The always-insightful Will Wilkinson asks if there’s a libertarian case for hoping that Bernie Sanders becomes the 45th president of the executive branch of the national government in the United States .
Whatever you think of Will’s argument – or of the prospect of a Pres. Sanders – I can think of one and only one silver lining around what would be the ominously dark cloud of Donald Trump winning the election in November. That silver lining is the near-certainty that the buffoonery of Pres. Trump would diminish the respect and awe in which the U.S. presidency is today held.
The U.S. president and the president’s family are treated, at a minimum, like royalty. And by many people the president is treated as if he’s a demigod. A president’s visits to the scenes of natural disasters are reported as if a great healer is at work. If a grain elevator explodes in Louisiana or a shooter kills a dozen people in Colorado, we are told by the news media that “the president is being kept up to date on” or “the president is monitoring” the situation. A day or two later the president will appear at the site of the misfortune to console and comfort the victims and their families as, it is implied, only a president can. (Who in his or her right mind would accept, much less crave, consolation and comfort in such a situation from Donald Trump?)
It’s common to hear people express hope that some child they know “might one day grow up to be president!” The president’s health is reported as if the nation’s own welfare depends upon that individual’s health. The security around the president is already way over the top and it gets more over the top almost daily. (Pedestrians are now kept from walking on the sidewalk along the northern face of the White House.) The president is referred to as “Mr. President,” apparently even by his closest aides, rather than by his first name. (When I was chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason U. I was called “Don” by my colleagues and co-workers, not “Mr. Chairman.” And I suspect that, say, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook isn’t called by his co-workers “Mr. Chief Executive Cook”; it’s probably either “Mr. Cook” or “Tim.” Why should any additional deference be paid to the president of the executive branch of the national government in the United States?)
This deference and respect is vastly excessive. The president, any president, is – like me, you, and everyone of the rest of us – a naked ape who has no more knowledge of, or insight into, the way each of millions of strangers should spend their money or lead their lives than do any of the rest of us naked apes. He is a human being, nothing more. He, however, pretends to be something more and, dangerously, he is treated by others as if he is indeed something more. This fact is true regardless of who happens to currently be president. (Given his choice of profession – politics – a U.S. president is almost certainly a human being whose ethical values are inferior to those of the average human being, and whose hubris and arrogance are much greater than average.)
So if Donald Trump becomes U.S. president, his boorishness, his clownishness, his crudely bullying manners, his vulgarity, his bigotry, and his manifest ignorance will combine with his failure to do what most successful politicians do – namely, hide all of these flaws behind a veneer of faux humility, civility, and politeness – to make plain to the world that those who occupy the White House deserve less respect, regard, or deference than does the typical motel clerk and car-wash attendant. (My apologies to motel clerks and car-wash attendants. I do not mean to sully your reputations by comparing you to the typical politicians who win the presidency.) At the very least, a president Trump would dissolve much of the gaudy magnificence and idiotic adoration that today surrounds the presidency.
To be clear: I do not regard the above silver lining of a Trump presidency to be worth the risk of a Trump presidency. He is, beyond question, the absolute worst option among all of the sorry candidates currently vying for the chief spot at the trough that is Pennsylvania Avenue.