Is There Such a Thing as “Trumpism”? – Cary Ichter, Partner, Ichter Davis LLC

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters as he takes the stage for a campaign event in Dallas, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero) – Photo courtesy of Google Images

 

This election has witnessed the creation of a new word: Trumpism. Interestingly, according to one writer in The Atlantic, “Trumpism existed long before Donald Trump ever strode across the political stage.”  The same writer explained Trumpism as follows:

The Brexit vote and the emergence of the Finns Party are both examples of the rise of Trumpism, a brew of nationalist, populist, anti-establishment, anti-“expert,” anti-globalist, protectionist, “us versus them,” and most of all, anti-immigrant sentiment. Nativist and anti-immigrant parties have arisen across Europe, including the National Front in France, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, the Jobbik party in Hungary, the Danish People’s Party, the Sweden Democrats, and the Progress Party in Norway.

Dominic Tierney, “The Global Spread of Trumpism,” The Atlantic, July 19, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/07/trump-brexit-far-right/491786/

Such are the perils of allowing your adversaries to define you. As for me, rather than using the label as a device to conflate an opposing political perspective with fascism and evil, I would prefer to understand if there is a coherent political philosophy that binds together various policy initiatives, indicating that they emerge from certain core values and principles.

The central unifying principle of candidate Trump’s campaign (other than the general plan to make everything great) is to do that which places America’s interests ahead of all other interests and to “make America great again.” The question then becomes whether the policies articulated by the Trump campaign serve those principles. It appears that the Trump policies that have drawn the most fire involve immigration

First, let me say, I do not like Mr. Trump—not even a little bit. That said, while it is true that Trump’s positions appear at first glance to be “anti-immigrant,” a more thoughtful analysis suggests otherwise—or, at least, suggests that they are not motivated by enmity for immigrants. Instead, the policies tend to fall into one of two categories: anti-illegal immigration or restricting immigration in a manner intended to serve the interests of domestic workers.

Trump’s anti-illegal immigration policies include: tripling the number of ICE officers; implementing nationwide e-verify; mandatory return of all criminal aliens; detention—not catch-and-release; defunding sanctuary cities; enhancing penalties for overstaying a visa; cooperating with local gang task forces; and ending birthright citizenship.

 

I searched Trump’s web site for mention of rounding up 10-12 million resident illegals and shipping them home but could not find that as a stated policy. That said, Mr. Trump’s flip and flop and flip back on that subject is troubling and has aroma of fascism and a whiff of pandering. If Trump wants to quiet critics (like that is ever going to happen) on this subject, he (not his surrogates) needs to make his position plain—while not wearing a brown shirt. I hope he will do so in the debates.

 

I cannot tell which of the referenced measures is fascist, racist, or anti-legal immigrant. Indeed, these policies are only fascist, racist and anti-immigrant to the extent that our current laws can be so described. Mr. Trump’s proposed policies are merely strategies for implementing and actually enforcing current law. The exception to that generalization is the idea of ending birthright citizenship, although that does not appear to be a terribly controversial idea, as many Democrats support the idea as well.

 

Unfortunately, these rather sensible policies tend to get lost in Mr. Trump’s apparent pre-occupation with strong-man machismo and his insistence on silliness, like mocking his opponents or declaring that “Mexico will pay for the wall.” Presidential temperament is displayed and satisfied with finding solutions and implementing them. Men of true stature do not feel the need to rub an opponent’s nose in their defeat; winning and getting it right is enough. There, Mr. Trump has real issues.

As for legal immigrants, again the Trump policies are surprisingly sensible and tame. They include: (i) Increasing prevailing wages for H-1B visa holders. This will make U.S, tech workers price-competitive with their foreign counterparts. (Dems are in favor of a higher minimum wage generally. What is the problem with this?); (ii) Requiring US companies to hire American workers first. As an opponent of big government regulation, this is not particularly appealing to me. The wage adjustment would be an evening of the playing field. We should allow the market to do the rest. This is idea looks like picking winners and losers; (iii) Ending welfare abuse. We should not be importing people to be on the dole. (Is there anyone who disagrees with this?); (iv) Jobs program for inner city youth by which the J-1 visa jobs program for foreign youth will be terminated and replaced with a resume bank for inner city youth provided to all subscribers of to the J-1 visa program; (v) Pausing the issuance of any new green cards issued to foreign workers and requiring employers to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers. This idea ignores that there may be some needs in some places that cannot be filled by the available labor pool. This appears to be pandering.

So, is there a legitimate reason for the media to have invented the concept of Trumpism—particularly given their admission that the notions behind it pre-date Trump? Probably not.  But it is a campaign and is therefore, as our current President once dubbed it, “the silly season.” So, those who oppose Mr. Trump (more than I do) will conjure up every vile concept they can imagine, put it in a single box, and put Mr. Trump’s name on it.  A fair-minded and dispassionate evaluation of Mr. Trump’s policies disclose that they are, though often camouflaged by bombast and bluster, generally fairly sensible and tame.  So, if Mr. Trump is a fascist or racist, his policies hide it well.

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