Thursday, January 28, 2016

Presidential Optimistic/Pessimistic Outlooks

We are on the cusp of phase two of the great American game: Who Wants To Spend A Million Million Dollars?

Phase one, you might remember, is when every third American denies he or she is running for office and then promptly announces they'll give it a go.

Phase two is the more sensible phase where a small collection of obscure states get to pick who will make it to the more substantially populated states who will then determine who makes it to the finals.

Phase three is the finals where two nearly identical twins argue about trivia while basically agreeing they like good things, are against bad things, and have a vision of how to either "keep us on course for greatness" or "turn it all around to restore greatness" depending on if people are happy or upset in general.

Let's run down the current leading contenders to see what the optimistic case and the pessimistic case is for each (from my point of view, of course). Keep in mind these are scenarios where optimistic and pessimistic are generally but not necessarily mutually exclusive (we could get some of both).

Trump:
Optimistic - Shows why we should lose (and should have lost a long time ago) our reverent awe for the U.S. Presidency; prevents major government action/intervention/meddling on any number of issues by being a circus act writ large (his administration's priorities will be prestige and showmanship rather than policy accomplishment); forces a meaningful debate and action on limiting executive power (a little bit in tension with the previous prediction as this one mitigates a Trump administration that is actually trying to do something).
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions (beyond the high amount the each of his opponents would do anyway); sets back trade freedom and immigration substantially; creates strong racial, ethnic, nationalistic, and gender divides.
Overall - I estimate the optimistic possibilities are more likely than the pessimistic possibilities. 
Cruz:
Optimistic - Is a strong ally of free trade in goods and services with a relatively good view on immigration; offers a serious challenge to some aspects of cronyism like ethanol subsidies, the Ex-Im Bank, and Net Neutrality; promotes a less interventionist military policy on balance; gets meaningful progress on tax reform. 
Pessimistic - Fails to get past a vision of a secured border leaving immigration policy languishing; allows military spending and engagements to grow substantially; uses executive power to similar ends as Obama and Bush. 
Overall -  Pessimistic are slightly more likely than optimistic.
 Rubio:
Optimistic - Advances immigration freedom substantially (this would be a major political advance for the GOP helping its demographic problem); promotes free trade well; gets meaningful progress on tax reform.
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions while strengthening government surveillance; extends the actions of executive power in defiance and weakening of the Constitution; proves that just as a he could be bought as a Florida politician (e.g., Big Sugar) he can be bought in the White House (i.e, cronyism). 
Overall - Optimistic are slightly more likely than pessimistic. 
Clinton:
Optimistic - Creates an era of gridlock not seen since the first Clinton administration keeping government at bay; allows for meaningful immigration progress; allows the drug war to recede while not actively doing much to bring about its demise.
Pessimistic - Engages in major international war actions while strengthening government surveillance; dreadfully extends the actions of executive power in defiance and weakening of the Constitution; makes good on her technocratic promise to bring government involvement to new realms while deepening it in familiar places.
Overall - Pessimistic are more likely than optimistic.
Sanders
Optimistic - Allows meaningful retreat in the drug war; sets back the cause of socialism by giving it power and identity; greatly reduces military involvement and spending while curtailing government surveillance; produces government sclerosis by getting lost in the wilderness of the endless desire to "do something" about each and every apparent malady.
Pessimistic - Gives power and identity to socialism in policy; accelerates greatly the growth of government spending; sets back free trade and immigration; creates new social divides and fosters greater identity politics.
Overall - Optimistic are slightly more likely than pessimistic.
What does it all mean at this point? Not much. Remember phase three... But for what it's worth, I would like to see a Cruz vs. Sanders finals. However, if we extend the field some (but unfortunately not enough to include Rand Paul), my preference among the awful alternatives is Bush vs. Sanders (this is definitely a minimax analysis).

Make no mistake about it. Each of these people would be horrible presidents when judged against the standards of liberty and the Constitution. But what else is new?

P.S., Sorry for all the parentheses.