WASHINGTON – This is an excerpt from a funny imaginary vignette (Notebook, by Robert Shrimsley, Republicans seek reasons to be cheerful about Donald Trump, The Financial Times, February 11, 2016). Establishment Republicans want to get adjusted to the idea of Donald Trump becoming the GOP nominee:
“Hell, yes. [Trump] is gonna make America great again. And at least he’s not Ted Cruz.
There is that.
And remember he’s already going to fix the problems of our society.
And make America great again?
He’s going to bring in the smartest people around, and they are going to fix our problems.
Damn — why didn’t we think of that?
Because we are part of the Washington elite. Donald thinks outside the box.
That’s how he’ll make America great again.
Has he said which people he’ll bring in?
Well, this imaginary exchange exposes Donald Trump’s complete intellectual void. He’s got a Great Plan, but we do not know what it is. We only know that he will pick the best people to shape it, and implement it. Amazing to see that so many Americans are buying this.
We have seen this before
But the interesting thing is that this is not the first time that someone is selling this CEO approach to public policy-making. Look at this:
“I want people who are smart, tough, self-reliant, have a history of success since childhood, a history of being the best at what they’ve done, people who love to win. And if you run out of people who love to win, look for people who hate to lose.”
Do you know who said that? It was Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who also run for President in 1992, purely on the basis that he was a super successful businessman, and a smart problem solver. Well, he did not make it. But his third party candidacy weakened the Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush, and contributed in some measure to Bill Clinton’s victory. (Ross Perot received almost 20 million votes, about 19% of the total.)
Be that as it may, regardless of elections outcomes, the point is that we have seen this movie before. Ross Perot was another megalomaniac populist, with an outsize ego. And yet millions loved him, and voted for him, because he sold himself as “Mr. Fix It”. Yes, he would have also brought the best people to Washington and put them in charge, so that they would fix things in America, one by one. As easy as that.
The smart people
And now Donald Trump comes along telling us exactly the same thing. He will fix everything because he is the best mind in America and he will get all the smart people in a room, so that together they will figure out how to re-engineer the Nation. Don’t forget that these are all hand-picked geniuses, expertly led by super genius Donald Trump.
Damn — why didn’t we think of that?
Because it is a really bad idea. In a democracy it does not work this way. Yes, the traditional political/policy-making process is cumbersome, wasteful, and pretty horrible. And yes, many people who are put in charge of important policies are not that smart.
No accountability, no freedom
But the only way in which you give the smart people the latitude to use their superior intelligence, so that they can go ahead and fix everything, is by abolishing or at least suspending our system of checks and balances, and giving up our freedom. In order to be able to quickly implement the brilliant ideas of his smart collaborators, President Trump would have to bypass Congress, the Judiciary and more. And what if the Great Policies turn out to be not so Great after all?
Anyway, all this is crazy, infantile, and really dangerous. And yet there are armies of loyal Trump supporters who think that this is indeed the best approach, and the best way forward.
I am asking them to reconsider.