Friday, October 28, 2016

Not voting for Trump should be the most obvious political choice of your life

The majority of voters have devoted no time toward educating themselves in the relevant fields for determining what presidential policies are best. Nor do they seem to care much about the opinions of the experts in those fields. This is probably not much of a problem when you have to pick a side on an issue where experts are divided. But if your goal is to use the best information to form correct political opinions, the consensus of experts, when it exists, should be given a whole lot of weight. And to an extent that I didn't think would ever happen in a presidential election, experts across the political spectrum agree that Trump must not win.

On economics, not a single member of the Council of Economic Advisers supports Trump. Greg Mankiw, perhaps the most distinguished Republican economist and former CEA chair, said "I don't know any mainstream economist--right, left, or center--who has good things to say about the economic policy views of Donald Trump". Or just look for a survey of economists on any of the main ideas Trump has been pushing. For instance, a survey by the IGM Forum had 100% response of "disagree" or "strongly disagree" that his desire to raise tariffs would be a good idea.

On foreign policy, a survey of IR scholars found only 4% favored Trump in the general election. This is not a reflection of liberal bias - far more than 4% of those surveyed were Republican. And a similar survey just about the GOP candidates in the primary got only 1.66% favoring Trump. Here is an open letter from 50 GOP senior foreign policy officials against Trump. Not a single Republican Secretary of State supports Trump, and one of them has endorsed Clinton. When I wanted to learn more about how very conservative Republicans (the wonky type, not the culture warrior type) view foreign policy a while back, I read Bret Stephens. In this election he's supporting Clinton because, in his words, "it's important that Donald Trump ... be so decisively rebuked that ... the Republican voters learn their lesson that they cannot nominate a man so manifestly unqualified to be president in any way, shape, or form."

In politics and political commentary in general, no GOP President endorses Trump. The 2 most recent GOP presidential nominees publicly oppose him. Bush Sr is reportedly voting for Clinton. Of the 31 GOP governors in our country, 9 are publicly opposing Trump. Of the 54 GOP senators, 13 are officially opposing him. 3 former RNC chairmen are publicly against him. If you look up any conservative commentator who is more on the intellectual/wonky side, there's a good chance they are against Trump. David Frum. William Kristol. Josh Barro. Krauthammer. The National Review - "the Bible of American conservatism" - even devoted an issue to "Against Trump". George Will has gone so far as to even leave the Republican Party. Read how sad Avik Roy is about his party nominating Trump.

This clean break of the-people-who-actually-know-shit from the candidate of their own party is really staggering. Has it ever happened before? Will it ever happen again? If you actually care about reality, this should be a huge deal to you in how you decide to vote. If you're a Republican and this doesn't indicate to you that this time, your party's candidate isn't worth voting for, what ever will? What do you know that all the people who are actually knowledgeable in your own party do not?

