any idea what Trump's actual ideological positions are, and I'm not sure he even has any. He may be a pragmatist, in the bad sense of not thinking it's necessary to have any principles at all. What he actually reminds me of, historically, is not Adolf Hitler but Gaius Julius Caesar, and not only because he's bald.

 
At 9:50 PM, November 13, 2016, Blogger Bill Friedman said...

He reminds me rather of Andrew Jackson and FDR. The same feeling of an overwhelming, ruthless, rule-breaking drive. Also the same populism and "but nobody could ever elect him!" as Jackson.

 
At 6:44 AM, November 14, 2016, Blogger TheVidra said...

Trump also reminds me of Andrew Jackson. Jackson's war on the Second Bank of the United States had similar implications of fighting for the common man, against coastal elites and vague corrupt financial schemes. Andrew Jackson also removed the Cherokees from their geographical area, which is mirrored by Trump's rhetoric about immigrants. The one major difference between Jackson and Trump is that one was a military figure, and the other is the best salesman in the world. Once Trump has closed the sale, we don't know if he will follow through the implementation with the same passion - he seems to relish the sales and self-promotional aspect of his activity a lot more.

 
At 6:47 AM, November 14, 2016, Blogger TheVidra said...

I really hope your misspelling of Kyrgyzstan (land of the Kyrgyz people) was a subtle joke, professor.

 
At 6:47 AM, November 14, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but Trump would spell it wrong in the declaration of war.

 
At 6:56 AM, November 14, 2016, Blogger TheVidra said...

Why would the "Virtuous Traitor" option be more likely than simply "Traitor" - going back on both the "good" and the "bad" promises? He seems to have backed down from the idea of rounding up over 10 million illegal immigrants, saying he will focus on the criminals only (2-3 million), and might consider letting the exceptionally virtuous ones stay legally. On the other hand, he said he might keep certain anti-market clauses from Obamacare.
His great-sounding anti-corruption promises had no chance of passing (what legislative body would ever vote on banning politicians from serving as lobbyists, or voting on scrapping two existing regulations for every new regulations???)
What makes you think he'd only go back on the "bad" promises?

 
At 7:45 AM, November 14, 2016, Anonymous Mike Huemer said...

I don't think Trump cares about policy. He just cares about self-promotion. So maybe he will not do much of anything, just go around making public appearances, and tell Mike Pence to do all the work.

 
At 9:20 AM, November 14, 2016, Anonymous Max said...

I figure we won't see the worst of Trump until 2020. That's when he'll have to do something to boost his popularity before the election. Think Nixon at his most devious times 100.

 
At 9:56 AM, November 14, 2016, Blogger jaimeastorga2000 said...

Obviously you think that 3 would be best and 1 would be worst, but I am curious about how you would rank 2 vs 4?

 
At 12:03 PM, November 14, 2016, OpenID whswhs said...

I will go with Andrew Jackson, but not with FDR (or Woodrow Wilson, one of the other great villains of American history). Try William Jennings Bryan, the big populist hero of a century ago. Not least because he seems to have been equally ignorant of economics.

 
At 3:59 PM, November 14, 2016, Blogger Pastor Alan said...

I'm astonished that you can write an article about the future of Trump without even bringing up either his decision to inflame racial tension in America or his flirtations with autocracy. It doesn't matter how many good policy ideas he implements if he leaves behind a country where it's OK to assault and intimidate people who aren't like you. In the same way, while I'm liberal I find "Hillary+" the most frightening option of all. If Trump implements policies that win broad support it would give him great cover to undermine democratic institutions. Option 1 would lead to a vicious fight for the future of the country; I could see option 4 allowing him to take over the country without fighting.

 
At 4:39 PM, November 14, 2016, Blogger Roger said...

Or maybe Trump really will pursue the ideologies and positions that he has clearly and forcefully presented.

 
At 6:28 PM, November 14, 2016, Blogger StatelessLiberty said...

