We believe Donald Trump represents many of the worst elements of capitalism (at The Quintessential Centrist, we believe that despite its flaws, capitalism is by far the most effective system, besting socialism, communism, or any other "ism"). TQC will not consider endorsing Trump in the 2020 presidential election unless his opponent is a radical like Elizabeth Warren or socialist like Bernie Sanders.
The President of the United States must hold himself to standards that are materially above of what is expected of an ordinary citizen, regardless of the circumstances. Trump certainly has not adhered to the higher level of personal conduct that is a non-negotiable precondition to serve as Chief Executive of the United States. Frequently, his behavior is indicative of somebody who is thin skinned and downright infantile; this does not even include his terrible habit of tweeting about high level policy issues. To be sure, he has denigrated the office and further polluted the very swamp he promised to clean up; an impressive feat given the long lineage of ethically challenged men and women who have served in both chambers of congress.
As we have reiterated in past issues, at The Quintessential Centrist, our platform promotes civil discourse irrespective of political leanings. This, more often than not, involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies. And it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries. In the past, TQC has supported both Democrats and Republicans on specific issues. On those occasions where we focus on specific politicians, our analysis is predicated on three important “P’s”: person, polices and principles, and not the party with which they happen to be affiliated.
Before illustrating where in our view President Trump is correct, we would like to preface those arguments with the following:
Overall, we are not Donald Trump supporters. We did not endorse Trump in ’16. This author did not vote for Trump (or Clinton) in the last presidential election. We explained why we favor centrist Howard Schultz and encouraged him to declare himself a formal candidate in our February 10th issue.
That said, the following are a few crucial areas where we feel Donald Trump has the right idea, even if his execution in addressing them is up for debate:
1) China is stealing U.S. intellectual property. It has been well documented via exhaustive research that has yielded indisputable hard evidence that Chinese companies have pilfered U.S. intellectual property to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Effectively, this is tantamount to U.S. corporations unfairly subsidizing their Chinese competitors while losing out on income streams from licensing, and clearly, a violation of the basic tenets of WTO rules. Ironically, many Chinese entrepreneurs themselves are quietly supporting Trump to right this serious problem. They too have a lot at stake not just from a monetary angle but also where heavy investment in human capital is of the essence.
2) China forces U.S. companies to transfer their propriety technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market. When China joined the ranks of the WTO in 2001, they both implicitly, not to mention legally, agreed to play by the rules of global fair trade. To coerce foreign companies into entering joint ventures and/or to compel them to transfer technology to Chinese partners runs counter to the rules and spirit of the WTO. At TQC, we aren’t making the judgment about Trump’s actions regarding the use of punitive tariffs to force the Chinese to the negotiating table – talks are currently ongoing. His approach is certainly debatable. However, he is right to assert that many Chinese companies are making a mockery of WTO rules; they have placed U.S. firms at a clear competitive disadvantage by brazenly stealing their intellectual property and forcing them to transfer proprietary technology while the Chinese government sits tacitly, implicitly supporting these illegal and unfair actions.
3) Securing Hostages from North Korea. Trump successfully negotiated the release of three hostages (Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Sang-Duk and Kim Hak-Song) from North Korea. Two of these three men were detained well before Trump took office. It is unlikely that Trump’s negotiations with Kim Jong-il will bear fruit - the North Koreans are notorious for overpromising and not delivering - though we certainly wish him well. Still, we cannot dismiss the fact that Trump was effective in securing the release of these three men and for that, we applaud him.
4) Criticizing our NATO allies for not spending 2% of their GDP on defense. This was a sum promised to us by our European partners in 2014. To date, only four NATO members have followed through on this spending commitment. Trump is correct to argue that the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing our allies’ defense. A key tenet behind the creation of NATO was to pool resources for common security objectives. Members should be held to their pledges and not free-ride on U.S. military outlays.
5) Signed The First Step Act, a bi-partisan prison reform bill. Among other things, this piece of legislation rectified some of the injustices that were the product of federal drug laws enacted in the late 1980’s. Those laws were unjust because of blatant inconsistencies between longer penalties recommended for crack-cocaine offenses, a drug often associated with inner-city minorities than for powdered-cocaine wrongdoings, a drug of choice amongst Caucasians. Additionally, this sensible bill provides a pathway for certain non-violent drug offenders to exit prison and become productive members of society. We commend the Trump administration for spearheading an effort that resulted in a rare piece of useful bi-partisan legislation.
With regard to policy and politics, just because we might object to a person in general, does not mean that certain polices he or she champions are not ones we agree with. While we generally oppose Trump on a number of issues, believe he is morally bankrupt and guilty of most of the detestable things in Washington that he campaigned against, the aforementioned represent five specific areas where we would agree with his stance. Indeed, a more granular analysis can potentially bridge the differences in our values and objectives. TQC strives to be a platform for centrist-Americans who are interested in compromise, open to reasonable ideas, and whose main objective is facilitating legislation or supporting common sense policies that will benefit our great nation.