Trump, Vicious Cycles, and the Possibility of Reform

One of the most interesting aspects of the Trump candidacy is the way in which it involves a Republican (or, if you will, the Republican nominee) employing tactics or promoting programs that are related in some way to those used by the Democrats at times. This makes Trump much less attractive to those who favor limited government.  But it raises the question whether he might be able—unintentionally of course—to raise the consciousness of the Democrats to the problems with their approach.

Start with strong executive power. President Obama and the Democrats embrace strong executive power. There are many reasons for this. One is that the Democrats want a government that can pass large numbers of regulations and is quick-acting. Another is that the Democrats do not want to be limited by the public opinion constraints of the legislature. But, of course, executive power is dangerous and is problematic, especially when one is on the receiving end of it.

While Republican Presidents have used executive power, they have not used it—especially in the domestic sphere—to the extent that Democrats have. And they have not played as fast and loose with the law as President Obama has.

Many people have the impression, not without reason, that a President Trump would be willing to aggressively use executive power. This concerns the Democrats, especially since much of Trump’s agenda is anathema to them. Could this persuade the Democrats that executive power is a dangerous thing that should be constrained?  It is hard to say, but if Trumpian executive power doesn’t persuade them, what would?

Now consider identity politics. This piece discusses Trumps outrageous comments about the Mexican American judge who is hearing the class-action against Trump University. Let’s be clear: Trump’s statements here are awful and should be repudiated by all people of good will. But the piece makes the argument that Trump is hoisting the Democrats on their own petard as to identity politics—that the Democrats engage in similar arguments all the time. if from a different perspective:

The implicit assumption underlying Sotomayor’s comment [about a “wise Latina”] and [Clarence] Thomas’ refusal to play to type is that there is a type—an expectation. By virtue of her being a liberal, a Democrat, a woman, and a Latina (wise or otherwise), Sotomayor’s voting pattern on the Court ought to be predictable.  As, indeed, it is. So should Thomas’, but he declines to play his assigned role.

Trump is taking for granted—because he is not blind—that ethnic Democratic judges will rule in the interests of their party and of their ethnic bloc. That’s what they’re supposed to do. The MSM and the overall narrative say this is just fine. It’s only bad when someone like Trump points it out in a negative way. If a properly sanctified liberal had said “This man is a good judge because his background gives him the perspective to see past narrow, technical legalities and grasp the larger justice,” not only would no one have complained, that comment would have been widely praised. In fact, comments just like it are celebrated all the time. That is precisely what Justice Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” phrase was meant to convey.

The point here is that Trump does not seem to care about seeming rude or worse. He is willing to take the assumptions of the Democrats and use them to his own purposes. It is not clear what opportunities that will allow him  But it will no doubt inflame the Democrats. Will it make them question those assumptions?

Finally, consider a third issue that differs a bit from these prior two in its character: the use of the media. In my opinion, the Democrats derive an enormous advantage from the media, which allows them to win elections that they would not otherwise be able to win. If the media were as disproportionately in favor of the Republicans, I could easily imagine a whole set of programs, involving quotas and other procedures, that Democrats would attempt to impose to promote media balance.

Trump, however, is a master communicator—not like the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan, but still a master at getting his message across. And so far, at least, he has gotten the media to go along with him. Even if they stop cooperating, he is so good at these things—“Crooked Hillary” will be repeated endlessly, I predict—that he will greatly reduce much of the Democrats’ advantage with the media. In this case, the Democrats are likely to attack Trump’s techniques as unfair and inconsistent with the norms of political debate. Will Trump’s techniques lead the Democrats to realize that they too enjoy unfair advantages? This seems like a real long shot.

In sum, Trump is likely to use a variety of policies and techniques that the Democrats have employed. In a competitive political system, once one party uses a policy or technique, there are strong forces that will lead the other party to do so. While that will make the system look even less attractive, it should have been recognized by the first party that the second party would respond. And when the second party does so, the first party should recognize that it is in large part responsible for the second party’s response. The two parties may then decide to reform the system.

