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May 18th 2016 print

Peter Smith

Trumpophobia

If they were taking exception only to his language, critics of the man who is near-certain to be anointed the Republican presidential contender might have a point. Instead, what fuels their rants and denunciations is an other-worldly refusal to recognise the very issues that have driven his rise

dump trumpGet over it! Get over it! Before the world gets stuck with Hillary Clinton in cahoots with some far-left VP like, for instance, Elizabeth Warren. This was my thought when I read yet another conservative dumping on Trump; effectively wishing upon the US at least four more years of feckless foreign policy, open borders, escalating debt, and an activist Supreme Court potentially stretching two decades and more into the future. This time it was Niall Ferguson – writing originally in the UK’s The Sunday Times, reprinted in The Weekend Australian, 14-15 May.

Ridiculous claims littered the article without the least bit of credible evidence. Apparently Donald Trump would be “a global wrecking ball [who] would simultaneous break up the transatlantic alliance, sour the Sino-American relationship [and possibly consummate a ‘bromance’ with Putin] that freezes the blood.” On the domestic front, according to Ferguson, the US Constitution and its separation of powers is the only bulwark against disaster. “So how can he be stopped?” Ferguson asks. Why not simply say ‘I don’t like the guy!’ and be done with it, instead of inventing a caricature of his policies to fill a column.

Let’s cut to the chase. Trump will not break up the transatlantic alliance. He wants NATO allies (and also South Korea and Japan and, no doubt, Australia) to relieve the US military of its disproportionate share of the heavy lifting and take more responsibility for defending themselves. As he says, the US, with $19 trillion-and-growing of debt,  can’t do it anymore. World Bank figures (over the period 2011 to 2015) show US military spending at 3.5% of its huge GDP. Japan and Canada (what a joke) spend 1% of their GDP, Germany 1.2%, Italy 1.5 %, Australia 1.8%, the UK 2%, France 2.2% and South Korea 2.6%. Of America’s allies, only Israel pulls its weight (as it must, of course), spending 5.9%. Maybe I am missing something, but from an ‘America-first’ perspective, and as The Donald might say, what the heck is going on?

He knows that you don’t get a better deal unless those on the other side think you are serious about walking away. Is that too hard to get? Because he’s an entrepreneur and businessman, Trump knows that you only get a better deal if the other side has something to lose. And, not so strangely, so do a lot of common people who might have haggled in shops and markets. A potential walker always gets a better deal. Why otherwise would a salesperson ever drop the price?

Equally with China, he wants a better deal on trade, hence the suggestion of a tariff. Those cocooned in the media, in universities, in politics just don’t get it. And they repeat the mantra that Trump is against free trade. Listen up! There is no such thing as free trade. It doesn’t exist. That is why free-trade deals take so long to put together and are so tortuous and complex. If trade were free, simple one line communiqués would do it: “trade between our countries is free.” None exist.

And why is attempting a rapprochement with Russia so threatening. Talk about objecting for the sake of it. It wasn’t so long ago that Tony Blair suggested an alliance between the West and Russia to counter Islamic terrorism. Fine, it would be difficult; but, with North Korea, Iran and ISIS threatening world security, it might be sensible to at least try to forge better relations with Russia. After all, Hillary tried her ‘reset’ in 2009. Maybe Trump will have more success; he couldn’t have less.

What exactly is amiss with the principle of Trump’s policies to secure the borders, to prevent the entry of potential terrorists, and to enforce immigration laws that he would be sworn to uphold as president? Of course, practicalities will enter into it. They always do and he will have to compromise in order to get anything through congress. But compromise is better from a principled position.

Again it comes down to the art of dealing 101. Namby-pamby conservatives, who largely populate the Republican side of Congress, are going to water things down in any event; so why make it easier for them with a set of gutless proposals in the first place? Therein is the key to Trump’s thinking and, correspondingly, to the lack of insight and comprehension among the ‘Never Trumps’.

They don’t understand his way of thinking. For example, they want their candidate to promise to cut entitlements. First, that is the way not to get elected or, indeed, to get kicked out – as Joe Hockey and Tony Abbot found out here. Second, it places the cart before the horse.

Trump’s policy is clear enough for those not blinded by prejudice. In the first instance he intends to bring entitlement spending down by reinvigorating the economy — and creating jobs — through regulatory and taxation reform and better trade deals. That, in fact, is the only way to start doing anything of materiality. Now I am not sure what he intends doing after that but a vibrant and growing economy is a much better place to be in electorally — and economically — to begin the task of phasing in any tightening of entitlement programs.

