Dr. David Cowan
Is Trump the candidate changing the nature of American politics? If elected, will Trump the President change the way the business of politics is done? Is he an outsider or part of the usual crowd of American high society? Your answer largely depends on what is your economic worldview.
There are many views of what Trump represents, and many of these are examples of wishful thinking. Conservative opponents wish there was a way to get a different candidate, while liberal opponents etch out story lines in an attempt to stoke the backlash in the hope he doesn’t get the top job. Most views are, in other words partisan, and Mr. Trump is seen a hugely divisive figure. I want to move out of the partisan zone and single out three views of his significance, and discuss how they relate to your economic view of the world.
Celebrity: It could be argued that Mr. Trump’s position is the natural outcome of the dumbing down of discourse in the public square, and highlights the extent to which America has a voting constituency addicted to reality TV and personality politics. His significance in this view is that he represents a change from serious politics to the rowdy and uncouth level of reality television. In this view he is a joke and a fool, and this is pretty much the view of many people and the media outside of America looking on. However, the same constituency misread Obama and greeted him as a savior.
This view is held by people globally who see America as crass capitalism, a casino mentality and a superficial celebrity-driven culture. Sorry to be so brutal, but there you have it, this is what some people think. Their economic worldview is that America uses capitalism to throw its weight around, and Trump represents the worse aspects of American capitalism – Hell, he is Mr. American Capitalism!
Dealer: On the other hand, one could see him as representative of the backlash against the DC way of doing things. His supporters believe he has the business and real life experience to bring a new way of doing things. He will bring a business discipline to the position. He is a unique outsider who has not come through the usual route to gain the candidacy, and will be a new kind of businessman-president who understands the needs of working America. For the outsider or neutral, this at least has the appeal of an interesting possibility, and it will be a question of seeing what the first 100 days looks like to see if proof starts to emerge, or if there is a collapse into celebrity.
This view is held by many people in America, not necessarily GOP supporters, who believe Washington DC is corrupt – the best Congress money can buy argument. They believe too much power resides in DC, way from the State level and favors big business over the entrepreneurial drive that made America great. They see Mr. Trump as one of them, someone who is big enough and successful enough to change the mentality and bring back the dream.
Pragmatist: The third view is a variation on the second, which is that Mr. Trump is not a real conservative, more of an opportunist. This is the most intriguing of the lot. This will mean that a President Trump will be a pragmatist, and will do deals with all interested parties to meet the objective. This is the norm in business, where negotiators have to deal with many interests and put any ideological views to one side. Trump is not an ideological conservative, he has been used to wining and dining with the great and the good whatever their political views. This should make him good at the deal, but it will also lead to many of his supporters ending up disappointed in the same way President Obama has disappointed many of his most expectant and arduous supporters.
This view is one held by people who are suspicious of power, whether it is government or business, and that it is power that is at the base of our economy. This view understands power is usually adrift from the ideology or arguments that get people elected, and becomes an end in itself. This is a view that politicians will do whatever it takes to survive. It differs from the second view specifically in that it discards any notion that politicians get themselves elected to make change. In this view, there is little difference between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, they are both sides of the same power coinage.
As I said at the outset, there are many views, but these I think are the more interesting ones to explore the various constituencies in the mix and provide for interesting discussion about Mr. Trump the candidate. Which of these views is closest to your own?
One thing is for certain, not many people are available for the position of being an “outsider” of any sort, either because they don’t want to be or do not have the support. This makes Mr. Trump the only option to test the notion of whether an outsider, especially one from the world of business, can succeed.
In Part 2 tomorrow, I will look at how Mr. Trump can communicate to succeed.