The estimable Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal, whose columns about Latin America are always must-read material, put a rare foot wrong Monday in arguing that Donald Trump is offering Americans a form of leadership modeled after the Latin American caudillo.
Trump, she argues, plans to rule by decree, destroying what is left of our constitutional system and the rule of law, and inevitably bringing down the U.S. economy as well.
The Latin American caudillo is typically a general, one used to using brute force to achieve results — not a business leader who relies, ultimately, on deals. And the staple policy of the caudillo is economic redistribution, which fits Democratic contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) far better than Trump.
Trump’s core policy — the “Wall,” and the enforcement of immigration law — is actually a call to return to the rule of law. It is the reason his candidacy resonates widely, even though immigration is a low priority for many voters.
He has made some outlandish promises about tariffs and torture, but when challenged, he has walked them back. His conservative rivals attack him for his willingness to negotiate with opponents — hardly a strongman’s pose.
Trump has never attacked the Constitution — certainly not the way Barack Obama did for years, lamenting its limits on “redistributive change.” Trump wants tougher media laws — a bad idea — but he wants them passed as laws.
Some of Trump’s rhetoric can be put down to the cultural difference between the business and political worlds. Large companies function as authoritarian regimes — especially privately-held companies, like Trump’s.
But even if, for argument’s sake, one grants O’Grady the possibility that Trump is a Juan Perón waiting to emerge, that should not matter.
What differentiates Americans from our Latin American neighbors is not that we are better human beings, but that we have a better system.
The Framers imagined leaders far more pompous than Trump — and restrained them with checks and balances.
If we lack confidence in those, we have a more serious problem than Trump.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.