Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Trying to Like Trump

I tried it for a whole week. Much to the dismay to my facebook friends and my coworkers, I pretended to like Trump. I talked him up. I tried to identify all his good qualities, trying to understand why so many people like him. After all, he really could be our next president.

My Trump supporters friends praised my experiment, and my Trump-disliker friends sent me private messages trying to convert me back to their side, or they figured I was laying on the sarcasm. I felt a little bad, but I let them know that it was only a fun experiment.

The best part came at the end of my week when I was asked to take down all my Trump pictures at work, as there was a concern I might be offending Trump supporters.

Anyhow, what did I learn?

Trump supporters are not idiots. Yes, I know that exit polls show that less-educated people tend to vote for Trump, while college-educated people tend to vote for anyone else, but if you stop and listen to what they say, it makes sense. Instead of dismissing them as violent rednecks, you could learn something from them.

Trump can bring in more jobs. This might possibly be the only place I agree with Trump, and is one area where he may be successful, but what he says is nothing new among Republicans. Instead of trying to force corporations to create jobs through punitive measures, the government can help to create an environment that will encourage corporations to bring the jobs back to America. This can be done by closing special-interest loopholes and lowering the corporate tax rate.

Trump is an excellent dealer. Sure, Trump has made some major mistakes in life, but on the most part, he's turned a million dollars into billions. He may possibly be able to win over the establishment Republicans and Democrats, and help them work together -- if he tones down his ego.

Ironically, many people think that Trump is "anti-establishment," but as my wife and others like to point out: His wheeling and dealing would help him feel right at home in office. He'd do all the back-door deals that establishment politicians do all the time. In fact, Trump has already played the corporate side of politics, which basically makes him "establishment" from the other side.

Trump is not racist to black people. Maybe he is, and maybe he isn't, but all I've been able to find is circumstantial evidence. Sure, there are plenty of video clips of black people being treated poorly at Trump rallies, but then again, the "Black Lives Matter" group protests everything and everyone. When a majority of protesters are black at a Trump rally, then that's who's going to be roughed up. If you watch carefully, you'll see that Trump treats white protesters the same way. So, yeah. Trump is equal-opportunity when it comes to that.

More Republicans like Trump than they do any other one Republican candidate. The numbers don't lie. Most Republicans hate Trump, but they refuse to rally behind just one alternative. Cruz is too radical for many conservatives. Kasich seems too unknown. Rubio would have been nice, but he needs a few more years to grow up. Trump can rally the troops and get them out to vote. He also seems to execute effective campaign strategy.

I still don't like Trump. Part of me hopes that if Trump becomes president, all the good things I listed would come out, and the bad things would tone down considerably, but the realistic side of me seriously doubt this will happen. Even after a week of considering his good traits, I still see that my concerns about him far outweigh the good. Does that mean that I failed in my experiment?

Trump still shows he would perform terribly in regards to foreign relations. He still wants to build a wall across the whole geographic border against Mexico, which even the Border Control leaders themselves say is unnecessary. He wants to apply religious tests on immigrants in the name of safety, which goes against fundamental American principles. He still agrees with the idea of requiring ID badges for Muslims, that we should use waterboarding and worse kinds of torture, and that we should kill the innocent family members of terrorists. I fear that if he's elected, he would push away our Muslim allies in the fight against terrorism, and ISIS would become much stronger, making us much less safe.

I think Trump would make a terrible leader, worse than Obama in his first term. His big ego would likely cause Democrats to close up such that it would be their turn to be the obstinate party in Congress. The way he disrespects opponents is childish, unnecessary, and nonproductive. Could you imagine him getting into a pissing match with Putin or Kim Jong Un?

And I still see that Trump incites violence at his rallies in two ways. He directly encourages supporters to hit protesters, saying he'd pay the legal fees, which in turn incites a violent response from his opponents. Luckily, this has been toned down considerably, but I think these protests may become more numerous if he actually becomes president. It would all depend on what he actually does once in office.

Finally, I'd like to point out that there is no "silent majority," but rather an "angry minority." Trump supporters are still outnumbered, but they are very loud, and very supportive. They have a real chance at winning.

As for me, I don't seem to have a candidate who I feel represents my beliefs. Cruz is close, but he's not as moderate as I would like. Trump definitely would not represent me. In fact, I've already left the Republican Party to become an independent, in anticipation of the Republicans allowing Trump to win.

Oh well, at least it was a fun experiment, and it will be fun to watch what happens next.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

We Need a Moderate President -- Always

The following is an article I wrote in Feb., 2016, but forgot to publish. Even though some of the information is dated, I believe the concepts are timeless. 

Our nation is falling apart. All you have to do is take a look at your facebook news feed and you'll see multiple graphics that try to explain why Republicans or Democrats are wrong. Then there are the comments as people fall in line with what they're taught to say. Republicans hate the poor. Democrats take money away and give it to lazy people. Republicans don't create jobs. Democrats don't create jobs. Etc. Etc.

It all makes me wonder. Why do most of us feel that we must choose one side and believe everything that party stands for? Why are we all taught to hate the other party so much and accept the norm of vilifying them? Why are other "third" parties created whose main platform seems to be to hate the main two parties? ("There both wrong, choose us instead.")

