That debate last night was painful. And not just for the obvious reasons. We all know that Donald Trump is a horrible misogynist. We all know that he is a horrible racist. We all know that he has no relevant experience that qualifies him for the presidency. But last night I saw something else. In fact, I’m surprised that I never saw this before. It’s a little embarrassing, in fact. This guy cannot even hold a conversation his counterpart, the press, nor the voters. He was completely outmatched up there. He obviously has not even read a newspaper or a briefing book. Just take his insistence that the military should not telegraph its strategy before major operations. Martha Raddatz and Hillary Clinton were visibly frustrated. He has no appreciation for nuance; the world that Trump inhabits is black and white, and he has no desire to complicate his simplistic view of the world. These debates are there so that we can compare the candidates on their policy ideas. But Trump does not even have the aptitude (or is it attitude?) to engage in that conversation. These debates are a waste of time. Trump is like a schoolkid that didn’t do the homework before class, and all American citizens are the rest of the class suffering as he slows down today’s lesson.
In addition to baseball and biology (in that order), I also nurse an interest in politics. This primary season has really fascinated me, particularly because of the cast of characters that the GOP trotted out there. So, of course, I’m going to talk about Donald Trump and why hypothetical President Trump might not be as bad as anyone thinks he could be.
Before we really get started, there are two things I want to make clear off the rip. First, I do not support Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. I think that the xenophobic, sexist, and generally unenlightened remarks that he has made throughout his primary campaign are disqualifying; someone who has said those things into a microphone should not represent our nation to the world.
Second, I do not think that Donald Trump has any real chance of being president in January. This election will likely be Clinton’s coronation, and it seemed like it would be that way months ago. But the fact is that Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee, putting him mere electoral college votes away from being the “most powerful man in the world.”
This hooligan’s proximity to the Oval Office has put me in a bit of an existential rut lately, and it took a lot of introspection to pull myself out of that hole. But it finally dawned on me: I don’t think President Trump would be too terrible. I know, but hear me out. The president has power, but the office is not a dictatorship. Trump would still have to work within the confines of our republic, particularly with a Congress that would likely stymie anything he might try to do (and hey, We the People are used to that after the last eight years).
In addition to the checks and balances built into the system that would keep hypothetical President Trump from Trump-ing out too much as the Commander in Chief, there is also the inertia of the bureaucratic systems built around the presidency that carry over from administration to administration. For example, the intelligence officials who brief the president daily to keep him or her up to speed on global situations would have their own agenda from day one. It is likely that their advice would keep President Trump from marching down to Mexico City and slapping an invoice down on Peña Nieto’s desk for the newly erected border wall.
There is certainly damage that can be done. The worst that Trump can do might be to rile up unstable members of our society who have been waiting for “strong” president to “say what everyone is thinking” and “not give a damn about being politically correct.” We have all seen what can happen when certain individuals are emboldened by political rhetoric to take matters into their own hands. If hypothetical President Trump would continue talking about the Mexican people, women, and other groups like he has done in the past, it may convince someone to do something. He would be the president, after all.
But all of this might be ridiculous to contemplate. Trump just isn’t a general election candidate. Sure, he cleaned up in the primaries, but that is because the primaries select for the most “out there” candidates, who then have to tack back to the middle to be viable in November. Trump certainly can’t do that, right? But maybe there is reason to worry about a viable Trump general election candidacy. Consider that the Trump rhetoric has seemed to dull a bit lately. After knocking Cruz out of the primary in Indiana (all but assuring his own GOP nomination), Trump even seemed respectful of his competitor Cruz. He has also been avoiding some of the over-the-top offensive speech topics that he gained notoriety (and a ton of free media coverage) for earlier in the primaries, probably due to the influence of new political handlers that he has brought into the campaign in preparation for a run at the Oval Office in November.
Taken all together, this can be terrifying for those of use who never wanted, nor expected, Trump to have any chance in November. He still has to go up against the Clinton political machine, and who knows how offensive his rhetoric might become in a contest against a strong woman candidate. Heck, he has already suggested that Clinton is only polling high because she holds the “woman card.” In other words, he still has time to screw this all up. But even if he doesn’t, hey, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. This time next year, we might all be wearing matching hairpieces. I, for one, welcome our new overlord.
Update: The NY Times posted a piece that made some of the same points that I made at around the same time that I put this piece up, so go have yourself a look-see over there if the spirit moves you to do so.