For me, all this attention from the Democrats conjures up some uncomfortable questions: Am I really a Democrat, or just pretending to be one? Can I, as an economist, focus on the things that I like about the Democratic hopefuls, and ignore the things that bother me?
Take Trump’s tariffs, for example. Why don’t the candidates all propose to scupper the tariffs? Trump’s trade war makes investors reluctant to invest because they create an uncertain business climate. As an economist, I know that shrinking investment is a recipe for recession. The new president could eliminate the tariffs on the first day on the job. Yet no one standing on the debate stage seemed eager to suggest this.
Democratic candidates have failed to stress that the trade deficit is not inherently an economic problem. If I do, am I still a Democrat?
Another example is the minimum wage. What true Democrat would oppose the suggestion, now making the rounds, for a $15 federal minimum wage, as endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others?
Do my reservations on the minimum wage threaten my standing as a loyal Democrat? Can I go to the caucuses without feeling like a fraud?
There are other issues bothering me as well, such as all the proposals that require large expenditures, like free higher education, when the deficit is approaching one trillion dollars. Democrats are willing to raise taxes on the wealthy, but are they willing to also cut the defense budget or reduce farm subsidies?
You might say, however, there is a simple solution to my emotional conflict: admit that you’re a closet Republican and join the other party. I’ve thought of that, but there are several problems. First, and most obviously, how could I possibly support Trump? Secondly, even if I wanted to join the Republican Party, where would I find it? Protective tariffs and trillion-dollar deficits, are these the policies of real, or at least traditional, Republicans? Third, even when Republicans were being, you know, Republican, I would find it hard to join their ranks. I can’t abide that party’s casual acceptance of the plight of our society’s most vulnerable citizens: the poor, minorities, working families without health insurance. To say nothing of their apparent disregard for non-citizens: desperate migrants fleeing violence in their home countries.
So I’ll remain a Democrat. I’ll go to the caucuses, and I’ll stand in whichever corner of our high school gym that supports the candidate that least offends my personal and professional sensibilities. (I don’t know who that is yet.) But I’m sure I’ll feel a bit out of place.