As it stands, there are no politicians with the nous, courage or skill to renegotiate trade deals; to severely cut environmental regulations and increase the extraction and use of fossil fuels; or to reform taxation in order to boost investment and keep manufacturing from leaching abroad. Nor are there any politicians who will take effective and resolute action to rout ISIS, secure America’s borders, and prevent hordes of Muslims entering America at the cost of its safety and cultural integrity. Experience has shown that conclusively. And that is precisely why America (and the world) needs Trump. It is no accident that he has arisen: cometh the moment.

Finally, and fortunately, Niall Ferguson and Never-Trump intellectuals like him have only one vote each. It won’t amount to a hill of beans. A group of miners in a single West Virginian coal mine, who usually vote Democrat, and who have no illusions about the misery of unemployment, will switch and more than make up for them; scribble away bitterly as they might from their job-secure ivory towers.

 

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [21]

  1. Bill Martin says:

    Spot on once again Peter. I, myself, am a recent convert from having been a sceptic previously, and wishing that we had a potential “wrecking ball” to smash our increasingly useless, dysfunctional political and economic quagmire.

    • sabena says:

      The point to be emphasised is that Trump won his party’s nomination fair and square.Contrast that with Hillary and her super delegates.Criticising the Republicans who voted for Trump is just being elitist and anti democratic.

    • Peter says:

      Bill I think your experience is that of an increasing number of Americans. And, I reckon it will become a flood as enough people realise that yet more progressive politics – from either side, but particularly from Hillary and the Democrats – would take the US beyond the point of return. Only Trump has a chance, in my view, of turning things around – and it is only a chance. I wonder whether those conservatives opposed to Trump realise how grave the situation is and if they do what precisely is their solution.

      • pgang says:

        “….would take the US beyond the point of return.” I think that’s the question on everyone’s mind. Where is that point of no return, and have we already gone past it?

  2. pgang says:

    Indeed. And there is the added bonus of smashing apart the established political narcissism.

  3. Jody says:

    My eldest son says American needs Trump to run it into a wall; only then will America wake up to itself!!

  4. Keith Kennelly says:

    Tell your son; Trump is going to destroy the no hope lefties the raucous pc mob and the gunshy safe at all costs cowering fools.

    We’ll all be better off for that

  5. Bran Dee says:

    Another person’s eldest son Jody reads the Economist and on the pages of that warped socialist scribble has in the past appeared backing for KRudd, Gillard, Merkel and her boat people, Cameron, and Obama, but nothing positive for Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, or Trump.

    Once again Peter Smith makes sense and I suppose that bars him from being on any panel of the ABC where his comments need to be heard.

    • Jody says:

      No, my son has never read The Economist. His ideas are entirely his own. And when a nation has become a sink hole of lefty ‘progressive’ pc then it’s only a downward spiral from there. But, we could both be quite wrong. Hillary might get the Presidency and American will once again prosper and take in yet more immigrants. Yep, and pigs might fly.

      • padraic says:

        Trump’s concern at the huge financial burden for America to support its allies around the world is similar to the concerns of the British governments in the 19th century during the time of colonial expansion and consolidation. The cost of sending troops from Britain to quell uprisings in the colonies, whether they be of the indigenous or local settler sort (e.g. South Africa) or originating from a competing colonising power (e.g. the French in Canada)was a great burden on the British taxpayer and was a factor in the rise of the “Little Englander” movement. This was one factor that led to a determination by British governments, both Conservative and Liberal, that the colonies should federate and take more responsibility for defending themselves both financially and militarily, so as to relieve the pressure on UK finances. Canada federated in 1867, Australia in 1901 and South Africa in 1910. The Zulu War in 1879 in Natal was extremely expensive as were the two Boer Wars in 1880-81 and 1899-1902. So it is good to see someone in America who is displaying some strategic and financial common sense and the allies had better get used to it if he gets in.

        • Jody says:

          Agreed. The USA is broke. Add to that what I call “living room wars”, where events – no matter how horrific – unfold in American homes. This seems to have had two consequences; (a) American pride has been damaged by recent defeats; (b) They’ve grown tired of their people being brought home in body bags. So, I think there’s more than a financial dimension to this. And, of course, there have been periods in the past where America has retreated into ‘isolation’.

          Personally, I think there can never be “make America great again” because the culture has changed so significantly that being a warrior is no longer considered to be something of honour or value.

