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Colleagues’ Reflections on Donald Trump

Over the past few days, two of my George Mason University colleagues have shared with me, by e-mail, their reflections on Donald Trump’s success at the polls.  With their permission, I share those reflections here with you in full.

The first – which was drafted for a general audience – is from my GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein:

If the Republican primaries used a different voting method, Trump never would have happened. He never would have gotten anywhere, and hence never would have run.

Trump is something special. It is meaningful to divide the Republican candidates into two categories: Trump and non-Trump.

Trump is special in being a billionaire and a celebrity. But more important are things about his personality, abilities, ambition, and so on, things that have proven extraordinarily effective. Like George Will, I disapprove of Trump.

The non-Trump candidates have been splitting the non-Trump support. But that would not happen under approval voting or instant-runoff voting. Under those systems, the voter is not confined to picking a single most preferred candidate.

Had there been approval voting, the non-Trump voter could have voted for as many of the non-Trump candidates as she likes. The candidate with most votes wins.

Had there been instant-runoff voting, the non-Trump voter could have voted by marking most to least favored. The lowest support-getter is iteratively dropped, until one candidate is left. A computer takes the marked ballots and makes the determination instantaneously.

In the actual system, each of the non-Trump candidates is weakened by every other non-Trump candidate. To use a boxing metaphor: It is like each goes into the boxing ring with the other three on his back, pulling him down.

But with approval or instant-runoff voting, it would be like each non-Trump candidate stepping into the ring unencumbered and fighting a fair fight against Trump.

I’ve not carefully studied the remaining non-Trump candidates. But my couch-potato preference would probably be in the following order: Rubio, Kasich, Cruz, Carson. Right now each of these four guys are operating with the other three on his back. I hope they find a fix pronto.

With approval or instant-runoff voting, Trump never would have happened. The whole crisis would never have happened.

I do not mean suggest that the Trump phenomenon is just a fluke. Approval or instant-runoff voting would have been sufficient to prevent Trump. But, still, it is telling, and depressing, that it also may prove to have been necessary to preventing Trump.

The second is from Michael Krauss, a colleague from over in GMU’s law school:

He’s [Trump’s] a fraud, he’s a xenophobe, he’s the only “insider” (born with a silver spoon in his mouth) left in the race, he’s a serial adulterer, he’s blissfully ignorant of foreign policy and of economic theory, he’s a disgusting rabble rouser. He’s “the ugly American” personified. And he met his comeuppance, at long last, in the last debate. There, have I been clear enough about my opinion of Donald Trump? Here’s hoping “good riddance” is not too far off in the distance.

Michael’s e-mail was written before yesterday’s (“Super Tuesday’s”) results.  Sadly and scarily, Trump appears to be headed for the GOP nomination.


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