Most of you know that I have been thinking of voting for Trump for a long while, though I hoped Walker and Rubio would prove to be better candidates than they turned out to be. I have certainly thought Trump would be the nominee for a while, regardless of my preference. Please read Scott Adams’ blog to see more detail on why he will probably be the nominee and next president.
Based on conversations with people who went to Princeton with Cruz, I won’t vote for him in the primary, though I will support the nominee, whoever he is. I was skeptical of Jeb from the moment I saw his sign with the exclamation point. He really was low energy and ran a terrible campaign. However impressive a person he might be, it is often true that running a good campaign takes the skills required to make a good president, Obama excepted.
This article by Cliff Asness is with reading. He is one of few investors who actually seems to understand and say interesting things on politics, made all the more powerful by how infrequently he writes on the topic.
His article sums up what I feel about Trump the candidate and the man, which is deep ambivalence.
Do I respect Trump as a human being? It is hard to live in New York in the finance world and feel that way. The word that keeps coming to mind is jackass. Do I respect Trump as a businessman? Not really. I think he has done many questionable things, though he is a marketing genius. Many name brand private equity firms have also bought questionable businesses and they all have multiple bankruptcies too, but that is not a good enough excuse. I am a libertarian, as Asness is, and Trump certainly is not. I do respect him as a father, as he seems to have raised genuinely good kids despite multiple divorces.
So why am I going to vote for him in the primary probably and in general election for sure if he is the GOP nominee?
I have long thought that border control was an existential issue for this and every country. Mass low wage immigration when combined with free trade is devastating to our most vulnerable workers.
As a libertarian, I tend to agree with what liberal professor Sam Huntington wrote about mass immigration from Latin America. He said that there are essentially no countries in that region where he would like to live and that have political systems he would like to be governed by. For me that rings true, especially Mexico where I have been many times.
In any event, mass low wage immigration combined with the modern welfare state doesn’t work. Look no further than Bernie Sanders’ favorite country, Sweden, to see how their social contract has been strained by large percentages of low wage and low skilled immigrants who aren’t related to the existing population.
We are at war with radical Islam and Trump is not afraid to say so. He has also pointed out that we lost two wars started and managed by the GOP. He is challenging neoconservative doctrine, which should be challenged given the disastrous results.
It would seem that a nation at war or not at war should want to control its borders and then have an honest and open debate about how many immigrants we want to let in and what skills and values they should bring to our great nation. We shouldn’t abdicate on this issue, which appears to be the current intentional or unintentional policy of both parties: Democrats, who want to change the electorate in their favor, and the Republicans who are either afraid of alienating that same electorate or who want to depress wages for business. Maybe if we close the borders, and have that debate we will arrive at the same legal immigration levels and composition, but at least we will have made it a choice and not an abdication of a core governmental responsibility, which is national territorial integrity and defense. Trump is the only candidate I trust on this issue. I don’t think supporting border control makes Trump, me or anyone a racist. It’s common sense.
Finally, there is the issue of political correctness and free speech. It is a pernicious trend that is stifling open and needed dialogue. I edited a conservative magazine at an Ivy League college and was always amazed at the anger conservative viewpoints would get, and we wrote mild stuff by the standards of then and now. Watching the Yale protestors and University of Illinois students shut down a Trump rally is something that must be stopped or we will no longer have a first amendment that means anything. If we lose that, we lose the country.
I am a very aware that Trump could be a “huge disaster” as a nominee and a president. I believe he will win big or lose big in the general. At this point, we have four choices: Cruz, who I think is so polarizing that he is unelectable. Clinton who has proven herself to be a congenital liar and has a political world view that I cannot vote for under any circumstance. Bernie Sanders? Well ironically, I would get less criticism if I said I was voting for him. He is an angry, dangerous man who says uninformed things on the stump daily. Didn’t we fight and win a Cold War over his world view? He was on the losing side by the way.
So we are left with Trump. As a Republican, he is the first candidate to expand our electorate since Reagan and the elites hate him for it. They don’t like his voters or the messenger. He is not a socialist. I suspect he will reform abuses in the tax code like the carried interest loophole because he has used the same type of loopholes for himself. As an aside, if there were no difference between taxes on labor or capital, no one would even care. Trump will be generally good for business, even if he isn’t endorsed by the Club for Growth, certainly better than the Democrat alternatives. Despite some of his rhetoric on trade, I don’t think we will see Smoot-Hawley tariffs. I believe that he is anchoring our trading partners, like the Chinese, with threats of punitive duties to negotiate fairer trade. That tactic should have been used a long time ago by both parties.
Most important, nobody owns Trump. The donors of both parties are genuinely ideologically conservative or liberal to some extent. But I’ve noticed that supporting candidates has more to do with making business connections than actually winning elections or advancing a cause, especially on the Republican side. That’s how we got Dole, McCain, Romney and Jeb. All good men to varying degrees but flawed candidates. So flawed they lost.
This was a much longer note than it was meant to be. I wrote it because I have gotten many angry responses from fellow Republicans when I voice even minor positive support for Trump and most of you are Republicans or at least conservative Independents and Democrats who are my friends and I wanted you to understand some of my thinking on the issue.
If Trump wins and I am wrong about him as a president, if I was conned by a con man, there’s a backstop. We still have Congress and the courts as a check on his power.
But I hope my instincts are correct. I would like America to be great again.
Dante Kerrick is a pseudonym for a longtime veteran of finance in New York City.