  6. Warty says:

    ‘Get over it’ indeed. Donald Trump is every liberal’s nightmare of the mythic dark knight launching his head-on attack on the idyllic world of political correctness, muzzled speech and creeping Islamisation.
    That Putin, should call him ‘a really brilliant and talented person’, and that Trump should reply in kind, ‘he’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country’, is enough to have even the Republicans predicting Armageddon. But what are the indignant moralisers actually criticising? Is it the brash man who apparently speaks unscripted (and must therefore be a ‘loose cannon’) or is it that he is drawing great swathes of the silent majority towards him; those who see him as their universal spokesman; the unwashed masses the liberals would rather keep silent.
    ‘Enough of the bearded Conchettas’ they cry, ‘of the predatory sexualisation of our very young; of the fear that prevents us from telling SBS that ‘Get Back From Where You Came From’ was a set up from start to finish; and that the NAB Bank is facilitating Sharia banking into Australia, so that our ports will belong to Qatar and our roads to Saudi Arabia and our women to roaming asylum-seeking men, some star-lit New Year’s eve. Our current leaders fear to stand up to what they see as the inevitable, and depose those who do indeed speak up (just a little). Enough, we say, and bring on the Trumps of this world, so that we can once again look to someone of some moral standing’.

  7. Great article thank you Peter. I have only one major reservation about Trump:- does he actually believe in the true value to civilisation of freedom/free markets?
    I have huge doubts. Regardless of his success in the ‘semi-free’ markets of the US over the last century, where Donald had to ‘buy favours’ [even from the Clintons and other Democrats] I suspect that ‘the Donald’ actually believes in the ‘power’ of government to ‘fix’ problems. I suspect that he thinks that if only strong wilful capable people [like him] were in charge, and did things his way, then all of the problems that have been caused by ‘strong governments’ of the past, such as Stalin’s, Hitler’s and Mao’s etc., wouldn’t have occurred.
    Einstein was once reputed to have said that ‘Insanity is doing the same thing , over and over again and expecting different results’. How many times do socialist ‘experiments’ have to fail before our ‘intelligentsia’ in academia and the MSM will eventually realise that socialism has never worked, will never work and CAN never work. If the results from the ‘revolutionary socialist’ efforts in the USSR, post WW2 Eastern Europe’, North Korea, Cuba etc.etc. from the past, and the recent slightly more ‘democratic socialist’ efforts in Venezuela, Brazil [and even the EU and the UK] ALL demonstrating that socialism is a failure isn’t enough proof, what will it take before the lesson sinks in? A new dark ages when the lesson might just be fatal for civilisation?
    The only essentials for wealth creation and prosperity are :- 1. rule of law 2. freedom/free markets and 3 limited/small government. If Don Trump moves politically in those directions he will be a giant for civilisation, if he is just another Tony Blair who thinks that there is a ‘third way’ [i.e a system other than capitalism/freedom and socialism in its many disguises] then ‘the Donald’ may be the biggest menace to civilisation since Hitler, Mao and Stalin.

    • Warty says:

      Alas, denandsel, you may be right, though you may need to ‘keep your powder dry’ before you voice ‘major reservation’ and ‘huge doubts’, or even venture a ‘I suspect’. The truth is we don’t as yet know, and it requires a significant degree of trust for on-lookers and participants alike.
      I really like your Einstein analogy, if simply because it is patently true. And your statement regarding the essentials for ‘wealth creation and prosperity’ almost echo aspects of the ALA manifesto. As you suggest, we live in an age of ‘nanny states’ and big government.
      They say a country gets the leader they deserve and yet the US, France and Britain played a significant role in deposing Muammar Gaddafi; supported the ‘Arab Spring’ that saw the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak; and tried to make ‘Bashar al-Assad must go’ a precondition for Syrian peace negotiations (fortunately Russia put paid to that). Collectively, they have shown very little understanding of Middle Eastern politics. So cowardly, anarchic and self serving is the nature of ‘the street’, that the only really effective form of ‘government’ is the iron fist. Nasser knew this intimately, when as a leading member of the ‘Free Officers’, helped bring about the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt and then in turn narrowly avoided an assassination attempt by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which remained a constant threat, eventually coming to power in 2012.
      Nasser had to fabricate astounding, overwhelming victories at the start of the 1967 Arab Israeli war, out of fear of violent retribution had the truth about Egypt’s catastrophic defeats become evident to the mob. Ironically, left wing European governments loved this particular dictator, whose secret police was every bit as brutal as Bashar Assad’s.
      So why do I seem to have digressed so wildly? Well, you said that ‘the Donald’ could well be the biggest menace since Hitler, Mao and Stalin. Personally, I think this is just a tad exaggerated, but I do think America has become so corrupt, so morally debased, that it needs one almighty shake up, and I think we are heading that way in Australia with the rise and rise of liberal secular humanism and major parties infected with the same sort of centre-left ideology as their counterparts in the UK. The level of frustration is rising noticeably in the ‘silent majorities’ here in Australia, in the UK, in France, Sweden, Germany and certainly America. France has its Marine Le Penn, England (sort of) has its Nigel Farage, America its Donald Trump and Australia? Well who knows. Hopefully these leaders may avert this ‘new dark ages when the lesson might be just fatal for civilisation’, as you perhaps wisely put it.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Denandsel:

