The Corner

This Is Why a Candidate Needs a Coherent Governing Philosophy

Below, Rich points out, “Trump’s “very good chance” answer–as well as most of that has been said over the last few days–suggests that he has multiple people with different views on the merits and the politics of this issue in his ear and he simply can’t decide where to come down.” In the last Morning Jolt of the week, some discussion of why picking a presidential candidate from “outside politics” almost always means picking someone who hasn’t found a governing philosophy yet. 

The job of governing is going to throw a dozen different problems at a leader every day. Those problems will have a lot of possible solutions, each with strengths and drawbacks – and every course of action will irk, irritate and alienate some portion of the governed. To sort through it all, it’s best if a leader has clear, well-known, well-established principles and a thought-out philosophy.

This is not esoteric or fancy-pants poli-sci egghead mumbo-jumbo. Ultimately, a lot of a leader’s decisions come down to what do you prioritize? What value is most important to you, and which ones are less important? A leader who prioritizes freedom above all other values is going to make different decisions than one who leader who prioritizes order. Americans want a lot of things simultaneously: safety, freedom, prosperity, stability, fairness, opportunity.

These values aren’t always going to be in direct conflict, but they often come in indirect conflict. When it comes to drugs, should the priority be public order or people’s freedom to do what they want? At some point does prosecution and incarceration of drug crimes become a disorderly force by itself?  When it comes to stopping terrorism, should the NSA have broad powers, including domestic surveillance? Or does that power infringe upon Americans’ freedoms? When it comes to cops, who watches the watchmen? If we want everyone to have good health care, should the government make them purchase health insurance, and fine them if they don’t? How you answer those questions will be heavily influenced by what you prioritize and value most.

We kept hearing “Trump’s not a politician”, and occasionally, “look, you can’t expect a guy who’s been a businessman all his life to know every little policy detail.” But Trump’s rambling, often contradictory answers, and ability to flip on an issue like this, indicate he hasn’t really thought that long or hard about this. He’s easily persuaded by the most recent person who speaks to him; remember how he explained it to Hannity:

…When I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I’ve had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they’ve said, ‘Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who’s been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough, Mr. Trump,’ I have it all the time! It’s a very, very hard thing.”

All it took for him to back away from the idea was “very strong people” coming up to him and telling him “it’s so tough.”