Donald Trump has moved to the top of the GOP presidential field by painting in broad strokes. America is losing; our politicians are stupid; if elected, I’ll kick ass.
Now, some are calling on Trump to be more “specific.” What are his multi-point plans for dealing with the issues, they want to know.
The call for “specifics” plays into Trump’s hands because its a “challenge” he can easily meet. You don’t even have to be a billionaire to hire people to write a 4-point plan for taking on ISIS or a 6-point plan for replacing Obamacare; nor do you even have to be ahead in the polls to receive help for free.
It’s not surprising, then, that Trump plans to unveil a series of position papers in early September. The Washington Post reports that the immigration paper was crafted with the help of Sen. Jeff Sessions.
Some who are favorably disposed to Trump’s candidacy seem to understand that casting Trump’s problem as a lack of specifics sets the bar low and thus helps his candidacy. Sean Hannity asked Trump for specifics during a recent interview. He didn’t get many, but Trump’s statement that he favors medical savings accounts impressed Hannity. Medical savings accounts — why didn’t anyone else think of that.
The problem with Trump’s candidacy from a conservative standpoint is not a lack of specifics; it’s a lack of sincerity. To put it more precisely, the problem is a lack of any reason to believe that Trump’s conservative positions (with or without specifics) are sincerely held.
In the not-so-distant past, Trump has supported abortion, various forms of gun control, universal healthcare, and a huge tax increase on the wealthy. Until 2009, he was a registered Democrat.
Trump’s answer to criticism over his consistently liberal record is to point out that Ronald Reagan originally was a New Deal-style liberal. Reagan was indeed a liberal in the 1930s and early to mid-40s. But he didn’t run for office until 1966 and didn’t seek the presidency until 1976.
In the interim, Reagan spent two decades traveling the country and appearing on the radio to make the philosophical case for conservatism. Let Trump make that case — for conservatism, not for himself — for a decade and then govern a state conservatively, as Reagan did for two terms. At that point, we’ll know he’s a real conservative, not one who mouths conservative talking points (with or without specifics) because, given Hillary Clinton’s presumed standing among Democrats, he has concluded that doing so represents his only path to a presidential nomination.
In the meantime, Trump’s “specifics” won’t be worth the paper they are printed on.