Republican voters are angry. They are really, really, very, very angry. They are so angry that they are flocking to a reality show star, real estate developer named Trump. They want him to be their champion. They believe that he can be elected and that he is totally competent to do the job of POTUS.
For the last two presidential elections Republicans nominated candidates who were supposed to be electable. Now they seem drawn, like moths to a flame, to candidates who are decidedly not electable. Apparently they believe that since the electable candidates did not get elected the unelectable Trump is just the trick.
Thus does anger cloud one’s judgment. Keep in mind, that there are many different ways to express anger. Some people—I won’t name names—believe that the best way to express anger and to convince people of the depth and intensity of their rage—they imagine that the more intense it is the more true it is—is to burn down their neighborhood.
Surely, this convinces people that you are angry. It does not, however, accomplish anything positive.
One might say that the surest sign of electability is having been elected. On that score, neither Trump nor Ben Carson nor Carly Fiorina, darlings of many Republicans, has any claim to electability.
Of course, Republican pollster Karen Soltis Anderson suggests that Republicans have now concluded that Trump is electable. And they also believe that he is perfectly capable of doing the job.
Again, the question is: based on what record? Some will float the example of Ronald Reagan, but Reagan walked into the White House after having had eight years of experiences as governor of California. Donald Trump, no government experience at all. The same applies to Carson and Fiorina.
We have heard the argument, coming from Trump, that all politicians are stupid, incompetent idiots. One recalls that, back in the day, politicians in New York were having trouble finishing off a skating rink in Central Park. A young Donald Trump took over the project from the band of incompetents and got the job done.
If you think that being president of the United States is like building a skating rink, then Trump is your man.
In the first place, Trump’s dismissal of governors who have good track records is glib and simple-minded. Some governors have made government work in their states, even in blue and purple states. About that, Trump has nothing to say.
Try a thought experiment. Let’s say that your community got together and chose a few Scrabble players to represent you in a tournament. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that said Scrabble players kept losing. Now, disillusioned by your choices, you decide to replace them… with someone who has never played Scrabble but who is a master of Monopoly.
What kind of sense does that make?
John Cassidy, no friend of Republicans, wrote these wise words in The New Yorker:
When asked which candidate in their party could best deal with the threat of Islamist terror, a plurality of Republicans overlooked four sitting senators, three sitting governors, and seven other candidates who in the past have held elected office, in order to opt for a blabbermouth from New York whose foreign-policy and national-security experience consists of hosting golf events in Scotland (where he presumably avoids handshakes so as not to contact germs).
And yet, it’s the wager that many Republican voters are putting down… as we speak.
You know that the conservative media and pundits are horrified by it all. From National Review to the Wall Street Journal, good conservatives believe that Trump will destroy the Republican Party and will lead it to ignominious defeat.
They accept that immigration is an important problem, but they do not agree that deporting all immigrants is the solution. They certainly do not believe that the Republican Party should become the Deportation Party.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page has impeccable conservative credentials. This is how it responded to Trump’s immigration proposal:
Are his police going to search from door to door to arrest 11 million people? How else will they be rounded up?
Mr. Trump says he would keep families together, which would at least spare the scenes of tearful mothers hauled away from their crying children. But Republicans may want to think twice before becoming the party responsible for piling onto buses entire families who are stitched into the fabric of communities. This is not a good political look.
As for forcing the Mexican government to pay for a wall, the Journal understands that the idea is based more on bluster than on rational policy analysis:
Mr. Trump insists that Mexico will “pay for” the wall he wants to build on the southern U.S. border, but even he seems to realize no sovereign state would do this.
So his fallback is to levy higher fines and fees on individual Mexicans, and he also wants to “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages” sent to Mexico from the U.S. That was an estimated $22 billion in 2013, but how is Mr. Trump going to find out which remittances were from illegals? In any case remittances almost certainly reduce the flow of illegal immigration because they reduce poverty in Central America. Migration from Mexico slowed after Mexicans became richer thanks in part to Nafta and remittances.
What then will happen if Trump blocks the flow of seasonal workers?
For a man who has succeeded in business Mr. Trump seems to know little about labor markets. Thousands of U.S. employers depend on the flow of temporary seasonal workers. Mr. Trump seems to think that if those workers aren’t allowed to enter the U.S. employers will simply raise wages. But the Journal reported last week that crops across the West are rotting in the fields for lack of farmhands, despite offers of $17 an hour with benefits for U.S. workers.
A Guatemalan picking strawberries in Washington state doesn’t mean a native-born worker has lost a job. The increasingly integrated North American markets are not zero sum, and the most likely result of the U.S. immigration standstill is moving factories, businesses and farms overseas where labor is cheaper. Or some services will simply vanish in the U.S. as too costly to sustain.
Trump has convinced himself that America’s economic problems stem from a surfeit of immigrants, legal and illegal:
But American wages are not flagging due to immigrants. They are flat because of slow growth and bad economic policies. Immigration is essential to faster growth because it offsets an otherwise aging workforce, brings in new human capital and ideas, and raises the GDP of all workers. Even insular Japan has figured out that it will need guest workers in the future to grow fast enough to finance its aging population.
Surely, illegal immigration is a problem. Without doubt, Barack Obama has single handedly made it much, much worse. And yet, letting anger be your guide will only very rarely put you in the position to solve it. If you cannot get elected,if you cannot know how to govern, and if your policy proposals alienate major segments of the voting population, you have taken a real problem and made it that much more difficult to solve.
The Journal concludes:
The last time Republicans tried this, in the 1920s, they alienated immigrant groups like the Irish and Italians for decades until Ronald Reagan won them back. If they want to lose in 2016, they’ll follow Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant siren.