      The only essentials for wealth creation and prosperity are :- 1. rule of law 2. freedom/free markets and 3 limited/small government.

      This is not exclusive. Feudal societies lacked most of 2, and yet created wealth. And modern Australia creates stacks of wealth without 3.

  8. Bryce M says:

    Speaking of getting along with Russia, compared to all the talk we hear about Russia being aggressive and expansionist etc. Consider that Vladimir Putin recently threatened a Russian invasion of another country ..North Korea! Yes.. an invasion, if Kim Jong Il did not stop threatening his neighbours with nuclear attack.

    Kim Jong Il, the belligerent little freak who heeded nobody till that time, has suddenly become much quieter. If Putin says he will attack judging by past performance, it would be wise to believe him.

    Less threatening. Even a bit conciliatory. It was probably completely unexpected. He knows no doubt that Russia has the teeth to back up its bark, and how. Just over the Amur river, no more than a day or twos drive for a tank division. haldtaPutin threatened war for the sake of Japan and South Korea. Japan is obviously gobsmacked and Abe has been in meetings with Putin aiming to improve relations between Japan and Russia, till now a dreaded neighbour.

  9. Colin S says:

    I watched part of Andrew Bolts discussion with Niall Ferguson, last night. For an academic he just doesn’t get it. He is regarded as a conservative but I have a lot of difficulty in coming to terms with his thought processes. His attempt at explaining the GFC left me none the wiser, but perhaps that’s my problem.

    Peter’s article, here, is right on the money and it beats me why some find Trump so hard to follow. I always credited conservatives, of which I consider myself being one, to have more intelligence than some are showing. You don’t have to like the man, you don’t even have to like his methods, but so far he has shown an astuteness far exceeding that of his opposition and of the establishment talking heads.

    I just wish we hand a Donald Trump in Australia.

    • Good luck with your Donald Trump, I would prefer a Margaret Thatcher or even another John Howard or Ronald Reagan. They weren’t pure/true ‘laissez-faire’ advocates, but they were the nearest that can/could ever occur under our ‘unlimited’ democracy arrangements, where everybody is allowed to ‘vote’ themselves access to the efforts of other people. Laissez-faire basically means ‘leave [us] alone’, I hope that the ‘Donald’ plans to ‘leave us alone’ but I doubt it.

      • padraic says:

        Another essential for wealth creation and prosperity is equality of opportunity. I was lucky to grow up in a time in Australia when that was available, thanks to the generation that ran the country after WW2 and who believed in work and not entitlement (aka ‘bludging on others’ or ‘equality’). I noticed there was an article on just that in today’s Australian. The current confected ‘class warfare’ of the Greens and the ALP is hypocrisy at its worst.

  10. Stuart says:

    Great article, Peter. The Donald would get my vote first and foremost because I know his heart is in the right place. Consider the following.

    He wants to deport all illegal immigrants right now. It is a mark of how dissolute the American polity has become, that such basic enforcement of the law is neglected.

    He treats the New Left with the contempt they deserve. Who will pay for the wall? All together now… Mexico!!! When asked by a querulous reporter whether he would torture terrorists (paraphrasing):
    Trump: “We have to beat the savages.”
    Interviewer: “But what about their human rights?!”
    Trump: “We have to beat the savages.”
    In response to a young lady asking provocatively whether, under a Trump administration, she would earn as much as a man:
    “You’ll earn as much if you do as good a job.”
    In response to an audience member objecting to the term “anchor baby”:
    Trump: “Ok, what term would you prefer?”
    Objector: [inaudible but lengthy]
    Trump: “Excuse me. I’ll use the word ‘anchor baby’.”
    And in response to the “black lives matter” movement, which has a tendency to demonise whites, he pointed out that almost all blacks killed by gun crime are killed by blacks.

    Finally, he wants to keep Muslims out. Uniquely among politicians, he has shown that he’s willing to discriminate against Muslims, which is rational, because Muslims have a bad habit of persecuting and killing.