‘Why I believe we should give Trump a chance’

Uphill struggle: 41% of Americans approve of Trump — the lowest ever for a new president. ©PA
by Clive Crook

A native of the north of England, Clive Crook is a s a world-renowned economist and an expert on globalisation. He is a columnist for Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic and The Economist. As a self-professed liberal, he is an ideological opponent of Donald Trump.

Yesterday the Speaker of the House of Commons said that Donald Trump’s views make him unfit to speak in Parliament. But Clive Crook believes his opponents should give him a chance.

I am no Trump supporter. I am even less of a Trump supporter than I was two weeks ago. I described his executive order on immigration as ‘reckless, blithering incompetence’.

So why give him a chance? It is simple: we live in a democracy and Trump just got elected. Resolving, immediately, to nullify his presidency, to stop him by any means, to give him no chance regardless of his actions, is anti-democratic.

It says to his supporters: ‘We hate your guy so much that we will do all we can to make the election void’. It says that we refuse to accept the result, and that is a very dangerous doctrine. Trump was rightly castigated before the election for saying he might not accept defeat. The argument applies the other way round.

If you are opposed to Trump, your opposition will be more effective if you give him a chance.

Yes, the election was flawed. Trump lost the popular vote. He lied constantly. But the rules are often unfair to losers and politicians often lie. In a democracy you take your complaints to the courts, and if you cannot prevail there you accept defeat.

Giving him a chance does not mean giving him carte blanche; it just means ‘keep an open mind’. Oppose him when he is wrong. I was glad to see the judges push back against his immigration order, glad to see some Republicans criticise it. Trump is going to put America’s system under stress: Congress and the courts need to step up. Civil servants opposed to his policies should get ready to quit.

But we must acknowledge the possibility that he might, in the end, be a good president. Trump’s policies do not deserve to be dismissed out of hand.

Many of his cabinet appointments are competent individuals of experience and integrity. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is eminently qualified and sufficiently dedicated to the Constitution and the rule of law that Trump might actually come to regret the appointment.

Trump proposes a big increase in infrastructure investment — that would be great. He might succeed in simplifying America’s tax system. Perhaps these plans will help grow America’s economy.

I think his view on trade is nuts. But many of Trump’s opponents agree with him that free trade has gone too far. Bernie Sanders said he does. ‘If Trump keeps this up’, he says, ‘I will be willing to work with him on some things.’

If Bernie Sanders is going to give him a chance, shouldn’t we all?

There is one more important point. If you are opposed to Trump, your opposition will be more effective if you give him a chance.

What is the best way to contain and defeat Trump? To energise his opponents to even higher levels of outrage, or to peel away the support of reluctant Trumpers? I think it is the latter.

There are many reluctant Trumpers who voted for him out of exhaustion with normal politics — an understandable emotion. And calling those people bigots and morons did not make them change their mind. The kind of opposition that says Trump’s supporters are either idiots or evil accomplices helps him.

Trump is a brilliant manipulator of reflexive outrage. He provokes it. He thrives on it. He is desperate for an opposition that says ‘oppose him regardless’.

So give him a chance, not least as a gesture of respect to the 62 million voters who backed him. Fight his bad policies case by case. But do not assume that the Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on just two weeks into this administration.

Give him a chance, not to ease his path, but to do the opposite: to give his supporters space for second thoughts. In a democracy, that is how you win the argument.

This is an extract from Clive Crook’s speech at an Intelligence Squared debate. There is a link to the full debate in Become An Expert.

You Decide

  1. Should Donald Trump be given a chance?


  1. Imagine that it is 2020, and Donald Trump has completed his first term in office. Write 500 words on how the world has changed.

Word Watch

Executive order on immigration
This order issued by Trump severely restricts immigration from seven Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and bars all Syrian refugees indefinitely. Executive orders are written documents issued by US Presidents, instructions to government officials with the full force of law if correctly founded on the president’s constitutional powers. They can be subjected to judicial review, as has happened to this one issued by Trump.
Carte blanche
Complete freedom to do what you want.
Cabinet appointments
Among Trump’s most high profile cabinet appointments are Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and James Mattis as Secretary of Defence
Supreme Court nominee
Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch as the ninth member of the US Supreme Court. Conservatives now have a five to four majority in the court.
Trump is against trade deals involving several countries, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), instead favouring ‘bilateral’ agreements — ie, agreements between two countries.

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