There’s a lot of fear and trepidation of a Trump Presidency, especially from those on the Left. The fear is understandable: he is a horrid, self-centered, egomaniacal, ruthless, cowardly human being. In other words, the exact person who will do well in politics.
But here’s the thing with Trump: nothing, and I mean nothing, that he’s proposed, whether as serious policy or as campaign rhetoric, is unprecedented in the United States. Some of his proposals are fairly old, some are more new, but none are unprecedented.
His scheme to round up Muslims? Just look at FDR’s Executive Order 1066 that created the Japanese Internment Camps.
His schemes to create trade wars and enact massive tariffs? Well, examples are rife throughout US history, not the least of which is Smoot-Hawley.
Building a wall to keep out immigrants? One need look only to Warren Harding and the Progressive Party of the early 20th Century to find cases there of severely limiting immigration.
Eliminate due process for citizens on a secret government list? The Democratic Party just held a sit-in for exactly that power a few weeks ago.
Give the government power to prosecute reporters and groups for reporting “false” information about the government? The Democrats are, as I write this, calling for this exact power.
Trump isn’t asking for vast, new powers to himself. In this way, he is very much unlike Hitler. Instead, Trump would simply use existing powers, created by Republicans and Democrats alike, to accomplish his goal to make America “great” again.
And that’s the ultimate fear, isn’t it? That someone not on “your” team would use the power the government has against you or your team. Hillary Clinton expressed this exact fear (by the way, this would be another thing Trump could do and just point to the precedence set by Barack Obama).
But this fear gets the problem exactly backwards. It doesn’t matter who is in the seat of power; what matters is that such powers exist. The only reason a Trump Presidency is frightening to the Left (and many Americans) is because of the vast power he would wield as President as established by his predecessors. If the powers of the Federal Government were limited, as classical liberals want and the Constitution intended, then it wouldn’t matter who was President or what their personality was.
The problem isn’t Trump (or Clinton or Sanders or Cotton or Cruz or…). The problem is the power that exists. So long as it exists, good men will shy away and the corrupt will be attracted to it. As H.L. Mencken once wrote:
As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
I fear we are at that point.