For the umpteenth time, Donald Trump is no conservative. He is an economic populist. When asked to name the top three functions of government, he said national security, health care and education. Two of the three named “duties” one does not find in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.
This puts him exactly where the country is politically — center-left. Americans talk the talk as to their alleged concern for ever-increasing debt. But when asked, “Which programs to cut?” the same complainers look as blank as Homer Simpson when asked to help Bart with his algebra.
Trump says he wants to “fix” Social Security. For a time, President George W. Bush wanted to allow those under 55 to “invest” part of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., could not have been happier, knowing that such a plan scared much of America, no matter how many times Bush tried to assure those over the age of 55 that their Social Security “would not be touched.” Bush’s poll numbers dropped and he abandoned his plan.
Trump flat-out proposes protectionism to stop jobs from being “shipped out” and to impose tariffs on our trading rivals to stop them from “cheating.” The problem is most Americans believe that other countries exploit by protecting their markets and “manipulating” their currency. Assuming this is true, economist Milton Friedman, a Ronald Reagan advisor, said protectionism simply protects against cheap prices for the American consumers. So on trade, Trump is wrongheaded, but no more wrongheaded than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump recently pulled a 180 on the job-destroying minimum wage, first saying he opposed an increase, now saying he might support one. But this puts him on the same side as not only Democrats, but with Republicans like Dr. Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
As with socialist Bernie Sanders, economic anxiety fuels Trump’s candidacy. After eight years of Obamanomics — raising taxes, increasing regulations, “stimulus” and “investing” taxes on failed “green initiatives” — most of the country says that economically we are on the wrong track. Their near stagnant paychecks, unemployment and under-employment tell many Americans that this recovery is the worst in their lifetime. Given the shared grievances of Sanders supporters and Trump supporters, Sanders voters may, in some number, turn to Trump over Clinton.
Unfortunately, the correct prescription to deal with this — lowering taxes, reducing the size of government and reducing regulations — is not what voters want. They want the social safety net preserved, not reformed. This is what Trump is offering.
Trump, unlike Clinton, is not a global-warming alarmist. Asked about climate change, he called it an exaggeration and argued that policies to stop it endanger job creation. This, too, puts Trump on the side of most Americans. Polls of likely voters show that of their top 23 concerns, climate change ranks at or near the bottom. A recent poll found even most millennials do not consider climate change much of a threat.
To the many conservatives who are unhappy with Trump vs. Clinton, consider this. Trump claims he would appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, a dramatic difference from the kind Clinton would nominate. Yes, Trump suggested appointing his pro-Roe v. Wade sister, but there’s no doubt that she is exactly the kind of justice that Clinton would appoint. As to the Second Amendment, Clinton wants to hold gun manufacturers liable for crimes committed by criminals who use guns.
Depending upon how the question is asked, most Americans want the borders secured before beginning any discussion on what to do about the immigration status of the millions here illegally — Trump’s position.
Whether Trump can build a wall, let alone get Mexico to pay is, at best, uncertain. But his views at least suggest that finally we may secure the borders, whether with additional manpower, fencing or other technology or a combination of both. Trump threatens to withhold money from “sanctuary” cities, which refuse to turn over arrested illegal aliens to federal immigration officials. He promises to end “catch and release,” and to require employers to check the immigration status of new hires.
Trump not only claims he opposed the Iraq War, but accuses George W. Bush of lying us into it. This is both wrong and shameful, but many Americans — certainly those on the hard left — oppose the war and feel deceived about it. Trump, at least, criticized Obama’s decision to completely pull the troops out, and feels this aided the rise of ISIS.
So Donald Trump’s populism on the economy — a promise of massive tax cuts for the middle class while saying “the rich will pay more” — and his “I’m not Bush” position on the Iraq War put him right smack-dab in the middle of the center-left American mainstream.
So, yes, Trump can win.