Unfortunately, that seldom happens—although there are exceptions. The Democrats used to love the Independent Counsel statute, when it was used against Republicans.  When it was employed against Bill Clinton, they came to understand its failures and the statute was allowed to die. Will Trump lead to some kind of agreement between Democrats and Republicans on reform—on less executive power, on less identity politics, on fairer reporting? It might seem unlikely, but it is possible. Here’s hoping.

Reader Discussion

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on June 07, 2016 at 17:28:30 pm

Of course, if The Trumpster had more on the ball (or his advisors did) he could have pointed out that the good ZJudge is affiliated with LaRaza (The Race) - gee, if that doesn't say something - sort of like Black robe Ginsburg having her husband be head of an ACLU chapter).

Nice thought - but the dopey Dems are incorrigible - nothing will dissuade them from the view that they, and they alone are both right AND entitled to eschew both law and convention. any Republican who attempts to do the same is simply "on the wrong side of history."

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Image of gabe
on June 07, 2016 at 17:33:19 pm

Then again, the good Judge does seem to be on solid footing in his rulings so far.
In my comments above I did not intend to impugn the integrity of the Judge - only highlight that The Trumpster shoots from the hip too much AND if he thought things through he could conceivably be as devastatingly spurious as are the dopey Dems.


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Image of gabe
on June 08, 2016 at 15:19:24 pm

"Now consider identity politics. This piece discusses Trumps outrageous comments about the Mexican American judge who is hearing the class-action against Trump University. Let’s be clear: Trump’s statements here are awful and should be repudiated by all people of good will."

I'm a person of good will, Michael. I reviewed his speech. I didn't see anything awful, and I don't see any need to repudiate anything.

After reviewing the speech and doing a little googling I found that, as is usually the case in hyper-partisan politics, little "nothing" things are made into surreal big things. After a bit of googling I found the actual "offending" speech on Youtube.

(If this doesn't plop up in the youtube window, you can look up "Full Event: Donald Trump Holds Rally in San Diego, CA (5-27-16)"

You are looking for around 1:36:30 through 1:47:30. (Also note his introducer at the very beginning. Having a woman on the Trump ticket would be a very smart choice this year.)


I did not find his comments so offensive. The guy's an old school New Yorker who talks about people's heritage using that kind of terminology. That's how guys like him really talk. It's just shorthand for "Mexican American," a little politically incorrect perhaps, but that's one of the reasons people like Trump. A lot of people are fed up with extreme political correctness.

So, as far as I can tell from looking the source material and ignoring the press material the offense is an imagination produced by the partisan political system.

Meanwhile, the political issue with the judge in the suit (an Obama appointee) has to do with the fact that the judge is a known political activist who is member of the Hispanic National Bar Association which has publicly stated that it calls for "a boycott of all Trump business ventures." Curiel actually scheduled the trial just before the general election in November. Can the bench politicking by the judge be any more obvious?

I'm not a big fan of Trump for president, but I have to admit, I don't think he's as bad a guy as the popular press and its followers try to make him out to be. As is usually the case with these types of things, when I ignore the press and read the sources myself, the story yet again turns out to be just one more politically driven tempest in a teacup. That's why I normally ignore these kinds of stories.

I'm certain that if I were to follow up on similar claims against Clinton I would find the same kind of thing. I think she has a serious international black mark against her from being so close to the terrible 12-year siege of Irag, but otherwise I think I would find popular claims against her are just as overblown.

But you're right about the back and forth of political practices, at least until the next time the dominant party changes.

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Image of Scott Amorian
Scott Amorian
on June 09, 2016 at 09:11:47 am

"The guy’s an old school New Yorker..."

You hit it on the head. The Trumpster speaks in a New York vernacular, a dialect with which I am familiar. There is less to this than people want to assert.

That being said, it would do The Trumpster good to soften the tone a tad bit - perhaps be a little less *expressive*
It is a lesson I learned (well, at least to some extent) many years ago after moving to a somewhat more *passive* Northwest.

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Image of gabe
on June 09, 2016 at 18:35:10 pm

And just for the fun of it since we are concerned here with Trump U:

Did you know that Billy Boy clinton is the Chancellor (honorary) of Laurette University which is being sued for the same type of tactics Trumpster U is alleged to have practiced. AND Billy Boy got paid $16 million smackers for this important post.


I am certain the MSM will soon be reporting on this, aren't you?

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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.