Politics & Policy

Trump Has No Clue What American Government Is All About

(Photo Illustration: NRO)
Donald Trump is an instinctive advocate of big government.

Donald Trump is not a details guy. From his checkered experience in business, he draws this lesson: “One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper.”

Question: Who thinks that Donald Trump actually has read the paper?

Asked at a town-hall meeting (which isn’t actually a town-hall meeting, but we insist on calling these dog-and-pony shows that and pretending that they are) to list the top three priorities of the federal government, Trump responded: “Security, security, and security.” That the candidate was stalling for time while his political mind, honed to the fine edge of an old butter knife, ran through the possibilities was to be expected. We are used to his filibustering by now. He was right to identify security as the overriding concern of the U.S. government.

The federal enterprise was created to handle those tasks that are by their nature interstate or national: War, relations with foreign powers, international and interstate trade, immigration, and relations between the states are the reasons it exists. A superior power is required to solve problems that cannot be adjudicated by a single state, such as cooking up an excuse for why Texas must be forced to honor your Massachusetts-issued same-sex-marriage license while Massachusetts has no reciprocal obligation to honor your Texas-issued concealed-carry permit, despite the pesky fact of gun rights actually being right there in the Constitution and all. All right, maybe not the best example. The federal government is necessary because it alone can create and execute a program under which “aid” to foreign governments is laundered back into the pockets of campaign contributors through military-procurement rules. Okay, not a great example, either. But the federal government does something useful, of that we are assured. It’s not like all those thousands of federal factota hived up in Washington do nothing but sit around and masturbate to Internet porn all day.

Trump does not oppose big government. He believes that we simply haven’t been doing it right.

But the Trumpkin view of all Trumpkin enterprises is expansive, demanding superlatives. And so Trump expanded. Other top federal duties, he declared, included “health care, education . . . and then you can go on from there.” Go on to where? “Housing, providing great neighborhoods.” Anderson Cooper, tasked with the necessary duty of reminding Trump that this contradicts everything he said until five minutes ago, asked: “Aren’t you against the federal government’s involvement in education? Don’t you want it to devolve to states?” Sure, Trump said, but — see if you can make anything of this — we must consider the “concept of the country.” (If that sounds like a cheesy theme hotel, well . . . ) And: “The concept of the country is the concept that we have to have education within the country.” Indeed. Likewise, he rejects the notion of a federally run health-care system, advocating instead a “private” system that is . . . federally run, or, in Trump’s phrasing, led by the federal government, in case you for some reason believe that “led by” and “run by” mean different things when the federal government is involved — which is to say, if you are a credulous rube.

One would think that a real-estate man from New York City would have some appreciation of what kind of “great neighborhoods” are created by federal policy, but one suspects that Trump is mainly unfamiliar with those parts of New York between Central Park North and Yankee Stadium.

#share#Trump, who until recently supported a Canadian-style government-monopoly health-care system, says that the answer is in competition. He’s partly right about that, but the idea that there is going to be robust competition — strong enough to drive down prices and increase quality — under a system led by the federal government is, forgive me for noticing, exactly the thinking that produced the so-called Affordable Care Act, the Obamacare regime that Trump professes to disdain.

Yes, professes: His political donations helped sustain the Democratic politicians who created it. Maybe you believe he is in earnest. Maybe you are a credulous rube. You can believe that a guy whose preferred health-care policy was somewhat to the left of the French model suddenly became a born-again Friedmanite in his seventh decade walking this good green Earth, in much the same way that you can believe that a man who had no moral reservations about the commercial vivisection of human children for the purpose of accommodating sexual convenience suddenly embraced Mother Teresa’s view of abortion at approximately the same politically convenient moment.

#related#Trump does not oppose big government. He believes that we simply haven’t been doing it right. Trumpism, like the “true Communism” beloved of Berkeley sophomores, has never been tried. Or so he thinks. Of course it has: in Italy, in Germany, in Spain, in Venezuela — and here, under Woodrow Wilson’s “war socialism” and the New Deal, which was little more than Wilsonian war socialism filtered through Franklin Roosevelt’s sense of noblesse oblige. Trump, who has no noblesse to oblige him, is constrained by no philosophy, no principle, and no real knowledge of our constitutional order. To admit that there is something that the federal government under Trump cannot do well is to admit that there is something Trump cannot do well, and Trump cannot endure the thought. Federally run health care? Sure, but it’ll be great this time around. A big ugly federal footprint in education? If you cannot trust Donald Trump and his third-grade reading skills to set education policy, who can you trust? And, of course, expect the classiest housing projects you’ve ever seen, because the government is going to build great neighborhoods.

The concept of the country is well-ordered liberty with the necessary evil of a federal government and a presidency that are severely limited in their scope and ambition by provisions written into the Constitution itself. The federal government has enumerated powers, and satisfying Donald Trump’s bloated and cancerous sense of the importance of his own ridiculous person is not one of them.

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