There are so many things about Trump that I thought could never be true about a major party's nominee:
  • His rise in his party started with an absurd, racism-motivated conspiracy theory: birtherism. And he has a habit of promoting all sorts of conspiracy theories: that vaccines cause autism, global warming was invented by the Chinese, Ted Cruz's father was involved in killing JFK, Scalia was murdered, the BLS is lying about the unemployment rate, falls for and promotes hoax videos about a protester at his rally being a member of ISIS because "all I know is what's on the internet", etc. Imagine if the Democrats nominated someone whose main rise in their party came from being at the forefront of the 9/11 truther movement.
  • Lying is unfortunately par for the course with politicians. But with Trump it's at another level. What's worse, he seems like he truly believes the majority of his lies, which ties in very much with his knack for conspiracy theories.
  • In addition to being prone to conspiracy theories, believing in lies, and knowing nothing about the issues a President needs to act on, he doesn't even acknowledge that this is a problem and seek help from those who are knowledgeable. For instance, he says he knows more than the generals about ISIS. At the RNC convention he said "only I" can fix America. Who says that?
  • He encourages, and even promises to subsidize, violence from his supporters. When removing protesters from his crowd, he lamented that "nobody wants to hurt each other anymore." Then he tells his crowd that if they rough up a protester, he'll pay their legal fees. Later someone at his rally did punch a protester, told the media that "the next time we see him we may have to kill him", and when speaking of this later Trump said he was looking into paying that guy's legal fees. When a couple of Trump supporters attacked a Mexican homeless man because, in their words, "Trump is right", Trump wouldn't condemn them but instead would only say that his followers are "passionate" and "want this country to be great again". I never thought this could be the sort of thing that a presidential candidate says/does in an American election. Did you? And not only that, this is from the guy who went on to win his party's nomination.
  • He is bizarrely vindictive. He habitually sues people who say things about him he doesn't like. He stays up until 3 in the morning tweeting insults about people he believes have wronged him. What was his weird feud with Megyn Kelly about? And some of his actions have been scary with regard to how this plays out with freedom of the press. He didn't like his coverage by the Washington Post so he barred their reporters from his events. And then he said that, as retaliation, he would use his presidential power to go after Amazon (because it's owned by the same person as Washington Post). How is this something that a presidential candidate openly said?
  • He wants to be the "law and order" candidate, and the way that works with his lack of rationality/skepticism and inability to admit he was wrong could be very scary. For instance, when some teenagers, the "Central Park Five", were arrested as suspects for a rape, he bought full page ads in the papers demanding that they be put to death. Problem is, they turned out to be innocent. And despite proof to the contrary, Trump still maintains that they are guilty.
  • Some Republicans defend torturing terror suspects because they believe it will lead to valuable intel. Trump said that regardless of that, we should torture them simply because they deserve it.
  • While on the topic of war crimes, he has repeatedly said we should kill innocent people if they are family members of terrorists.
  • War crimes part 3: he has repeatedly said that he wants to invade countries to take their oil. Basically, what was a left-wing conspiracy theory about Bush's reason for the Iraqi War is Trump's publicly espoused position.
  • He has openly asked Russia to hack Clinton. Nixon had to resign because he tried to get others to illegally access information as oppo research on his political opponents. Trump publicly asks a foreign government to do this for him.
  • He has talked repeatedly about wanting to use nukes and that more countries should have them.
  • He wants to round up and deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Imagine how much harm that would do to a single one of those people, many of whom have been here for a long time. Consider also children who are legal citizens but their parents are undocumented. Then, accounting for scope neglect, multiply that harm by 11 million. That's an unimaginable amount of harm. And it would additionally harm the rest of us. Economists across the spectrum agree that immigration is good for our economy. Imagine all the businesses suddenly losing 11 million employees and customers. Why should we commit all this harm against ourselves and others? Because they broke a law that harms nobody? What if Trump wanted to jail everyone who broke the law by not buying health insurance? Or take away driver's licenses from anyone who speeds? If those examples sound like stupidly extreme punishments for such harmless law-breaking, then you understand why deporting 11 million people is awful.
  • He wants to ban people from entering the U.S. based on their religion.
  • He thinks a judge should be disqualified from presiding over a case of his if the judge's parents are Mexican.
  • He suggests that he'll reject the results of the election if he loses and jail his opponent if he wins. I thought candidates like that only existed in third world countries.
  • Small hands.
A lot of these go straight against what I always thought were unshakeable shared foundations of how our democracy works. How, after all this, could Trump have won his party's nomination and continue to have the support of most of his party's voters? And even within conservative tribalism, he has said many things that would be considered heresy for other GOP politicians. For instance, he criticized McCain for being captured, and it wasn't long ago that he said Clinton was a good senator, secretary of state, and would make a good president. Meanwhile, if another GOP politician so much as hugs Obama, that goes very badly for them with their voters. Why do all the usual rules that apply to all other politicians seem to just not apply to him?

During most of the GOP primaries, I thought there was no chance Trump would win. When someone like Paul Krugman suggested he would, I considered that a result of having a liberal-fantasy-land's strawman idea of what Republican voters are really like. I had more faith in the rationality and decency of the average conservative than that. But Trump won his party's nomination, and the majority of Republican voters still seem to support him. What am I supposed to think about the average Republican voter now?

The most important thing is for the sane Republicans to make sure Trump goes down in history as just a strange fluke, and that they go back to electing respectable candidates that don't threaten the basic norms of our democracy. But my big fear is that Trump making it this far, even if he loses big, has lowered the bar and created a new normal going forward, and the reason he gets away with so much of this stuff is because this is actually what a large portion of Republican voters prefer in a candidate. My optimistic side hopes that this is mainly just a symptom of some celebrity-worship blind spot in American culture that others won't be able to replicate in the future.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trump and the 2nd amendment

If a politician says they want to expand criminal background checks for gun purchases, they will typically be fiercely opposed by the NRA and a strong segment of voters, who will accuse that person of wanting to "take our guns".

But... the NRA supports Trump, and Trump said the following about his version of stop-and-frisk which he wants to implement nation-wide:

"if (the police) see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they’ll look and they’ll take the gun away"

Did he just misspeak? No, because not long after that, at the first debate, he re-iterated this. Why is this OK with the NRA and like-minded people, but expanded background checks are not? How would such a policy work with open carry laws?

One thing to note is that, when Trump says something like this, in the context of the conversation he is talking about black and Mexican people. Is that what makes it OK? Sometimes people try too hard to make things like this about race, but I honestly can't see what other difference there is. What am I missing?