The Enemy of My Enemy ...

Monday, January 09, 2017

... No More, and Probably Less

Many of a limited-government persuasion, myself included, have been pleasantly surprised, to say the least, by some of president-elect Donald Trump's proposed cabinet appointments. We should temper any enthusiasm, though, in light of the following explanation:

[W]hat happened? Trump has no track record as a conservative to speak of, and not many people change their politics at age 70. What has made Trump seemingly the Democratic Party's worst nightmare? Was he a closet right-winger all along?

I don't think so. My guess is that throughout the general election campaign and continuing to the present, Trump has been stunned by the insane outpouring of hatred against him and his family from the Left and the Democratic Party. My guess is that he didn't see it coming. He wasn't particularly conservative, and had never had anything to do with the social issues, the main locus of left-wing venom. As an urban real estate developer, he had worked collegially with Democrats in various cities. He had been a Democrat for much of his life; heck, he even had been a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He must have been shocked by the hysterical hatred that the Democrats unleashed against him and his wife and children. Trump spends a fair amount of time on Twitter; how do you think he felt when he saw that #RapeMelania was one of the top trending hashtags? [bold added]
John Hinderaker of Power Line chalks this up to revenge: "One thing we know about Trump is that if you hit him, he will hit back." This makes a great deal of sense, and it may well lead to the vicious cycle (prima facie bad for the Democrats) Hinderaker's colleague predicts.

But this is no rose garden for anyone genuinely concerned about limited government. What will Republicans -- the party he bullied into submission during the primaries -- do to stop him from pursuing bad policy (e.g., on trade)? Risk his wrath or "win" by rubber-stamping whatever it is he wants to do? There is a serious risk that the Trump presidency, a bad sign in itself, will usher in something much worse through the combination of haphazard rollbacks of some parts of the regulatory-entitlement state, ill-considered economic policy (Get that man a copy of Economics in One Lesson yesterday!), and high Democratic turnout after four years of this. The first two could even worsen things enough to make the third superfluous.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Why he is an enemy (or just passes as one for the moment) is much more important. Advocates of limited government must keep this fact in mind. Until and unless Trump establishes a consistent track record of advocating individual rights, we should not take him to be one. I, for one, won't be holding my breath.

-- CAV

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