U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a Hispanic Town Hall meeting with supporters, Sept. 27, 2016, in Miami, Fla.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump campaign defends its rejection of substance, policy details

If anyone on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should be willing to defend the importance of substantive details, it’s Sam Clovis. He is, after all, one of the Republican candidate’s top policy advisers.

And yet, as BuzzFeed noted yesterday, even Clovis doesn’t want to bother stressing the importance of governing details in the campaign.
Sam Clovis, Donald Trump’s national policy adviser and campaign co-chair, said Monday before the debate that voters don’t care about policy specifics and would be “bored to tears” by them.

“Our approach has been to provide outlook and constructs for policy because if we go into the specific details, we just get murdered in the press. What we’re dealing with [is] we’re chasing minutia around,” Clovis said on the Alan Colmes Show on Fox News’ radio network.
In fairness, Clovis added that he cares about “specificity,” but the campaign has chosen not to get into policy details because these kinds of campaign debates are of no interest to the electorate.

“I think the American people, the American voter, will be bored to tears if that is in fact the way this thing goes,” he said.

It’s a valuable insight, if for no other reason because Clovis’ comments make clear that Team Trump is deliberately avoiding a substantive campaign debate over the issues. For the Republican candidate and his team, it’s a feature, not a bug.

In May, Politico quoted a campaign insider saying Trump didn’t want to “waste time on policy.” The Trump source added at the time, “It won’t be until after he is elected … that he will figure out exactly what he is going to do.”

A month later, the candidate himself added that “the public doesn’t care” about public policy.

Hillary Clinton, obviously, had adopted a very different approach, recently telling voters, “I’ve laid out the best I could, the specific plans and ideas that I want to pursue as your president because I have this old-fashioned idea. When you run for president, you ought to tell people what you want to do as their president.”

As we discussed several weeks ago, according to her Republican rival, this is an antiquated model to be avoided. Indeed, circling back to our previous coverage, I’m reminded of something MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote nearly a month ago, noting a fairly routine profile in Politico on Clinton’s tech policy advisers. It stood out largely because there is no comparable group on Team Trump, which has made a deliberate decision not to build any intellectual infrastructure.

“[U]ltimately a Trump Presidency is a complete and total black box,” Chris concluded. “No one, probably not even Trump, knows what the hell it looks like.”

And that’s not how national campaigns in mature democracies are supposed to work. Candidates for the nation’s highest office are not supposed to mock the very idea of pre-election governing details, vowing instead to figure stuff out after taking office.

It’s a problem exacerbated in Trump’s case because he’s never held elected office; he has no background in public service; and he’s never demonstrated any real interest in government or public policy. What we’re left with is an odd set of circumstances in which voters are apparently supposed to support the least-experienced, least-prepared presidential candidate of the modern era first, and then he’ll let the public know how he intends to govern.

The alternative, according to Trump’s national policy adviser, is a bunch of boring details that are only of interest to nerdy egg-heads. Why bore the electorate “to tears” with detailed information about the direction of their country after the election?

Stick it in a time capsule. Future generations won’t believe it.

Donald Trump and Post Policy

Trump campaign defends its rejection of substance, policy details