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Jack Kerwick / April 6, 2011

Trump in 2012? Maybe Not Such a Bad Thing

Donald Trump will announce in June whether he plans on being a contender for the presidency in the Republican primaries later this year. For several reasons, my excitement over the prospects of a Trump candidacy is mounting.

Let me say first, that in a perfect world, the very idea of a man like Trump running for the presidency, on either party’s ticket, would be unthinkable. This isn’t to suggest that Trump is a bad man, but only that he has no experience in the art of governing. It is a common misconception among many on the right that success in business is likely to translate into success in politics. Not only does this assumption ignore the fact that the frameworks of incentives and constraints within which politicians and free enterprisers respectively operate are by and large mutually antagonistic; it ignores as well the fact that success in business could just as easily portend political failure.

Any business is an enterprise. An enterprise is defined by the goals toward which it is oriented, the goals toward the realization of which each of its members is expected to contribute. Now, obviously, the enterprises that constitute a “system” of “free enterprise” are not compulsory organizations. However, a state is indeed such an organization. It is a mistake of the first order, then, to confuse government with a private employer and citizens with employees.

Free citizens must be free to determine enterprises of their own choosing – not those that the government decides to impose upon them. And what this in turn implies is that a government belonging to citizens, not subjects, free men and women, not servants and/or slaves, simply cannot be patterned on a business or enterprise model, for it exists for no other reason than to facilitate peaceful and orderly co-existence between individuals engaged in all manner of self-chosen pursuits.

A wildly successful businessman like Trump is no less likely to lose sight of this than someone devoid of all business experience.

There is another reason why, in a perfect world, no conservative would treat Trump with any seriousness in connection with the presidency – namely, Trump is no conservative. That “business” and “conservative” are considered virtually synonymous terms by right and left alike is a standing testimony to how effectively the left trades in fictions. A person’s involvement in business is no signifier of his political orientation, it is true, but it is also true that the tycoons of the largest businesses – what the left derisively refers to as “Big Business” – usually donate to Democrats. In that he has contributed to the coffers of no small number of Democratic politicians proves that Trump is no exception to this rule.

Still, our world, the real world, is far from perfect. Given current political realities, Trump may be just what Republican voters need at the moment.

As Trump himself has noted, if not for pervasive voter disenchantment with President George W. Bush, we wouldn’t now have President Barack. H. Obama. In 2008, voters in both major parties and everywhere in between had grown weary of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism.” Of course, being but a euphemism for ever larger government – that is, exactly that thing against which Republican campaign rhetoric rails – it was neither compassionate nor conservative, as conservatives understand these concepts. The Republican Party claimed to have learned this lesson, but beyond vague references to “spending,” no GOP 2012 hopeful has so much as explicitly repudiated Bush “conservatism,” much less specified the respects in which their governance will differ from that of the last Republican president.

Trump, in glaring contrast, has already indicated the willingness, the eagerness even, to make it abundantly clear to both the party and the nation how and why he will be no Bush Republican. This the party faithful and – more importantly, to hear the Republicans tell it – the independents and “moderates” regarding whom the politicians from both parties spare no occasion to woo both need and deserve to know.

But this is not all.

It would be a gross understatement to describe The View as Obama-friendly. Yet just this past week while making an appearance on it, Trump did what no other Republican, much less a Republican with presidential aspirations, would so much as think of doing: he unabashedly expressed his skepticism concerning Obama’s birth certificate. With a single utterance, the Donald in effect legitimized a group of people whose concern for this very same issue earned them the name of “birthers” and rendered them a collective object of derision by left-wing pundits as well as such “respectable” right-leaning personalities as Bill O'Reilly and Michael Medved. And what Trump did for this issue, he will be able to do with any number of issues that McCain and the GOP establishment sought (and continue to seek) to avoid like the plague.

This is the point: there is simply no way that anyone can succeed in depicting someone as internationally famous as Donald Trump as a fringe figure. This, obviously, isn’t to suggest that Trump would be anything at all like an invulnerable candidate; no one is without weaknesses. But Trump’s enemies (among the establishments of both parties) will simply not be able to dismiss him as an “extremist.”

Finally, there are enough disenchanted Democrats, along with similarly disenchanted independents and Republicans, who would be more than willing to give Trump their ears. When this Washington outsider – indeed, outsider to politics! – promises that upon his election to the presidency, “business as usual” in Washington will become a thing of the past, they will have good reason to believe it.

Trump in 2012? This may not be such a bad thing.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D., blogs at www.jackkerwick.com. Contact him at [email protected]

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