Donald Trump

No single event or figure has been as disruptive in the 2016 presidential election as the brash real estate mogul and former reality TV star Donald J. Trump. He has occupied the top of national polling and news headlines since shortly after announcing his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and has earned labels such as “fascist,” “racist,” and “demagogue” along the way [1].

Trump’s candidacy has perplexed pundits and the political elite for months, and every attempt to take him down has failed. Part of the reason for this may be that Trump’s campaign is driven by neither policy nor ideology [2]. His pitch, rather, is that our leaders, Democratic and Republican, are “stupid” and have allowed America to be ripped off by a whole host of foreign adversaries, most notably Mexico and China. Trump, on the other hand, claims to possess the intelligence and deal-making know-how to clean up their mess and “Make America Great Again” [3].

Trump’s most famous and divisive policies are his plans to deport every single undocumented immigrant in the country, end birthright citizenship, force Mexico to finance the construction of a wall on its US border, and to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. [4]. He supports the lowering of the federal minimum wage, and turned heads with his comment that “wages are too high.” Trump has also advocated for the return of waterboarding in the interrogations of suspected terrorists, as well as more severe forms of torture that he has not specified. Trump has said that he will not only accept civilian casualties in a campaign against ISIS, but that he will deliberately target terrorists’ families [5].

These positions aside, however, Trump and his supporters are far from the most ideological in the Republican party. Notably, he frequently speaks of his intention to work and “make deals with” congressional Democrats. He opposes current free trade deals, has proposed the elimination of income tax for low-earners, and is not as hostile to social welfare spending as many of his rivals [6]. Trump often criticizes the Iraq war as a “disaster” and takes a surprisingly dovish stance toward Russia and Syria, aside from his plans for ISIS [7].

There is some evidence that Trump’s support represents a revolt by the mostly middle-aged, white and undereducated voters of the Republican base who care far more about combating immigration and globalization than they do about the free market economics prioritized by the Republican establishment [8].

Even if this is not true, Donald Trump’s candidacy is a unique phenomenon that will leave a mark on the Republican party even if he does not win the nomination this summer.

Sam Fraser

The radically inconsistent, loud-mouthed businessman Donald J. Trump gives the Republican Party a bad name. Trump’s name-calling has targeted everyone from people who drink diet coke to the Pope. (The New York Times has kept a list of those Trump has insulted on Twitter alone.) This drastically under qualified man plans to deport every undocumented immigrant and build a literal wall to keep Mexicans from entering the U.S. [9]. His plans for America are not just unreasonable, but dangerous, too.

The first problem with Trump lies in his offensive and unrealistic plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The wall represents Trump’s loaded, factually incorrect, and racist anti-immigrant views [10]. He claims that Mexico will pay for the 10 billion dollar project by decreasing our diplomatic ties and using the 50 billion dollar trade deficit to strong-arm them into compliance. Trump claimed that Mexico’s leaders have been exporting crime and poverty by fostering illegal immigration to the U.S. He said that Mexicans bring drugs into the country, and that many are rapists [11]. Trump is simply wrong about this issue: according to Pew Research, illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crime, not more [12]. The picture of America painted by Trump is bleak. He would have us build walls rather than bridges. He would have us fear our neighbors rather than hope for progress or improvement.

Trump also lacks the foreign policy experience necessary in future presidents. He routinely criticizes President Obama for losing the war on terrorism, and claims he will “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS” and rebuild the military so that “no one will mess with us” [13] Trump would put American soldiers’ lives at risk by sending ground forces to Syria. His lack of foreign policy experience wouldn’t necessarily be a devastating problem if he chose the right advisors, but when asked who he consults, he replied, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things” [14].

If one were to list the problems with Trump’s foreign policy experience, it would reach higher than the Trump Towers. If nothing else, his policies indicate a presidential candidate who seeks to be a crazed general rather than a diplomat. He clearly values consolidating our power rather than attaining the national prosperity he claims he can bring. We are not in an era where we can rule with an iron fist or a lead bullet. We are not uncivilized apes destined to fight for territory and power. As a powerful and resource-rich nation, America is responsible to lead the charge for a better future. Instead, we have been given Trump, whose dangerous words and tactics should, under no circumstances, be given the chance to come to maturity.

