Remember President Obama saying that Hillary Clinton was the most qualified person to ever run for president? I do. He said it on Wednesday night at the DNC. “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” he said.
And remember the times when Jeb Bush has said that Donald Trump is “a chaos candidate” who lives in “an alternate universe that he created,” a place where you don’t make policy proposals that are “serious.” I do.
Donald Trump is unhinged. His “policy” proposals are not serious.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 7, 2015
One measure of a candidate’s seriousness and preparedness would be policy stances and policies. Sure there are other measures like years in public service, numbers and kinds of bills passed, effects of their implemented policies, the extent and connectivity of their network of allies domestically and abroad, soundness of judgment, honesty, and so on. Incidentally, on all of those, Clinton is clearly superior to Trump. But breadth and depth of policy is a good place to start.*
A couple of months ago, I privately compared the Sanders, Clinton, and Trump were in the race. At that time Sanders and Clinton both had around thirty positions each and Trump had six or seven. Sanders conceded on Tuesday but his campaign and continuing “revolution” (I super felt the Bern and was a Bernie delegate!) was so influential and the platform committee adopted changes on the minimum wage and climate and energy policy, I wanted to see what happened. and Clinton had 30 or so policy positions a piece. Trump had six if memory serves. But what about today?
Well, today, Hillary Clinton has 37 policy positions and Donald Trump has seven. On gross numbers Clinton clearly has an advantage. She also has them categorized into broad categories like Economy and Jobs, Education, Environment, Health, Justice and equality, and National Security. Then within those are sub-categorized. For example, Clinton has a plan to deal with climate change by making the United States the global clean energy superpower through a $60 billion investment in clean energy, a commitment to deploying 500 million solar PV panels, cutting billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies, and regulating methane. And some of these positions have briefings and fact sheets (like this one on renewable energy) where we can see more of her plans. The woman and her team are informed, prepared, and ready to go. We could, and I will, do similar explorations of addiction (treatment, not stigma), gun violence (she’s not going to take your guns away), voting rights (let’s make it simple and easier for citizens to vote), and 33 other issues. Clearly Clinton and her team have built the experience, knowledge, and policy-making tools necessary for a prepared president.
Donald Trump has posted seven positions. They include compelling Mexico to pay for us to build a wall, Immigration, Veteran’s Affairs, Tax, and U.S.-China Trade reform, and Second Amendment Rights. At first blush, this looks anemic. Going into any of these positions yields more, but lacking anything meaty. They’re appallingly thin actually. On the Second Amendment Rights section for example, he proposes a number of positions but provides scant evidence to support the positions or how they would work to make people safer, gun owners included. Apparently “study after study” shows that criminals aren’t stupid enough to try to pass background checks. And yet there is no study linked or cited.
Given the number of false and Pants-on-Fire statements Trump’s made according to Politifact, no one should take his word for it. NPR ran a story showing that three studies have found a link between background checks and reduced lethal gun-related violence. They also explain that studies in the early 2000s were inconclusive and more research was needed to understand the problem, a problem that two-thirds of Americans agree is real and that we need to tackle. Donald Trump seems to believe that this problem is due entirely to mental health changes but presents no evidence for that position either.
Care to do this with another one of his positions? If he had an energy platform that was anything other than shooting his mouth off to some oil folks in North Dakota, I would. But it’s not possible. Instead, we have blunt ill-informed bromides doubling down on deregulation and boosting both fracking and coal. It’s as if he doesn’t care about the realities of climate change and believes it’s a hoax. Cause he does.
At least as frightening, it’s as if he doesn’t know that natural gas and coal are in fierce competition. As a business man who proclaims his incredible skills, you’d think he’d have some clue about what’s behind this competition. He clearly doesn’t have a clue. Apparently, neither does his team who have produced no actual policy, merely platitudes on the pressing and interconnected issues of energy, climate, employment, and well-being. Anyone on his policy team could use the Energy Information Agency’s information to see that coal has been in steep decline while natural gas has boomed.
It’s sad that he doesn’t understand this. I follow these things out of interest in climate change, advances in energy technology, fluctuations and forces in energy markets, and “weak” versus “strong” sustainability. Where’s his team on this?
It’s hard to express how right Jeb Bush was. Trump lives in an alternative universe where he either spouts off in a fact-free world or through the small window of 140 characters or less. I’ve seen a handful of really uncurious politicians in my life, but none so blind to his own blindness as Trump. I wouldn’t even need the rest of problems the man presents, this level of ill preparation is willful.
And as for President Obama’s assertion that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for president. Could be. Sitting vice presidents perhaps? But he might be right. But it’s a clear choice. Trump’s driving a clown car off a cliff. Clinton has built a Lexus. Now if she can just electrify it.
* I have a Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy from Penn State. My program and dissertation focused on what motivated sustainability policy champions to advance their programs.
** How much I agree with those policies is another question.