Kyle Wingfield: Rethinking skepticism of Donald Trump

CLEVELAND — A Republican I know wrote this week to voice his disappointment in my “doom and gloom approach” to the GOP’s purported unity around its presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Another reader criticized my “continued whining and disrespect” for Trump, which he called “disgusting.”

I think most people would say I’m not a pessimistic person. So I thought I’d apply my more natural optimism to the prospect of a Trump presidency. After listening to Trump and his surrogates all week at the Republican National Convention, what is my best-case scenario if he wins?

Start with November, and his having coattails long enough to maintain GOP control of Congress. Perhaps that would give him more of an inclination to work with legislators than he indicated in his acceptance speech Thursday, when he didn’t even mention Congress, or any of its leaders. And they could help him confirm strong, conservative Supreme Court justices.

It would be good to see the “law and order candidate,” as he called himself, rein in the lawless reliance on executive actions we’ve seen under President Barack Obama rather than expand on it.

Speaking of law and order, resolving the tensions between police and many of the people they serve, particularly African-Americans, would be a chance for Trump to show off his famous negotiating skills. Bringing to the table the kind of police and community leaders who spoke on his behalf this past week, and getting them to agree on changes for each side to make, would be a real and meaningful accomplishment.

Next let’s imagine Trump recognizing that American manufacturing has not shrunk after the trade deals he criticizes but grown. That our manufacturing output alone is larger than the entire economies of all but a handful of other nations. That losses of manufacturing jobs have more to do with technology than trade deals. That the way to counter those losses is by training Americans for other jobs that put them in a growing and prosperous middle class. That to the extent our trade deals need to be rethought, his plan to do “individual deals with individual countries” is a recipe for a messy spaghetti bowl of rules for multinational companies.

And let’s dream that Trump would learn to appreciate the weight carried by the words of our president, who can’t simply muse aloud about abandoning our longtime allies. He would understand that, while our NATO allies should fulfill their obligations, the price of walking away from them – as Trump said a negotiator must always be willing to do – would be far greater in dollars, security and economic certainty than any compensation he might squeeze out of them.

If much of this seems at odds with the Trump we’ve seen, it is the way many good people have persuaded themselves to get on board with Trump. They think he’s a man who will eventually meet them partway, one whose main difference with other Republicans will be that he does what they only talk about.


I was indulging this reverie Friday morning when I saw Trump was speaking again. And, having earlier restrained himself, talking about Ted Cruz’s not endorsing him Wednesday. And bringing up that alleged picture of Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald – reported, Trump reminded us, by the “credible” National Enquirer and never proven not to be Rafael Cruz, right?

And the optimist in me shut his mouth and dropped his head.