Trump poses a huge threat to American’s civil liberties. Back in November 2015, Trump claimed he would order the surveillance of mosques to fight terrorists [15] and that he watched as “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11. According to the New York Times, no news reports exist of people celebrating [16]. Trump then insisted that the government should keep a database of Syrian immigrants, adding that he would not rule out warrantless searches or special IDs for Muslims in America [17]. He also says he might have supported Japanese Internment during WWII, one of the unjustifiable black marks on the record of the American government [18]. Clearly, Trump has not read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. He doesn’t understand what freedom of religion means. But worse than simply not understanding, Trump wants to take away these fundamental rights that the Constitution lays out.

As Americans, we are tasked with hiring the next President of the United States. Should we choose someone with no experience, whose resume boasts failed business ventures, and who holds such disdain for public service? Americans should be scared by his aggressive and factually incorrect rhetoric. We should also be frightened by his lack of integrity. His positions have shifted dramatically over the years; some even believe that the Democratic leadership planted him to destruct the Republican Party. When voting this November, please consider any candidate besides this man. If we elect Donald Trump, we will not succeed at making America great again. Instead, we will set our country on a path of destruction we have not seen the likes of yet.

Melia Wong

Ms. Wong makes many correct assertions about Trump in her article, but the impacts she draws from many of her claims seem illogical. I entirely agree with Ms. Wong that Trump has no foreign policy experience whatsoever; however, looking to historical precedent, foreign policy experience isn’t always desirable in presidential candidates. From Lyndon B. Johnson to Ronald Reagan, some of the most momentous foreign policy decisions have come from leaders with “no foreign policy experience.” Ronald Reagan pioneered the modern era of forward-looking, aggressive American policy. With the failure of the Soviet Union and the beginning of what many consider American hegemony, Ronald Reagan defied what traditional policymakers believed was healthy or possible for American power [19]. Contrary to the narrative the right and left prefer to spew, Ronald Reagan not only detracted from his own party on his foreign policy, but he also refused to follow the mainstream principle of thinking. Mr. Trump, in the same sense, balances his foreign policy toward a moderate vision that looks not to a Clinton and Cruz hawkish interpretation but to a policy akin to strong American mandates softened with beneficial compromise. Paralleling the same balance of Reagan’s foreign policy, Trump has been the trendsetter in calling out traditional economic partners of the U.S. such as China and Mexico for their blatant flouting of American interests. He is also the first to recognize the potential of compromising with a hostile and immutable Russia — the exact same approach President Reagan followed.

From China’s currency policy to Mexico’s dealings in the NAFTA trade agreement, previous presidents and politicians have refused to stand up for American interests. Many of Trump’s hardline statements parallel the same type of aggressive policymaking that secured American interests back in the 80’s. Just from his website, Mr. Trump lays out an extensive tariff and fee program to encourage Mexico to renegotiate its NAFTA policies and to reconsider its lack of border protection [20]. According to Mark Weisbrot of the Guardian, Trump’s policies could actually help Mexico restructure its trade deficits with the U.S. and re-evaluate its current approach to U.S.-Mexico trade dynamics [21]. He cites the fact that “the promised trade surpluses with Mexico turned out to be deficits, some hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and there was downward pressure on U.S. wages” as blatant evidence for why the U.S. should change its trade situation with Mexico. He also points to Mexico’s dismal economic state as another incentive for Mexico to restructure its trade with the U.S.. Contrary to what was promised, NAFTA tied Mexico to the U.S. currency and to a series of neo-liberal, anti-developmental economic policies that only remained in place because of favorable labor pressure from high-wage American workers. Weisbrot goes on to elaborate that Mexico stands to gain a serious advantage by scaling back many of their overly-regulative and liberal economic policies.

