Before taking the stage at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama last Friday, Donald Trump had his private jet circle the venue -- a college football stadium packed with 30,000 screaming fans, some waving signs that proclaimed, “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for President Trump"; and everyone waiting breathlessly to see the man who repeatedly tells us he “tells it like it is.” It was a “rock star” move even President Barack Obama did not have the moxie to pull-off in 2008. But, for Trump, it is all a part of the show.
Flamboyant gestures. Brash statements. No apologies. This is the campaign of Donald Trump; who last week doubled-down on his controversial illegal immigration statements by releasing a "plan" about how he will solve the problem with a wave of his magical, "World's-Greatest-Negotiator Wand." Unfortunately, like his other public policy grandstanding, one need only peel back a few layers of this "plan" before encountering serious questions even the staunchest of anti-illegal immigration conservatives would have about Trump’s understanding of the complexities in the real world, and of what it would actually take to accomplish his goals.
For example, Trump’s stated plan to round up and deport the many millions of those already in our country unlawfully -- even temporarily, until he decides who are the “good ones” to let back in -- would necessitate a massive law enforcement presence and effort. And, of course, vital details such as how many new officers would be required (tens of thousands), how many prosecutors must get involved (thousands), and how much money it would take to fund the operation (billions), are all left unaddressed. Moreover, the practicalities of locating all those illegals remains a mystery -- do we turn everyone into a snitch, or offer rewards for turning someone in, for example. Trump also is conveniently silent regarding the blurring of the lines between federal and local law enforcement his scheme would entail -- an underpinning of the principle of federalism on which our constitutional Republic was founded.
Then again, Trump has never been one to be concerned with the details of his brash proposals. Take, for instance, his oft-repeated story about how "President Trump" would deal with a potential move by Ford to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico. In Trump's fantasy, he simply would make a phone call to Ford’s CEO with the message that, “every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes back across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax — OK?”
Or, consider Trump's strategy for the Middle East, which appears to include staying in the region indefinitely and seizing Iraqi oil fields to “pay ourself back $1.5 trillion or more.” Sounds good on paper perhaps; though anything but in real life.
To his supporters, this “tough guy” way of addressing complex problems is considered “straight talk” against the Establishment. In reality, it reveals just how little Trump understands or cares about our system of government, and the principles on which it was founded. Like President Obama, Trump appears to have no concept or care that there are legal, constitutional limits on what a president can do. Just as a president cannot simply dictate an import tax, most of Trump’s “solutions” are contrary to a federal government of limited and defined powers, and vital checks and balances.
To do as Trump envisions would dramatically move us toward a quasi-dictatorship in which the president operates at will and above the law. In this regard, "President Trump" would complete the "transformative journey" begun by Obama after the 2008 election.
This disconnect between Trump’s visions for “making America great again,” and the legal and practical limitations to executing those visions, reveals the degree to which the candidate operates not in the real world, but in some fantastical dimension in which he is Lord of the Universe and there is no Constitution, Congress, or laws to impede his ability to "get the job done" as he alone sees it.
Of course, thinking-conservatives know better than to buy into this fantasy; or, at least, should know better. That is why true conservatives work to limit government; not expand it as Trump would.
And this is what makes the Right’s fascination with Trump so difficult to understand; at his very core, past all of the blustering and populist rhetoric, exists the same utopian vision for government shared by the most delusional of liberals. Yet, instead of pressing Trump on the glaring discrepancies in his grandiose plans, or questioning how expanding the scope of presidential powers fits within a constitutional model for governing, even some senior Republican members of Congress jump at the chance to stand by his side at rallies, lending him further credibility as he takes the GOP deeper down the rabbit hole.
Daring to raise questions about Trump’s understanding and appreciation of the Constitution is met with scorn and insults hurled from his supporters; many of who continue to chastise Obama for precisely the same shortcomings, except on the other side of the ideological balance.
The Republican love affair with Trump is no longer funny or even mildly amusing. Even if Trump is sincere with his desire to make America great again, his plans for doing so should frighten every American who genuinely cares about individual freedom and limited government power.