Trump uniquely suited to this American moment
By Dr. Ben Carson
Donald Trump, until now considered by many to be a fringe candidate with poor prospects at winning the national election, has now solidified his role as a leading contender for President of the United States. Though Trump lacks some of the traditional trappings of political leadership, he is, in tone, style, and substance, uniquely suited to the prevailing mood of the American electorate.
His appeal resonates among a large segment of Americans who feel disaffected and excluded by the current political system. He has bluntly opposed the reigning consensus about the stark challenges America is facing when it comes to crime, national security, immigration, trade and economic growth. And he has painted a more realistic picture of what is actually happening than the polls, government statistics, and media pundits have been able to muster.
Trump’s outright repudiation of both the Democrat and Republican establishments show him to a be a man who cannot be easily bought by the special interests controlling the major political parties.
These qualifications alone make Trump a force to be reckoned with. While his style and tone are unusual, they are not unique to American politics. In some ways Trump’s style closely mirrors the passion and anti-establishment fury expressed by the insurgent candidacy of Bernie Sanders.
Though Sanders has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, his willingness to vigorously stump for Hillary Clinton (which remains to be seen) will be the most pivotal factor in the Democrats’ ability to generate enough passion to mobilize a largely complacent, unmotivated voter base this fall.
Why are the messages of insurgent candidates like Trump and Sanders resonating so deeply among the electorate? It is their perceived lack of political experience that makes all the difference. Washington has been ruled by an increasingly inbred cabal of insiders for the past fifty years or more. Nothing exemplifies this insider problem more than the prospect of the wife of a two-term President being chosen as the party’s new nominee.
It is especially ironic that a party that claims it stands for diversity could not produce ‘fresher’ leadership coming off the heels of a “popular” two-term incumbency. But more critically, entrenched insider advantages have eroded our ability to choose effective leaders, and hampered our ability to compete globally.
Trump’s qualifications start with his outsider status, but also importantly include his success as an entrepreneur, an employer of thousands of people, and a family man who has raised several successful children. In Trump, everyday Americans see an example of how hard work, playing by the rules, and setting high personal standards can benefit them.
They see Trump’s success, not as an anomaly, but as a blueprint for their own path to freedom and prosperity. Trump’s outsized impact on the business world, and on the culture of entrepreneurship in this country, is unprecedented among political candidates.
Trump’s vision for how to get America working again, by protecting our markets and growing the economy, stands in stark contrast to the Democrat’s vision — which is largely focused on class warfare and economic redistribution. How, when the country is almost twenty trillion dollars in debt, are we supposed to redistribute anything — unless we first grow the economy?
Trump’s lack of political experience further benefits him when one considers the failure of political insiders to advance a pro-America agenda the past eight years. Congress has been hopelessly deadlocked, failing to pass even the modest policies they have proposed — on job growth, immigration reform, or even entitlement reform, and even more dangerously, bringing the country to the brink of insolvency several times.
Does Trump speak in broad, grandiose terms? Yes. Is Trump’s oratorical style prone to hyperbole? There is certainly a case to be made to that effect. But is his heart in the right place in terms of wanting to do the right thing for the American people? The answer to that is also a resounding yes!
Though he has shown outright contempt for current public policies — whether on immigration, trade, or national security – Trump has demonstrated a profound respect for the will of the American people. Perhaps, for once the people know best rather than the professional politicians. After all it was the king’s horses and king’s men who broke the American economy and caused the worst recession in almost a hundred years.
And it is those same officials who have failed to revive the moribund American job market (low unemployment statistics means nothing in the context of all-time low labor force participation rates) or restore America’s standing on the global stage. Hillary Clinton, despite her litany of excuses and denials, has made the global situation worse by creating failed states that have become virtual snake pits of violent extremism.
Trump has also been careful not to over-promise by offering specific policy prescriptions that in fact might not work. He has taken a wait and see attitude, because as an entrepreneur (rather than a central planner), he knows that at times the actual territory differs from the map, and adjustments need to be made to stay on course. He does not believe in constraining himself to a certain set of actions, when facts on the ground might demand different solutions.
As a candidate, Trump has offered a broad set of policy prescriptions, that will be further tailored as situations evolve. He has already signaled his willingness to adjust in light of circumstance; for example, he recently amended his proposal for a blanket ban on Muslim immigration, to include a more tailored vetting process that focuses on countries that have been infected by terrorist infiltration — several of those countries are in Europe, not the Middle East.
Trump is not ignorant of the fact that Islamic extremism primarily harms Muslims in majority Muslims nations, but he is clear on his priority about protecting Americans first. Donald Trump knows we must engage in world trade in order to grow our economy, but he also knows that the American consumer market is a highly-prized asset, and wants to bargain for a fairer deal with our trading partners.
If these aspects of Donald Trump’s platform seem like they are rooted in common sense – that’s no coincidence. Trump has perfected the art of leadership under conditions of uncertainty more successfully than any of the other candidates who have run for President this election cycle. While Hillary can spend other people’s money and risk other people’s lives and still live to tell the tale, Donald Trump’s own livelihood, and that of his family and employees critically depended on his leadership.
There was no buck to pass, no American taxpayer to pick up the pieces should he fail. This has made him shrewd, conscientious and ultimately accountable to the people who depend on him to go out and win in the marketplace.
America has to come to grips with the fact that it can no longer afford to serve as the world’s policeman. Confronted with the reality of a pernicious national debt, America has to become shrewder about where and when it exercises military power.
Trump has done nothing more than tell the sober, honest truth, when he conditions continued American military support for NATO on Europe’s own willingness to financially support its’ own defense. If one looks at countries around the world that have made significant economic progress — most notably Germany, India and China — they have not had to dedicate a significant portion of their GDP to defense spending. America has largely paid the tab for Europe’s peace and prosperity.
Conversely, if one looks at the collapse of the Soviet Union, it crumbled from within because its leaders failed to match the size of their military ambition with a corresponding attention to robust economic growth. And in any case, why is anyone even their outside emphasis on nuclear proliferation anymore, when the clear and present danger comes from non-state actors using unconventional warfare tactics?
Perhaps the chief reservation among many establishment Republicans and other undecided voters about Donald Trump was the fact that they were not sure whether he was seeking the Presidency merely to feather his own cap, or whether he actually believes he can make a contribution and do the hard work necessary to move the country forward. Trump’s speech at the GOP convention should put a rest to those concerns.
In the speech, Trump showed both strength and sensitivity; he showed that he could address concerns of those outside of his base — appealing to African Americans on the basis of economic justice. Furthermore, Trump has put his money where his mouth is — fully committing both his personal fortune, his energy, and that of his entire family, towards garnering the support of the American people.
As we go into the final stretch of the general election, the American people are taking a hard look at the candidates and what they represent. Donald Trump has made a pretty robust case for restoring America to greatness under strong executive leadership. At this stage of the game, it is up to the other side to convince us that Trump’s approach is in fact not uniquely suited to this American moment.
Our sense of things is — that is going to be a hard sell.