Trump’s proposals to build a wall and make Mexico pay for its trade approach is perhaps the only stand by any presidential candidate this cycle to truly address the shoddy treatment of our supposed economic allies. The story with China follows a similar narrative: one where only Trump has come out at the vanguard of his campaign with policies that address unpopular topics of contention. Ms. Wong does correctly claim that Trump has no foreign policy experience and that his policies on immigration reform and trade are radical, but that doesn’t make his points any less credible. Looking beyond the establishment’s rhetoric, it’s important to recognize that Trump’s vision for America continues to reveal real, credible flaws in our traditional approaches to policymaking.

Nova Quaoser

Surrounded by mud-flinging from the “intellectual” world and the wise sages of academia, a Trump presidency seemed laughable a year ago. Trump’s appeal to betrayed voters, however, lofted a broadside that shattered most political scientists’ reflections on the 2016 presidential election. Tired of empty promises and shrinking local economies, voters have turned to what they see as an experienced business leader, a no-nonsense negotiator, and a holistically moderate Republican to voice their frustrations. Despite dropping non-politically correct terms and flaunting an abrasive public persona, Trump has retained a strong lead on the shuffling Republican front, and while political scientists would prefer to chock Trump voters up as uneducated, young hooligans, there is serious credibility to how much Trump’s statements resonate with voters. Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s policies have geared themselves toward a moderate vision, strangely similar to that of Clinton’s, for dealing with many of America’s domestic and foreign issues.

Trump’s policies on taxes, for example, combine conservative views of deficit with liberal views on fair taxes. He advocates eliminating all tax loopholes and deductions for the extremely wealthy while cutting taxes on businesses and nearly half of all U.S. households [22]. A 32-page report by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center cited Trump’s tax plan as one that could surprisingly “boost incentives to work, save, and invest and that has the potential to simplify the tax code” [23]. Unlike many Republican candidates, Trump’s tax policy takes liberal strides toward taxing corporate holdings overseas, removing deferrals for stationary assets abroad, and adopting a simple and progressive tax system. The Tax Policy Center’s Director Leonard Burman indicates that “virtually all of the other Republican plans would go in the other direction and say foreign profits would be exempt from U.S. tax” but the Trump plan shifts left on this issue. Remaining true to his conservative values, Trump still advocates cutting taxes on large and small businesses in an attempt to increase consumption and investment. He also emphasizes that deficit and debt should be prioritized in the tax system only after consumption has been satisfied. As a result, Trump couples liberal views on non-regressive taxes with conservative views on balancing debt and reducing wasteful government expenditures.

Trump’s policy on China also represents a balancing act of liberal and conservative interests. His approach involves renegotiating previously established trade agreements, encouraging the manufacturing and construction sectors, attacking Chinese holdings of U.S. debt, and protecting U.S. patents [24]. According to Will Kimball and Robert E. Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, China has been the most invasive country when it comes to outsourcing American jobs. They point to the fact that 3.2 million jobs have left the country not because of skill gap issues or favorable Chinese laws, but the fact that the Chinese currency has made operating in China so much cheaper than in the U.S.. Trump’s promises to call China out on this currency manipulation would have vast effects on curbing China’s advantage in the labor market [25].

Furthermore, Chinese netizens and economists have expressed that Trump’s approach to Chinese trade policy could actually synergize with Chinese attempts to reform U.S. trade agreements. As a result, support for Trump’s approach has surprisingly come from within China as well. By allowing a reevaluation of current U.S.-China trade agreements, many Chinese economists are pointing to this as a potential benefit for both countries. According to Douglas Bulloch of Forbes magazine, “it might also be important to realize that China is facing its own serious economic headwinds and may privately welcome the chance to renegotiate aspects of its reform commitments” [26]. He goes on to point out that “naming China a ‘currency manipulator’ is really just a door opener for demanding a different settlement”. What is important to realize is that Trump has hit upon a fundamental tenet of foreign policy. Chinese policymakers understand that American policy is geared toward American interests, so the argument of a Chinese backlash to aggressive American trade policy doesn’t really hold any water. Dingding Chen of the The Diplomat argues that Trump’s trade policy has resonated with many Chinese policymakers and that they understand where his concerns stem from. By emphasizing real trade policy impacts rather than prioritizing human rights intervention initiatives or engaging in anti-Communist rhetoric, Chinese netizens see this as a unique opportunity to move beyond the stagnant and paralyzing debates over Chinese human rights offenses and on to real trade reforms contingent on economic factors rather than political ones [27].

