Today, as I was in the car with my friend, he noticed that the car in front of us bore a license plate that said “don’t tread on me.” He asked me what exactly that means. I told him it was a slogan from the Revolutionary era that meant the government should get the heck out of people’s lives and let freedom ring. He then said, “Oh, so it’s probably a Republican’s car.” I agreed, but after Trump’s speech today in which the Republican delegation screamed, “Yes you will!” at him, I can’t be so sure.
Trump gave a good speech. He accurately described America’s problems and explained why Hillary can’t be the one to solve them. Unfortunately, to Trump, all of America’s problems are ones that he “alone can fix” using the power of the federal government. In other words, while Reagan famously said that government is the problem and not the solution, Trump says that the current government is the problem and his government is the solution.
Trump’s speech focused on the aspects of conservatism that have to do with government control. Trump says that he will fix immigration, foreign policy, and law-and-order through his god-king powers alone. These parts are appealing, sure. The parts about increased government control in the market place through “fair” trade deals? Increased infrastructure spending? Not so much. The rest of America’s problems need to be solved by the American people themselves, and all the government has to do is get the heck out of the way, but Trump has no intention of doing that.
To solve our economic problems, the government needs to lift regulatory and tax burdens on American businesses. To fix problems in our communities, the federal government needs to take power away from itself and give it to the state and local governments. But guess what? The number of times Trump mentioned the words “free market,” “freedom,” “Constitution,” “federalism,” “limited government,” and “capitalism” in his speech can be counted on one hand, if that. How sad is that? The principles central to the American idea were barely mentioned, if at all, in Trump’s speech, and he’s the candidate for the supposed party of small government.
This election isn’t about more government or less government: it’s about government for you or government for me, government for the poor and urban elite or government for the white working class. If that’s what you want the future of politics to be, then by all means, vote for Trump.
If you want a smaller government that benefits all people, then don’t vote for Trump. If you want the future Republican nominee to mention the principles central to the American idea more than a hand-full of times during a multi-hour speech, then don’t vote for Trump. Otherwise, Trump will successfully make permanent changes to the Republican party, and we’ll get decades more of “yes you will” from not one, but both sides of the aisle.