Voting to Trump Bargains?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

David Harsanyi very nearly hits the nail on the head regarding how opponents of politicians who, like Donald Trump, oppose free trade, ought to appeal to voters:

Do you like those affordable electronic goods? You know, those giant TVs, cheap laptops, and super pocket computers you're walking around with? The prices of tech products and services have fallen over the past decade because of many policies Trump rails against. So while a lot of Americans might like the sound of forcing Apple to assemble phones right here in the United States, how would they feel about paying $100 more (or whatever it is) every time they renewed a cell phone plan? [link dropped]
The same goes for shopping at Walmart.

Harsanyi (or his editor at the Federalist) puts the rhetorical approach this way: "Rather than arguing abstract truths, concentrate on the pain Americans will feel if Donald Trump gets his way."

I don't completely agree, because this sounds a little like we can dispense with such principles, which I disagree with. Rather, the pain, in this case, is part of how one should always argue abstract truths. Valid principles apply to life, but if one doesn't show how they do so, he is consigning them to the oblivion of the ivory tower by failing to help others understand why they matter.



Steve D said...

You hit the nail on the head Gus, as usual. In fact this would seem almost a teaching moment regarding how principles apply to life and how disregarding principles will only make life worse.

I've followed a few vociferously anti-Trump blogs (mostly for the fun of it) whose authors have written hundreds if not thousands of posts about how and why Trump is unfit to be president and I would hasten to say, that with the exception of the very early stage of the campaign, the number of people they have convinced is approximately zero.

Every single negative is easily rationalized away by his supporters. The reason these people are inconvincible is because they are starting from a different spot. They are emphatically unprincipled, not in the pejorative sense of being dishonest (some of them cite honesty as their most important point in favor of Trump) but in the exact meaning of the term unprincipled; without any fundamentals to guide their thinking.

For my part, I’ve occasionally explained in the comment section that Trump’s highly visible authoritarianism is his key disqualifier. At minimum only a strong commitment to individual rights is necessary to see this through him (the wrong way) although a complete philosophical system is necessary to progress in the right direction. This type of explanation always draws a blank and the reply is always focused on any additional minor point I might have made.

A candidate who hides her authoritarianism (like Hillary) is a better bet precisely because as president she would be to some degree limited by the need to maintain a non-authoritarian public persona.

Gus Van Horn said...



I'll take the opportunity to note that I had, at first, considered adding that it will ultimately be necessary to get more people to question altruism and collectivism to make any real headway in the long term, but I wanted to remain focused here on the need for such thinking to be more "organic" as I like to think of it, as more directly tied down to personal experience and foreseeable consequences.

For many, it might be too much to ask (as you observed) to get to abstract thought about political principles. But many of these have enough of an implicitly selfish view to be convinced in the short term of an election by the kinds of arguments Harsanyi makes. But, for others, these same arguments can trigger deeper thoughts (or become incorporated into them), so their usefulness can be longer term.