The Green Lantern Theory of the Presidential Race

Aug 19, 2015

Donald Trump announced his immigration policy Sunday, detailing, among other things, how he would keep illegal immigrants out (a wall), who would pay for it (Mexico), and how many officers would enforce the new penalties (triple the current number).

Rachel Caufield, associate professor of political science at Drake University, says even if Trump is elected president, that doesn't mean the plans will come to fruition.

"Are these proposals that could ultimately go into effect? Some of them maybe," Caufield laughs. "And Donald Trump himself has recognized that. He has said, 'You start with a plan, and then during the negotiations, your plans will undoubtedly change shape.'"

Hans Hassell, professor of political science at Cornell College, says Donald Trump falls prey to the so-called 'Green Lantern theory' of politics, which name checks a DC Comics superhero.

"Green Lantern has this ring, and the ring enables him to do whatever he wants to do if he only believes it. So there's this theory of the presidency, somehow we think that the president could do anything he wants to do if he only believes that he had the power to do it:'If Donald Trump was president and he wanted to build that wall, and he wanted to get Mexico to pay for it, dang it, he could do that.'" 

Hassell says this type of flawed logic may be more persuasive to Trump because he comes from an business background, where the president of a corporation has far more power than the other parties involved.

"We have this conceptualization of the president as this all-powerful politician. When in reality, he's one branch of three in our government."

On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Caufield and Hassell about the Trump, Scott Walker, and other recent visits to Iowa by presidential candidates.