The funny thing is, it's perfectly healthy to have opposing viewpoints. It's only unhealthy to hate each other. I'll come back to this in a moment.

A few years ago I read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. You can read my whole review here, where I complain that the characters are too binary. (For those of you who are reading the book right now, you may want to skip a few paragraphs, as I'm going to spoil the end.) The characters fall into two camps:
  • The Camp of Dagny (The Republicans): Noble people who believe that we should be rewarded according to our works. These people stand by their word as they earn an honest buck.
  • The Camp of James (The Democrats): Corrupt shifty-eyed people who try to earn money where there is no work. They try to take money from the rich and give to the poor.
You can tell which side Ayn Rand takes. As for me, I hated Dagny, and I hated James. I hated John Galt, and I hated the idea of taking all of Earth's best and brightest and collecting them into a secret society away from everyone else. That was really the only way to save the world?

My favorite character is one you've probably long forgotten. His name is Mr. Thompson, the "President" of the government. He's often called the most boring and nondescript mediocre character, but I think he was the only one in the entire book who had the proper perspective. He knew that Dagny's camp had warnings that needed to be heeded, but he also knew that their ideals would hurt a lot of people. He wanted to save the entire world, and he saw the solution as incorporating ideas from both camps.

Dagny's solution was much like what both the Republicans and Democrats say today: "Stay out of our way! Let us do everything our way. No compromise. You guys are losers. We know the right way to do things. Just go away and let us do our job." In the end, Dagny, and John Galt, et al, withdrew to their secret society and let the rest of the world crash, even though it would mean innocent deaths and poverty everywhere.

That's an awful ending. It's short sighted, arrogant, and selfish.

With all that said, I thought Ayn Rand had some really good ideas in there, but if we were to adopt her ideals 100%, it would destroy our government. It's just unsustainable over time.

Coming back to reality (all you Atlas Shrugged readers can come back now), I think the same is true with any one party. If we were to follow any one party's ideals 100%, it would become unsustainable. A Democrat world would kill the American Dream and lead us to mediocre socialism. A Republican world would favor the rich, use up world resources, and lead us to a corporate-run government. Still, both parties have great ideas. The government we have today is a merging of good ideas from both parties. That's what makes our country so great.

Stephen Covey's 7 Habits mentions something called synergy. This is something higher than compromise. When you have two competing ideas, compromise involves each side sacrificing something for the common good. Both sides are a little better off, but still a little unhappy. Covey says that when you compromise, one plus one adds up to something less than two.

Synergy, on the other hand, is a process where two opposing sides work together to find some third solution that satisfies both parties. This is where people explain their concerns, listen to their opponents and decide what is really important, and then coming to realize what solutions meet the most concerns. Then you end up where one plus one adds up to something much more than two, perhaps even more than ten.

A good president should be able to facilitate this process. How many times have you heard a candidate say, "I will work across the aisle"? If they're sincere, then they are the president you want in office. In history, the most successful presidents tend to be moderate in nature. That is, they may be left-leaning Republican or right-leaning Democrat.

Think about it. If we were to vote in an ultra-left candidate like Bernie Sanders, what do you think his chances are of working with the Republicans? And if we were to vote in an ultra-right candidate like Ted Cruz, how well could he work with the Democrats?

Our current president, Obama, has tried several times to push forward bipartisan efforts, which is noble, but unfortunately, he has been quick to condemn Republicans in his rhetoric, which only serves to close up communication and end all chances of synergy (or even just compromise). W Bush and Clinton seemed to enjoy much better success reaching "across the aisle."

However, even if Obama were more successful, he'd still be a Democrat. There will always be people in parties that see anyone from an opposing party as an enemy, thus lowering chances of synergizing. That's why I'd like to propose a new party just for executive branch offices: The Moderate Party. Or perhaps a more exciting name: The Synergy Party.

Most "third" parties have their distinguishing platforms. The Green Party wants to save the world. Libertarians want more freedoms across the board. The Tea Party wants less government and seems to like Ayn Rand, but with religion added.

The Synergy Party would have no distinguishing platform except for this: It would stand for bringing together ideas of other parties, and facilitating a process of synergy, to actually get work done, and to maximize the happiness of all constituents.

Now, isn't that the type of president you'd like to vote for?

P. S. For an example of synergy, I invite you to check out this tax plan that I put together with the help of several different actuaries via an online message board, where we are roughly 50/50 Republican vs. Democrat. It combines ideas from both major parties, and I think it ends up being a fairer and simpler tax across the board.

Article Update: In hindsight, I see that I had intentionally left out the candidate who ultimately won. It's no secret that I never wanted Trump to become president, but the funny thing is, he may have been the best candidate to achieve my moderate dream, considering both his Republican and Democratic views in the past, and his potential to help make deals that benefit the most people.

While I believe he has this potential, he definitely has a long ways to go. After his first 100 days, Democrats (and even some Republicans) remain scared to death of him and his more questionable ideas. As much as Trump would like Democrats and everyone else to step in line with his vision, it is really up to him to find a way to reach out, resolve concerns, and unify the nation. No one else can do this but the President himself.

If Trump can find a way to humble himself, stop blasting his opponents, stay off of his Twitter account, and all around act presidential, then I believe he could pull this off and be a great leader. If he can't do this, then we'll just have to wait another four years, and hope that we can survive that much longer.