Trumped-Up Politics

What the Donald is revealing about the Republican Party

Caleb Walsh illustration

Former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley recently released 15 policy papers with specific proposals on how to improve our nation. What a waste of time.

If there's one thing Donald Trump's surge to the front of the Republican field teaches us, it's that policies don't matter. It's not that the Donald has bad policies. He simply doesn't have policies at all.

Or at least he didn't until this weekend, when he released a 1,900-word policy paper on immigration. But this latest move is the exception that proves the rule. If you check out the new "positions" tab on Trump's campaign website (, you'll discover that newly released, single-issue memo represents the entirety of Trump's declared positions.

Talking heads on cable and newspaper columnists like me have repeatedly pointed out Trump's lack of clear policy proposals, remarking on how his answers to questions often sound good, but rarely offer any specific actions. How, they ask, can this guy be the leading candidate for the Republican nomination by double digits? (Meanwhile, Martin O'Malley, with his detailed goals and policy prescriptions, continues to barely register in the polls.)

The answer is that Trump's lack of substance is a feature, not a bug. The critique that Trump is the emperor with no clothes is true. What's being missed is that this same analysis could be applied to almost every Republican contender for the White House. The entire field is essentially naked. Jeb Bush doesn't have a single position statement, let alone a policy paper, on his website. Ditto for Scott Walker and John Kasich.

It's true that during the first Republican debate, Trump, who spoke the most of any candidate, provided little insight into the specifics of what a Trump administration would do. And it's also true that the same could be said of every other candidate. It's difficult, if not impossible, to provide real proposals in 30-second to one-minute sound bites.

Unfortunately, this isn't a problem that Republicans can easily dismiss by blaming the media.

While O'Malley has offered the most detailed positions so far, both top Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, make at least some attempt at suggesting their approaches to governing on their websites (although they both still provide far less than historically has been offered in a presidential primary).

The reality is the Republican Party has had far longer than 30 seconds to a minute to come up with substantial responses to the greatest challenges of our time, and nationally is consistently failing to offer solutions. Health care? Repeal Obamacare, then we can talk about our plan. Climate change? Denial. Foreign policy? Get Iran to agree to not develop nukes without ever talking to them. These responses, whether throwing a snowball on the floor of the U.S. Senate to disprove climate change or casually suggesting going to war with Iran to create world peace, are equally as ludicrous as anything Donald Trump has been saying.

Most people, including Republican primary voters, agree that Donald Trump should never be President of the United States. When, if ever, will some other Republican candidate show that he or she should be? ♦

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, grew up in a small town in Oregon, studied at the College of Idaho and currently resides in Seattle. He has been active in protecting the environment, expanding LGBT rights and Republican Party politics.