“Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981
“We know big government does not have all the answers…..The era of big government is over.” – Bill Clinton, January 23, 1996
“I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” -Donald Trump,
One of the ironies of this year’s election is to watch conservatives and Republicans, typically associated with favoring limited government and reducing the size of the federal budget and role of the federal government, squirm as they try to defend their party’s decision to support the most outspoken advocate of “big government” to be nominated by either party in a long time. One would have to hearken back to the days of Lyndon Johnson to recall a major party nominee who was simultaneously convinced that everything going on in the United States was a problem that needed to be fixed and that, with him at the helm, the federal government would be able to provide the necessary remedies.
Trump’s commitment to expanding the size and power of the federal government would be remarkable in any election year if he were the nominee of either party. However, it is particularly astonishing in the context of Republican and conservative critiques of the Obama administration and Tea Party critiques of previous Republican administrations. In Trump world, the Constitution is an inconvenience that can be ignored. If you don’t like economic outcomes, the federal government will come to your rescue with restrictions on trade, expansion of the welfare state, and generous tax subsidies to support whatever kind of economic activity Mr. Trump might fancy on that particular day. Law enforcement officials will be given more power to restore order to our society by cracking down on anyone who looks like they might not belong or conform to Trump’s vision of an idealized American. If you think “big brother” has too much access to your personal information and is snooping around too extensively into your private affairs, you need to think again. Trump contends that the only one way to keep us safe is to give law enforcement more power to monitor and punish potential security threats. Perhaps most disturbingly, the Federal Reserve, according to Trump, is really just a money-printing factory that can be used to settle government debt. This will be necessary of course since Trump’s budget plans call for restoring the massive fiscal deficits which gave rise to the Tea Party almost a decade ago and which political leaders from both parties have begrudgingly and belatedly reigned in over the past 5 years.
There are many reasons to be deeply concerned about a Trump presidency. He is a man with a perverse hostility toward telling the truth. He is a man who has never been held accountable for anything in his life. He is arrogant and condescending. He thinks he is better than you and wants you to know it. He doesn’t respect anyone or anything but himself. These character traits should be deeply concerning regardless of what policy positions he is endorsing. However, the fact that he is openly advocating to expand the size and scope of government and increase his power within it makes him a real danger to the American experiment in self-government.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” -Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863
It is hardly surprising, but ought to be disturbing to every American, that in Trump’s “for the people” land, we are going to set aside 2 out of 3 parts of Lincoln’s formulation. Trump’s agenda might not make sense and it might not be based on fact and it might run counter to our values and traditions, but not to worry. “It’s gonna be great.”