Friday, July 1, 2016

Charles Kesler's half-baked case for Donald Trump

Charles Kesler is in the Washington Post this morning, making the case for Donald Trump to NeverTrump conservatives. It's a case made with some speculative leaps, some prayers for luck, and a bottom line suggestion that the devil you don't know — Trump — might be better than the devil you do know.

Here's Kesler on Trump's virtues:
Here Trump’s populism, or what Walter Russell Mead calls his Jacksonianism, comes to bear: He trusts the American people, not the special interests or the governing elite.
I'd say we're terribly short of evidence on that front. True, Trump's been pretty down on the special interests and governing elite — but his rhetoric isn't that "the American people are smarter than that." It's "I'm smarter than that." This glorification of self doesn't suggest a trust of Americans does it? It really only means that Trump thinks he's smarter than all the folks who already think they're the smartest people in a given room.

Kesler on the devil you know....
Liberalism’s century-old effort to turn the president into a “leader” who can rise above constitutional constraints such as federalism and the separation of powers might, under certain circumstances, be music to Trump’s populist ears. But what he might be tempted into is what Clinton is committed to on principle, as a self-described progressive. How could a vote for Clinton be defended as a vote for greater constitutional safety, much less integrity?
But where's the evidence a President Trump would acknowledge the restraints of the Constitution or the law? His promise to force the military to torture terror suspects in violation of the law? His attempts to strongarm news organizations into good coverage?  His encouragement of violence against protesters at his rallies? His illegal solicitation of campaign contributions from overseas? There's no indication Trump has any philosophy regarding the Constitution of governance. Yeah: I think it's more than possible that from a conservative standpoint that Hillary Clinton will hew more closely to Constitutional governance than trump.

Kelser also suggests that Trump's critics make two unresolvable charges against him: That he's a buffoon with control issues and that he's also a "monster, a racist, a wily demagogue, a proto-fascist or full-fledged fascist, a tyrant-in-waiting."
The two arguments are in some tension, insofar as the first implies that Trump doesn’t know what he is doing or is not serious about it, and the second that he knows precisely what he is doing and is deadly serious about it.
I don't know. Seems to me the first argument is that Trump is a fool and the second is that Trump might be an evil fool. There's nothing in conflict there, I don't think. History is full of such fellows.

Kesler's best argument is that conservatives shouldn't so lightly dismiss a candidate approved by millions of their fellow Republican voters. Maybe. But that makes popularity its own justification. Unfortunately, that's the best justification for Trump that Kesler offers.

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