Politics of personality is the state of affairs America finds herself in more often than not, usually with problematic outcome. One of the greatest features of libertarianism, at least for me, is its elevation of ideas over idols, and while we do have our idols (remembering you, Milton Friedman), we (well, at least some of us) try to cleave to the structure of liberty they advocated rather than blindly trusting them to do us right.

Unfortunately, those who focus on policy over person are usually in the minority, with personality and charisma (or lack thereof) being more vital to electoral success. Even more so, as technology’s march has progressed. Nixon arguably lost to Kennedy in 1960 because he refused to wear makeup in the first televised Presidential debate. Reagan won America over with his manner and charisma. Obama was elected on strength of personality far more than on any policy he offered, and Trump won in 2016 because of his bull-in-a-china-shop demeanor far more than because he had the greatest ideas.

It’s also unfortunate that policy positions are often driven by reaction to those personalities, and it seems far too often the case that a party opposes a policy simply because the other party supports it. With the continued accretion of power to the Presidency, thanks to a Congress that has forgotten how to get anything done, we now have an almost default expectation that an incoming President of the other party will look to undo everything his predecessor did.

Which is a shame, because no one is wrong 100% of the time, and a blanket contravention risks undoing good outcomes.

So it goes with predictions and expectations for Biden’s term.

One, in particular, is the largely unsung and under-appreciated successes that Trump’s administration has had on the foreign policy front. This week, Morocco became the fourth Muslim-majority nation this year to normalize relations with Israel. Trump’s moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem was widely decried as courting disaster by the intelligentsia (who’ve been wrong about the Middle East for 50 years) proved nothing of the sort, and there is momentum in that part of the world that would be tragic to lose. Meanwhile, while Trump’s actions toward China have been a mixed bag (I’ve repeatedly criticized his love of tariffs), his views have turned out to be correct: China is a bad actor on the economic and political stage, and it’d be wrong to flip the script simply out of Trump-revulsion. And, of course, there’s war. Trump has been better at seeking to disentangle us from foreign messes than any president in my memory. We need more of that, not a return to the endless-war philosophy that both parties have embraced for too long.

There are other successes of the past four years that should be preserved and built upon. In the rush to “undo” the Trump era, it’d behoove our incoming President not to throw out these babies with all the bathwater. Unfortunately, because so many of us elevate personality over policy, there’ll be demands to do just that, because they’d rather chew hot asphalt than give any credit to the Untethered Orange Id, even after he’s been voted out of office.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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