Paul Krugman Reveals the ‘Real Sinners’ Behind Trump

Aug 1, 2016 by

Election 2016

Trump poses a very real threat to our democracy. How are these so-called leaders justifying their support?


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Paul Krugman is incredulous about the mounting horrors of the Trump campaign and spends his Monday column once again trying to inject some reasonable thinking into the debate about how to vote come November. Depressingly, he notes that a YouGov survey just found that “61 percent of Republicans support his call for Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton,” which doesn’t bode well for how Republicans feel about his criticisms of a Muslim war hero’s family.

Ever fair-minded, Krugman notes that there is after all a signficant minority within the Republican party that is not racist, who think international commitments are important and who are just, well, normal. “Yet the great majority of these not-crazy Republicans are still supporting Mr. Trump for president. And we have a right to ask why,” he writes.

True, a Clinton victory would mean a continuation of the center-left governance we’ve had under Barack Obama, which would be a big disappointment for those who want a turn to the right. And many people have convinced themselves that ideology aside, Mrs. Clinton would be a bad president. Obviously I disagree on the ideology, and while we won’t know about a Clinton presidency until or unless it happens, I find much to admire in the real Hillary, who is nothing like the caricature. But never mind: even if you’re a conservative who really dislikes the Democratic candidate, how can you justify choosing Donald Trump? Put it this way: Is there any reason to believe that a Clinton victory would lead to irretrievable disaster? Because that’s the question you should be asking yourself.

Start with the least important issue (even if it is my specialty), economics. If you’re a Republican, you presumably believe that center-left policies — higher taxes on top incomes, a big subsidized expansion of health insurance, tighter financial regulation — are bad for the economy. But even if you think the Obama economy should have been better, the fact is that we’ve added 11 million private-sector jobs; stocks are way up; inflation and interest rates have stayed low; the budget deficit has withered away.

So it’s not a disaster, and there’s no reason to believe that a Clinton economy would be a disaster either. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump is talking about wildly irresponsible tax cuts, renegotiating debt, and ripping up trade agreements. Moving up the scale of importance, what about national security? Even if you think that President Obama could have gotten better results by bombing more and talking less, there’s just no way to paint Mrs. Clinton — who has the support of many retired military leaders — as some kind of pushover for terrorists and foreign aggressors. Meanwhile, her opponent talks about abandoning NATO allies if they don’t pay up and seems fine with Russian adventurism in Ukraine.

For Krugman and many others, the worst threat Trump poses is to our very democracy. There just is no comparison between what some call Obama’s overstepping of his authority to get things done over the objections of a totally obstructionist Congress. Neither Obama, nor his proposed successor pose a danger to basic liberty or act like, or express admiration for dictators. Realistically, a Clinton presidency is not going to be disastrous, even for Republicans. In Krugman’s eyes, a vote for Trump is virtually a “dereliction of duty” for ordinary citizens. “And whatever one may say about ordinary voters, the real sinners here are Republican leaders — people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell — who are actively supporting a candidate whom they know poses a danger to the nation.” There are times, Krugman points out, when party loyalty should and must take a back seat. This is one of them. 

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