Learning from Trump
We can reasonably expect a potential president to greatly increase our freedom only if his past actions decisively demonstrate principles, understanding, and emotional intelligence.
September 2, 2022
Donald Trump developed urban real estate, starred in reality television, and was a frequent, opinionated guest on Fox News.
Most potential voters didn’t reflect on the fact that urban real estate development depends most on debt financing by government-crony banks and on political quid pro quo—in short, mostly on government favors, not on adding value that customers choose to pay for themselves. Most potential voters also didn’t reflect on the fact that creating a fawned-over media persona is far different than going forward with taking highly-criticized actions to slash governments.
Instead, they saw Trump as a businessman who adds value by making hard decisions, exemplified by “You’re fired”; and as an otherwise normal person, with strong positions against many government actions—Obamacare, unnecessary wars, illegal immigration, Hillary Clinton’s grift—seemingly the same positions as the voters themselves. Trump was an outsider and a proven winner. Trump would take on government and win.
Trump’s talk had a unifying theme. Trump would be against government.
In action, Trump supported replacing Obamacare with continuing national-government control. Trump kept commanding troops in existing wars and new attacks. Trump enforced constitutional immigration statutes only until judges opined that he shouldn’t; Trump even turned out to support the illegal immigrants who Obama had camouflaged by calling them dreamers. Trump preemptively didn’t investigate or prosecute Hillary Clinton.
Trump only nominated blank-slate justices who McConnell was confident would be confirmed. Trump championed jailbreak. Trump supported lockdowns, distancing, bureaucratic suppression of existing therapies, bureaucratic suppression of fast tests, stimulus bills, and harmful narrow-action genetic vaccines .
These actions had a unifying theme. Trump almost invariably took soft or symbolic actions and called them wins, and avoided taking hard stands  that opponents would call losses.
To do this, Trump practiced bipartisanship—both classic bipartisanship with Democrats, and intra-party bipartisanship supported typically by all Republican Progressives and by at least some Republican constitutionalists .
Our learning from Trump can greatly help us evaluate other seemingly quite-different candidates.
Ron DeSantis practiced law in the Navy and then in the Department of Justice, represented Eastern Florida residents in the House, and represents Florida residents as governor.
Navy and DOJ legal work provide experience supporting big-government operations.
In the House, DeSantis ended up with a Conservative Review Liberty Score of 77% pro-liberty. Although this did amount to 3.3 major votes for liberty for every 1 major vote for tyranny, this still was lower than 44 of his peers .
As governor, DeSantis has used his constitutional powers unprecedentedly well against national-government agencies, local governments, and government-crony corporations .
But prospective voters need to also consider that DeSantis has not used his constitutional powers against his own government to significantly limit the rights-violating scopes of state administrative agencies, or to recommend significant repeals of rights-violating state powers.
DeSantis has basically retained all current state powers and simply managed the existing government. Voters have accepted this as better than management that would leave them even-less free, so DeSantis is highly popular in these circumstances, when the only alternative is even-less freedom. But voters accept this status quo only because alternative candidates who would instead greatly limit state powers are kept off the table by both major parties.
If DeSantis would use his constitutional powers as president analogously to how he is using his constitutional powers as governor, then he would produce much talk and many narrow actions, and these would again be relatively popular with voters if voters would have no better alternatives.
To his great credit, DeSantis likely would independently interpret the constitutionality  of departments, agencies, and government-chartered organizations. He likely would not respect judicial opinions or agency guidance that he would interpret to be unconstitutional.
But based on his actions to date, DeSantis wouldn’t lay off unconstitutional organizations’ people, wouldn’t refuse to execute those organizations’ enabling statutes, and wouldn’t recommend to legislators that they repeal those statutes.
Taking a person’s rhetoric at face value without adequately considering his record of actions, and expecting this person to do all that we’d do if we were him, is an approach that worked predictably well for Obama’s Progressive voters but that worked predictably poorly for Trump’s constitutionalist voters.
Understanding history is important because this helps us understand the weaknesses in our past expectations, helps us set better targets for the future, and helps us do better at predicting future actions and outcomes.
We receive the most value when we make most choices ourselves, which is what we do as customers . For us to be able to make most choices ourselves as customers, our governments must be greatly limited. In practice, governments are limited only to the extent that government people use their constitutional powers against others in government to limit them.
Government executives, including presidents, have awesome legal power to support the Constitution and by doing so to limit our governments, and have zero legal power to defy the Constitution . To support the Constitution, government executives don’t need to run bureaucracies. What government executives need to do is decisively lay off, veto, and recommend repeals . To do these things requires clear principles, good understanding of what’s possible, and high emotional intelligence.
People who have the required understanding and character, like Thomas Massie  and Rand Paul, are likely to be options for voters in the future, either in Republican presidential primaries, or on general-election ballots independent of the two major parties, like Ron Paul initially was .
Voters should always prefer presidents and governors who we can reasonably expect will have the understanding and character to fully use their powers  to quickly  slash governments , so we can take care of our business ourselves .
James Anthony is the author of The Constitution Needs a Good Party and rConstitution Papers, publishes rConstitution.us, and has written in The Federalist, American Thinker, Foundation for Economic Education, American Greatness, and Mises Institute. Mr. Anthony is an experienced chemical engineer with a master’s in mechanical engineering.