I’ve seen it bandied about by friends who support Donald Trump’s candidacy and other supporters of his that an important argument in favor of voting for him is that he can’t be bought, that unlike other politicians he has too much personal wealth to be swayed by the offers of lobbyists and other groups. This is an intuitively appealing argument for me to some degree.
I have voted against corruption and for candidates I didn’t think could be easily “bought” by special interests ever since I was old enough to vote, so I understand why it’s an important thing to do. So my next question is of course: is Trump a man who cannot be bought? If the answer is yes, then I ought to at least consider his policy arguments on their merits, even if those policy arguments did suddenly change when he began seeking the Republican nomination.
The first step is to compare Trump to other politicians who have been effectively bought by lobbyists and see if he fits their mold. The more recent Congress is comparatively diverse in terms of ethnicity, but is still composed mostly of successful businessmen and lawyers. It takes money to run for Congressional elections, and so many of the people who do run and are elected have quite a bit to start with. Nonetheless, they are often what Trump supporters (and other anti-corruption voters like me) would label as “bought”.
Over and over, Congress has proven that people with lots of their own money are not immune to being bought. In fact, they may be more susceptible to it precisely because they come into the position with a habit of seeking more money. But let’s consider that Trump may be the exception to this rule, given that he is a man apt to be willing to break many of the rules.
Sometimes, people who are quite successful and have a lot of money aren’t people who are seeking to make more money; they are perfectly content with what they have and donate any excess to charity. Donald Trump has donated quite significant amounts of money to politicians on both sides of the aisle, money that could have gone to charity, but instead went to buying the ears of people in a position to make sure that he would have the advantage of eminent domain in real estate deals he wanted and a favorable regulatory environment.
This does not necessarily mean that he could be bought, but it does suggest that he is willing to buy politicians in order to acquire more money, which does not indicate that he has any ethical qualms about doing things his supporters would consider wrong in order reach his goals. But sometimes, people who are ruthless in achieving their own goals are still quite ethical when it comes to accomplishing goals on the behalf of others. Perhaps Trump is such a person.
If so, then it’s very difficult to explain his Presidential campaign, because it has been very similar to the Presidential campaigns of the “bought” politicians. Like the others, he has conveniently changed his views when it suited him; he went from being a Democrat to a Republican very quickly when he wanted to win the Republican nomination, rather like a RINO. If his candidacy is truly for the people and he is campaigning for the sake of regular Americans, then why hasn’t he released his tax returns to the people?
His excuse is exactly what we would expect from a “bought” politician pandering to us to get out of the consequences of his misdeeds: “They’re auditing me because I’m a strong Christian.” This despite there being no evidence that he’s ever been a devout Christian. As an aside, I’m perfectly content to vote for someone who’s not a devout Christian, but I’m suspicious when people suddenly start talking about being a strong Christian after displaying some of the most unloving behavior in their life, especially when they suddenly start claiming it in their later years right after starting to run for President.
None of this means that Trump will be easily “bought” in the same way as other political figures, but it does mean that I have no good evidence upon which to conclude that he cannot be bought. He shows every sign of being someone who is entirely willing to work very hard for lots and lots of money and not care when his use of government force negatively impacts the lives of regular Americans. After all, that’s exactly what he did with leveraging eminent domain.
In light of his past and present behavior, I suspect that Trump can indeed be easily bought, whether by beautiful young women, stacks of cash, or government power. He has a habit of doing whatever is necessary to get all three, just like your average corrupt politician, and there’s no reason to think that his habits have suddenly reversed course any more than there is to believe that the average politician’s habits have reversed course.