Trump’s policy on healthcare is also the first that could separate the traditionally entangled markets of healthcare and health insurance. Trump advocates allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines, promoting health savings accounts, and reducing the cost of healthcare for all Americans on the insurance and the hospital side. As Carolyn McClanahan of Forbes magazine writes, Trump’s policies pave the way for a de-linking of basic healthcare and insurance. She argues that this would drive down the cost of medication, insurance premiums, and clinical healthcare [28]. The impact of this would mean that basic healthcare, or treatment of non-catastrophic illnesses, would drastically be more efficient and effective for all Americans. Impoverished individuals or those who were supposed to be helped under Obamacare or a single-payer system would find that the most common treatments they need would be the ones most available. One major criticism of Canada’s universal healthcare system or Sanders’s single-payer system is that, although these systems equated costs of healthcare generally, this distribution of cost led to a vast increase in the price of basic healthcare needs [29]. This means that, while many individuals are now covered for catastrophic illnesses under Obamacare or a universal healthcare system, the likelihood that this actually increases their standard of living remains very small as basic healthcare is still more expensive. This puts Trump’s approach to healthcare in the United States as one of the few policies that actually prioritizes different types of health insurance while mitigating costs for the general public at large.

The flurry of negative stigma by the media and many so-called policy experts surrounding Donald Trump’s policies have overlooked many of the serious and credible points that Trump has to offer. Not only do his points reflect a platform deeply rooted in voters’ frustrations, but they also address many unique nuances of public policy that most politicians have been afraid to tackle. From Clinton’s trepidation in commenting on China’s trade policy to Sander’s unwillingness to admit rising costs of health insurance as a result of government intervention, Trump holds a particularly rare position in his eagerness to engender real reform that stems from both a conservative and liberal base of beliefs.

Nova Quaoser

Mr. Quaoser claims that Trump is a “holistically moderate Republican,” a statement so ludicrous that some may actually believe it. The problem with being asked to attack Trump on policy alone is that Trump’s stance on the issues changes as often as Katy Perry’s hair color. First he’s pro-choice, then he’s adamantly pro-life. One minute he’s a supporter of Hillary Clinton, then he eviscerates her. Trump chooses to say what will shower him with applause, and in this sense, he is a performer who panders to his audience. Trump is not a “holistically moderate Republican” (that title would better fall to John Kasich[30]).

As for Trump’s China policy, the huge flaw lies in the underlying thinking behind the policy itself. Retaliating against China would do more harm to our economy than good. Trump points to the trade-deficit to show that the Chinese are taking America’s manufacturing jobs and that his tariff plan is the way out of the conundrum. As we all know, Trump hates losing, and he thinks that this deficit falls under that category. He couldn’t be more wrong. Cato’s Dan Griswold wrote that there’s actually a strong connection between a growing U.S. trade deficit and economic growth [31]. Our trade balance with China doesn’t matter nearly as much as Trump thinks it does, and his aggression toward one of our allies in trade bodes poorly for future dealings [32]. Scott Lincicome, a writer for The Federalist, wrote that at best, this plan is stupid — an empty threat that no one takes seriously.

My opponent also points out the “flurry of negative stigma by the media and many so-called policy experts” toward Trump. While it is true that many journalists are liberal, one has to ask themselves why they aren’t throwing Kasich under this bus of negative stigma. Trump has flip-flopped on the issues, has bullied newscasters and journalists, and has made light of dark topics. There isn’t a flurry of negative stigma so much as an uprising of anti-Trump sentiment. Trump has chosen to play on the fears of Americans who need support by unleashing his own flurry upon other racial and identity-based groups. Goodness knows, that’s hardly presidential.

Melia Wong















image:“Donald Trump in Ottumwa, Iowa” by Evan Guest — Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr Creative Commons —

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