October 25, 2016

NOBODY’S OPINIONS | A Final Summary: Reasons You Shouldn’t Vote for Trump

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At last, the election is nearly upon us. The United States of America will have voted and within a fortnight we will know the outcome. Therefore, let me take this opportunity to explain why you should not be voting for Trump, one last time.

First, let’s examine the reason why people vote, not only for Trump, but at all. What is the meaning of a vote? Does voting even have any specific meaning? After all, people vote for all sorts of different reasons: some people vote for the person they think will be best for the economy, some vote for the people they think will advance their rights and conventional wisdom suggests that others vote for superficial reasons such as voting for the same person as their friends are (though secret ballots should alleviate this problem in theory, in practice this doesn’t happen), or else the most physically attractive candidate.  Whatever motivations people have for voting, all people are voting for the person they would rather see as president. Some people, of course, are voting totally arbitrarily with no significant thought on the matter, but the fact that you are reading this essay is enough to ensure that you are not.

So, let’s proceed under the assumption that you’re voting for the person you’d rather see in the Oval Office. Some of you are voting for Donald Trump, and some of you are not. And there are, conceivably, reasons to vote for Trump. As this picture from the RNC Facebook page illustrates, there are genuine reasons people prefer Trump to Hillary Clinton. I feel like most of the reasonable discourse I’ve heard is in this vein, that Trump promotes policies that are better for the United States than his opponent’s.

Of course, this graphic isn’t exactly representative of both sides of the argument, so I think it’s fair to provide the rebuttals here. First of all, the economy, under traditional economic theory, is guided by something called the “Invisible Hand”, which makes it difficult to definitively assess the effect of any economic policies on the economy as a whole. The limited reports we do have, though, generally suggest that Hillary’s plans will slightly improve the economy, while Trump’s will throw it back in the gutter. In light of this, it is interesting that the graphic emphasizes conservative reforms, the implication being that Hillary Clinton would advance the economy through liberal reforms, which would somehow be worse stst because they’re liberal. Last time I checked, economic growth was a good thing.

Notice, too, that the second point implies something similar: that Hillary would protect the Constitution with liberal Supreme Court justices. Besides the partisan aspect, do we as a people really want to protect a document that says only white men above the age of 21 who own property can vote? But no, you say, that Constitution has been amended so it no longer says things like that. That is exactly the point. The Constitution is a code of law that is meant to provide rules for how our society should work. It is not some holy religious object that is blasphemous to alter. It does not need to be protected from change, but protected from becoming irrelevant.

The third point is that Trump would eliminate corruption and waste in government, which I think is actually true. The current U.S. government is like an unstable nuclear reactor – it makes a lot of energy and is very efficient, but it has the potential to produce some very harmful waste.

Now, the last chief of the plant has just retired and we need to pick someone to replace him. We have two choices: one is a lady who used to be one of the high-ranking operators of the plant, and who has a lot of training in nuclear physics. Just about all of the other physicists agree that she would make a great chief. So, maybe she goes in, improves the efficiency of the plant a bit, cuts back on the waste a little, but nothing really changes.

The other guy is a middle-school English teacher. Not a good one. He’s read a few books about nuclear physics in his spare time and he’s really smart so he’s sure he can handle the job. He keeps telling you how to make your essays better by adding more adjectives (great, amazing, etc.) but you’re not really sure what he specifically means or how that’s actually gonna work. Then he decided to apply to be a nuclear physicist. Like, someone who handles a nuclear reactor and whose slightest error can have catastrophic consequences. And he didn’t apply to be an entry-level technician, he applied to be the top nuclear expert in the entire reactor, which is way harder. So considering he has no idea what he’s doing and it’s really easy to screw up, he’s probably gonna blow the reactor. There’s definitely not gonna be any more waste or corruption, but there’s not gonna be much else, either.

Fourth point, Trump protects individual liberties and our freedoms, Hillary doesn’t. This one is again correct, for the most part. Really, it’s a question of semantics. Trump protects individual liberties, like the right to bear arms. Hillary protects individuals’ liberties, like an individual’s right to free speech. There’s a difference. Trump cares about specific freedoms, specific things that he can tout like “Isn’t it nice that you can carry guns around?”. Hillary cares about people’s freedoms, which are essential to the concept of democracy, like freedom of speech. Donald Trump constantly undermines freedom of speech by telling people they can’t say certain things, and so undermines democracy as well – note his comment on putting Hillary in jail during the second debate, and his refusing to accept election results in good faith during the third. Donald Trump pays lip service to freedom by throwing people a bone, while Hillary actually cares about freedom.

The last one is just ridiculous, honestly. Hillary Clinton is further right on military policy, and much more of an interventionist, than Trump. Trump wants to stay out of NATO and various other obligations that require an actual military, whereas Clinton does not. It is more in Hillary’s interest to have a military than it is in Trump’s. The wall is something else. If you really want to vote for Trump just because he would build a wall, and don’t care about anything else, then I’m hardly going to convince you otherwise. Let’s call it a draw on this one.

Here’s the edited copy of the chart that reflects the results:

So I think I’ve at least managed to convince you that some of the reasons you might have considered voting for Trump aren’t entirely well thought-out. I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote for whoever you want, because you absolutely should. But before you endorse someone for the presidency who has no support from any former president (including Republican ones), you should consider whether your reasons might be a bit misguided.