>"his decision to inflame racial tension in America"
Remind me, how many race riots have there been under Obama? Over the past few years we have witnessed the left push an aggressive, fundamentalist anti-white identity politics like never seen before. Have you thought maybe that Trump is a reaction to this, not the initiator? Racial tensions are always blamed on the defensiveness of whites rather than the aggression of the activists. The solution always being for whites to be more submissive and activists more aggressive, like a medieval doctor who keeps prescribing more and more bloodletting even when the patient's condition gets worse and worse.

Also if you think Trump supporters go around assaulting and intimidating Hillary supporters, rather than it being overwhelmingly the other way round, then you've really drunk the media's koolaid.

 
At 7:34 PM, November 14, 2016, Anonymous Doctor Mist said...

Isn't that #2?

 
At 3:28 AM, November 15, 2016, Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

How about Trump #0? Completely Erratic and Unpredictable Trump?

 
At 4:16 AM, November 15, 2016, Blogger David Murphy said...

@Bruce

I'm really curious what train of logic makes you think microsofts troubles have to do with the dot com bubble popping. That bubble was going to pop no matter what when there were numerous companies who's "programmers" were teenagers given jobs because they had a thin grasp of HTML.

 
At 10:44 AM, November 15, 2016, Anonymous Bruce said...

@David- I think a lot of the dot-com boom was capital flight from other industries broken by the Democrats- cars, steel, light aircraft, even Bell Labs. When the Clintons took a half-billion dollar bribe from Microsoft's competitors to sic the Justice Department on Microsoft they broke the boom. Which, as you say, had bubble aspects already. Like every boom.

 
At 1:39 PM, November 15, 2016, Blogger Tibor said...

@Steve that makes sense only if you think he won the presidency by sheer luck. I think that is very unlikely. Otherwise, he realizes that such policy would cost him votes everywhere. Nobody wants an erratic president with no recognizable policy. So whatever he will end up doing, I think it is unlikely he'll be erratic. He might be like that in his rhetoric, continuing the style of his campaign to some extent, because that brought him his voters after all. Still, I think they'd get tired of it after a while too - when you actually have the power you cannot tell people random stuff and then do the opposite, or at least not too often and too obviously, since they will eventually take notice.

 
At 4:41 PM, November 16, 2016, Blogger David Hildreth said...

I would like to see #1. Not doing anything about illegal immigration has been, and will continue to be, a disaster for the nation.

 
At 7:45 AM, November 18, 2016, Blogger CCubed said...

As Scott Alexander has pointed out, you're STILL crying "Wolf!"

Your visceral rejection of Trump without much thought has, for me, discredited all your work.

 
At 8:17 AM, November 18, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@CCubed, can you point to anything at all in David's post that relates to Scott's objection? As with the virtue signaling comment, your comment strikes me as bizarre and entirely unrelated to the content of blog post.

 
At 3:26 PM, November 18, 2016, Blogger David Friedman said...

CCubed:

Did you read both my post and Scott's that you refer to?

His was arguing, probably correctly, that claims that Trump was a blatant racist are unsupported by the evidence. Mine has nothing to do with such claims.

 
At 7:58 AM, November 20, 2016, Blogger Jonathan said...

Ha, David Friedman the Tolerant rides again. Anyone trying to insult me on my own blog or Facebook page is likely to get deleted straight off it, because I'm not interested in having conversations with rude people. But to our kindly host it's all water off a duck's back, apparently.

 
At 8:00 AM, November 20, 2016, Blogger Jonathan said...

P.S. I was referring mainly to Jeff Dorsai's comment.

 
At 7:26 AM, November 21, 2016, Anonymous albatross said...

StatelessLiberty:

I suspect that cellphone video and Youtube had at least as much to do with the worsening of race relations under Obama as any actions of Obama's. The technology changed in a way that made police misconduct visible, where it had previously been invisible to most people.

Similarly, though Trump has benefitted to some extent from the rise of white nationalist types, the big driver of their rise has been the internet, which got rid of the gatekeepers who could previously decide that such ideas were simply not going to be widely visible.

 

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