Pragmatism Trumps Philosophy

January 18, 2016


You know the world is upside down when a rich businessman with a history of supporting liberal causes and delivering insult after insult can become the frontrunner of a relatively conservative political party during an era when people are easily offended and it is chic to mock the rich.
 
To add to the insane political landscape, we have a president of the United States who cries at the concept of the murder of children, then turns loose terrorists on the hope that they will not provide support to terrorists or again murder any of our men, women, and children. With the specter of over thirteen-hundred felony counts still growing over the head of the front-running Democrat, the second place Democrat candidate condemns the frontrunner’s husband’s sexual assaults- nearly 20 years too late.
 
It’s a mad, mad, mad world, and apparently we’re not done taking it yet.
 
Just within the past 20 years, Donald Trump has described himself as “very pro-choice” on abortion, has been an advocate of a socialized, single-payer health care system, and has publicly professed to liking someone whom very few people have professed to personally like due to her nasty, acerbic personality:  Hillary Clinton.
 
With a resume like that, why are so many conservatives lining up- down the street and around the block- to support him, taking to Facebook, Twitter, and rallies to pledge undying support to the only man in the history of mankind who can possibly lead us out of this liberal/progressive nightmarish epidemic that has overtaken both political parties? It’s not just the disaffected- those who believe that their vote no longer matters; even some politically knowledgeable conservatives have jumped onboard the Trump Train.
 
Four years ago, when Trump toyed with the idea of running for president, the conservative “Club for Growth” called Trump a ”tax-hiking liberal whose open flirtation with single-payer health care and warm embrace of protectionism disqualifies him from consideration by conservatives."
 
One can be pro-abortion and in favor of government control of every aspect of our lives, which is what a single-payer health care system brings, and then have a change of heart, learning lessons about the value of liberty and the need to limit government. Unfortunately, Trump never speaks of such a conversion in philosophical terms. His mind is one of anecdotes and pragmatism- the event that swayed him this way or that, or the bold approach that aided his negotiations.
 
Having a practical mind is indeed a desirable trait for someone who executes policy; however, when an approach changes, if the reason for the change is only situational, what is to prevent that person from reverting to previous form? For example, if his reason for becoming pro-life is that he knew a couple who decided to keep their baby, what is to prevent him from knowing someone else who decided otherwise, then changing his mind again? If there is not a philosophy behind the belief, the belief is apt to sway to and fro, as the political winds- or even the situational winds- blow.
 
In Trump’s book, The America We Deserve, written in 2000, Trump praised the Canadian government-run health care system, and in his 2010 book, Think Like a Champion, the businessman described the anemic President Obama’s accomplishments as “phenomenal.” It is no coincidence that he does not tout these two books while on the 2016 campaign trail.
 
The problem for a conservative rejecting Trump is that we are usually not comfortable being on the same side as Establishment Republicans, who are Democrat-lites in policy without the liberals’ courage. We especially do not like siding against a candidate who is thrashing the Establishment and their tepid candidates. That said, on what can we base trust of Trump’s words? What guarantee do we have that he means what he says?
 
Interestingly, many of Trump’s supporters have taken on his persona. Their approach to show support is to insult others, tearing down rather than building up. Their candidate is a bully, so many take on the character. Trumpeters- and Trump himself- act as thought the goal is to win rather to win and then govern. After all, in politics, one must defeat opponents, not destroy them. If, for example, Senator Marco Rubio is the best candidate to become Secretary of State in a Trump Administration, but Rubio is the focus of destruction, not only will he be unwilling to serve the new administration, but many qualified supporters will be reluctant, as well. Unlike in the business world, the brand is not Trump, the brand is America, under the banner of conservatism, in pursuit of a more perfect union.
 
“Trump will fix it!” is a rallying cry for supporters, never contemplating that they- let alone Trump himself- have no idea how he will “fix” “it.” This takes us back to Trump’s philosophy. What would he do in a given situation? How can we make such a prediction, given that we do not know the full situation- we only know the political issue? Trump can do anything, fix anything, be anything. Ipse est ergo aget. He is, therefore he will.
 
A conservative can be committed to limited government, the general morality, and liberty without having memorized one quote from Jefferson, Washington, Locke, or the Federalist Papers. The concern with Trump is that it appears doubtful that he has a philosophical foundation, let alone understands the American foundation. You know the world is upside down when many conservatives seem not to notice.

Copyright ©2016

Brian W. Peterson has been a columnist for a mid-size California newspaper, is a veteran of political campaigns, and was a member of the publicly elected Republican Central Committee of Los Angeles County. His psychological thriller Dead Dreams and sci-fi adventure Children of the Sun are currently available through Amazon.com. You can follow Brian on Twitter @cybrpete.