Donald Trump is right about one thing. America should come first. However, he’s very wrong with his approach based upon the policy proposals we’ve heard from him.
Often times, the best move for America is to embrace cooperation outside of the country. Promoting the free market world economy is one of the clearest examples of this. Americans win when we are able to get cheaper products. Tariffs harm Americans more than they hurt other countries. This is not an opinion. This is a clearly demonstrable fact that has played the same tune throughout history.
Too many have confused the proper approach (which isn’t Trump’s approach) to “America first” with globalism. Others have associated Trump’s version of “America first” with the idea of isolationism. Both notions are false. A true “America first” perspective that would be advantageous to the highest number of Americans is one where America is calling the shots and establishing our proper place on the world stage. Sometimes, that means doing things that aren’t very isolationist, but it also means squarely opposing the vast majority of pushes towards globalism.
The way to do this is to make sure that America’s control over situations is beneficial for everyone, especially Americans. We’ll detail what that means, but first let’s take a look at examples of globalism and isolationism that operate contrary to the goals of making sure America and its citizens are taken care of first and foremost. Here are three prime examples:
As discussed briefly above, the way that trade is managed can only be hurt by isolationism. This is where Trump is as wrong as his like-minded cohort on trade, Bernie Sanders. Both believe that the best way to bring jobs back to America is to obey the demands of labor unions and make it difficult for businesses to operate overseas. On the surface, this seems positive. It’s great for getting a big cheer at rallies, but it’s completely untenable. Jobs will not come back to America without major consequences when this form of “America first” trade is utilized. It puts companies in situations where their only two choices are to take a hit by being punished by the federal government for operating overseas or by increasing costs for operating in America.
The iPhone is the perfect example. If Trump and Sanders get their way, Apple will be forced to produce their iPhones in America. The result? The potential for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of new American jobs. The other result? A $1300-$2200 iPhone for millions of Americans. The best way to bring jobs back to America is to reduce the cost of business. Remove regulations, reduce taxes, and make it beneficial for companies to want to fulfill their business obligations by hiring people in the U.S. within a reasonable cost structure.
In an ideal situation, the conservative mentality as it pertains to overseas intervention should be one of extreme caution. That doesn’t mean isolationism, but it also means that the hawks in the Republican party like John McCain and Marco Rubio should not allow overseas interests to require American intervention all the time. Human rights can be defended by assisting other nations. Nation building has failed in every modern attempt. Costly wars have been a waste. However, there also should not be a complete removal of America’s hand over foreign affairs.
WWII is an example of this. Had America been following Trump’s version of “America first” back then, there’s a very good chance that the Cold War would have been replaced by a real war with Nazi Europe. Today, that situation is manifesting in the form of the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other radical Islamic groups who are becoming more than ragtag cells of suicide bombers. If allowed to continue, they will become a bigger threat to America than they already are. No, a border wall will not be enough to keep them out if they’re allowed continued existence.
Those who fear globalization, including the staff of this site, have a righteous opposition to it. NATO is not part of globalization. It could be in the future, but today it is strategically necessary. The way to prevent it from becoming a tool of globalization is to fix it from the inside, not dissolve it or leave it as Trump has proposed. He’s looking at the money and he’s correct to say that it needs to be fixed. We cannot continue to bankroll it the way we have been. However, that doesn’t mean that we should leave or even threaten to leave. Doing so is a show of weakness and one that dissolves the idea of “America first.” Why? Because without NATO, Russian and Chinese alliances are more powerful than us as an individual country. That’s hard to admit, but after years of war and a tanking economy, the combination of the Clinton-Bush-Obama quarter-century has made NATO more necessary now than ever.
The Trump Way
With all of that understood, it’s important to realize that there are ways to truly embrace the idea of “America first” without abandoning relationships or causing more harm than good with idiotic policy proposals. First, we have to allow the private sector to make itself flourish. This cannot be done through mandates, regulations, taxes, or tariffs. It can only be done by empowering businesses, particular small- and medium-sized companies, to operate freely. This means reducing taxes, removing regulations, improving trade agreements, and allowing the free market system to do what it does best. We aren’t so far removed from the prosperity of the 1980s and early 1990s to have forgotten what a free market economy can do. Now that the digital age has changed the landscape, it should be easier for free market principles to rule. All the government needs to do is get out of the way.
Regarding the military and foreign affairs, we aren’t being very smart about it. In fact, we haven’t been smart about it in several decades. Ronald Reagan had the best approach in the modern era, but even his show of American muscle without using it very often had flaws. He, too, engaged in regime change, though some claimed it was the trade off with Neocons in Congress for supporting his economic policy. Today, the strategy is downright idiotic. The path that President Obama has taken us down is so poor that others are starting to take our place in the international arena. Trump’s proposals are to the left of Hillary Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. He wanted Russia to handle Syria and ISIS. He’s recommended pulling out of Japan and South Korea and forcing them to defend themselves against nuclear China and North Korea by getting their own nukes. Seriously. We need to be present in these areas. We need to flex our muscles while only using them as a last resort.
The worst part about Trump’s “America first” attitude is in dividing America itself. He’s turning Americans against Americans, particularly when it comes to heritage. We can’t necessarily call it racism since his rhetoric is not isolated to race. His insane attacks against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over one of his Trump University lawsuits, are antagonizing much of the nation against him. By calling into question Curiel’s Mexican heritage, Trump is making an issue of allegiance even for U.S. citizens. Curiel was born in Indiana over six decades ago. He’s never publicly expressed an opinion about Trump’s plans to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but Trump is calling him out on it nonetheless.
Americans can achieve the goals that Trump has loosely discussed, but to do so would require a different plan of attack than what Trump is offering. Clinton’s policies are no better. Thankfully, there is power within the people of America to accomplish those goals with or without one of the two idiots representing the Republicans and Democrats. It isn’t easy, but we must make DC listen to us. The first step is to recognize the moronic ideas that the candidates are offering and to help others to do the same.