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Libertarians and Classical Liberals on Trump versus Clinton

I have taken a real interest in the debate among libertarians and classical liberals (as well as conservatives) over whether to support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  In the past, libertarians and classical liberals (who I will refer to simply as libertarians for ease of exposition) have tended to split between supporting the Republican nominee and the Libertarian Party nominee.  Yet, if libertarians were forced to choose between the Republican and Democratic nominees, my sense is that the great majority would support the Republican.

These days the matter is different.  Libertarians like Donald Trump much less than they like the usual Republican nominees.   Unsurprisingly, then, many more of them are considering voting for the Libertarian Party nominee.  But interestingly many of them, when pushed on the issue, say that they prefer Clinton to Trump.

Here are some of the main views of the two camps.  Those who favor Trump over Clinton believe that another Democratic Administration would be very bad for the Republic.  Another 4 or 8 years, after 8 years of Obama, would be disastrous.  They argue that concerns about Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism are no greater than concerns about a Clinton Administration.  Moreover, the media will be scrupulous about identifying wrongdoing by a Trump Administration, whereas it will cover up that wrongdoing by a Clinton Administration.

Those who favor Trump also argue that executive and judicial appointments are a strong reason to favor the Donald.  While it is unclear how good his appointments will be, we know that Hillary’s appointments will be bad.

Those who favor Clinton believe she would be a less risky President.  She is more of a conventional politician who would follow ordinary political norms.  Even if she is more likely to be a bad President, she is less likely to take some disastrous action.

The Clinton preferrers contend that even if Trump would be slightly better than Clinton, the Republicans would be forced to own those actions.  A Trump Presidency would undermine and transform the Republican Party for a generation.

Finally, those who favor Clinton point to how ignorant Trump sounds about government.  My guess is that this is both a concern about how well Trump will actually govern and a reaction to Trump’s comments on a political asesthetic level.  (That said, this argument needs to be tempered by the fact that Trump has successfully run a large business empire and has dominated a political election cycle against more experienced politicians.  So he is obviously very smart.)

These are strong arguments on both sides.  Not a happy choice.  One can always avoid the choice – especially if you live in a strongly blue or red state – by simply voting for the Libertarian candidate.  But the real issue is who you prefer – Trump or Clinton.

Reader Discussion

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on May 31, 2016 at 09:00:10 am

No way for trump.NEVER

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Frida
on May 31, 2016 at 09:48:38 am

"Trump has successfully run a large business empire . . . ."

That is a hotly disputed point. Trump's organizations have gone into bankruptcy four times. That by itself does not disprove his being a "success," but that he is some sort of business titan should not be taken for granted. I think it is not disputed that most of his business for the last 20 years, besides reality TV, has been licensing the use of his name to other developers and managers.

His suggestion that holders of Treasury bonds "take a haircut" suggests that one of his go-to tactics, when he was actually running a business empire consisting of more than five letters, was to threaten to go into bankruptcy unless his creditors played ball. I doubt that this tactic will work for a president.

Trump has undeniably been successful at projecting the image of success to the general public. Whether the image has anything to do with the reality is not so clear.

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djf
on May 31, 2016 at 09:53:08 am

No way for hilary.NEVER

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Diego
on May 31, 2016 at 12:56:40 pm

I should have been clearer about "Trump's success." Even if some of his businesses go bankrupt, he makes his bondholders take a haircult and his main asset is his licensing, the bottom line is that he makes money -- for himself. So he is smart. Not necessarily admirable or public spirited, but smart.

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Mike Rappaport
on May 31, 2016 at 16:11:38 pm

Well, even if we can assume that Trump's "success" in making money for himself to date (assuming he's really made himself much richer than he was when he started out) provides evidence that he is "smart," it does not necessarily mean that he has good judgment or is good at running a large organization. He may have fooled banks into lending him more money than they should have and then, when he could not keep up with the payments, used his own indebtedness as leverage over them. I don't think these are the sort of skills one wants in a president, even if getting away with it demonstrates a certain kind of "intelligence."

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djf
on June 02, 2016 at 12:17:50 pm

djf:

" He may have fooled banks into lending him more money than they should have and then, when he could not keep up with the payments, used his own indebtedness as leverage over them. I don’t think these are the sort of skills one wants in a president, even if getting away with it demonstrates a certain kind of “intelligence.”

REALLY?

How the heck do you think the good Ole USA has been getting by for the past several decades.
And just think: The Trumpster will NOW have the printing presses at his disposal.

Oh, this p[romises to be fun.

In any event, whether The Trumpster is intelligent is not really the issue - he certainly has more on the ball than that dumb sack- of-rocks-in-a-Pantsuit.

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gabe
on June 03, 2016 at 16:17:47 pm

From Molly Ball’s Atlantic story comparing the populist insurgencies within the Democratic and Republican parties:

Sanders may have pushed Clinton to sound more populist and to spend more time talking about income inequality. But on the economic issues that divide Clinton and Sanders, [Third Way’s Matt] Bennett notes, Clinton has not really moved. She has declined to embrace single-payer health care, tuition-free public college for all, a $15 minimum wage (though she said she would sign it if Congress passed it, her own proposal is for $12), reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall banking restrictions, breaking up the big banks, or the expansion of Social Security. She has also declined to call for a ban on fracking. From the beginning, Clinton has insisted that inequality can be solved with reform rather than a war on Wall Street.

Clinton did come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a notable concession to progressives. But even her allies, like Bennett, do not believe she has turned against free trade: “All Democrats run for president as mild protectionists and govern as free traders,” Bennett told me, pointing to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who both campaigned against trade deals and went on to enact them.

Further complicating the idea that the Democratic base is moving in a populist direction is the fact that Clinton’s strongest support has come from Democrats. She’s done best in closed primaries, where only registered party members can vote, while Sanders has tended to prevail in open contests thanks to his strength with independent voters. According to Third Way’s analysis, Clinton has won Democratic voters, 65 percent to 35 percent, while Sanders has won independents by the same margin. Clinton has done particularly well with the party’s most stalwart voters, African Americans, who in many ways represent the heart of the party. Sanders isn’t powered mostly by Democratic voters’ desire for progressivism—he’s powered by party outsiders. Clinton’s victory suggests that Democratic primary voters remain more moderate than liberal, the same dynamic that allowed her husband to win the presidential primary in 1992.

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nobody.really
on June 03, 2016 at 16:31:02 pm

Sorry, Gabe, I despise Hillary, but I think she's considerably smarter than Trump, whose success in politics thus far seems to be an accident - his antics, worthy of an immature 12 year old, are just what comes naturally to him. I'm sure he's as surprised as the rest of us that he's going to be nominated. But I highly doubt that it will go any farther than that - in all probability, much to his relief.

As far as evil is concerned, the two are pretty evenly matched.

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djf

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.