As President, Donald Trump may genuinely end up in service of the people, if he were to follow up on some (the only one) of his saner policies.
When I first went to New York in 1972, Donald Trump was largely unknown. By the time I moved there in 1975, he had started achieving some notoriety, largely in the tabloids, as he was making a run to become famous for simply, well, being famous. He did, of course, have some dicey real estate deals and legal shenanigans by then. In 1973, he had been accused by the US Department of Justice for violations of the Fair Housing Act; while the suit was settled out of court, he remained under a cloud with subsequent accusations of his failure to live up to the settlement agreement, and so on. In any event, he spent a lot of money on lawyers over the years and has not, as far as I know, been successfully prosecuted for anything.
He flitted in and out of the tabloids over the years, and by the time I left New York in 1985, I had certainly stopped paying attention. The general impression was that he was an ugly, stupid, loudmouthed, nouveau riche kid from Queens.
By now, of course, we all know he’s not stupid.
His relentless rise in the US Presidential race from a bad joke to an unbelievably rude, senseless and aggressive candidate to a real contender certainly confirms that he is wa-a-y smarter than he looks (or sounds). It also, of course, reflects America’s penchant for surprising itself and the world from time to time with some real madness. However, even by those standards, this one is a doozy.
Pundits have filled reams of newsprint and electronic space jostling to explain the Trump phenomenon—no academic studies, yet, but who knows. Of course, as in storms or financial markets, being able to understand why something grotesque is happening is of limited value in the moment, when you have to rush to take shelter, or vote, as the case may be.
Donald Trump has the momentum and is very close to, and, in some cases, leading Hillary Clinton in the polls. November is still several months away and, even if Hillary wins cleanly in California (June 7) and/or Bernie Sanders comes out strongly in her favour, it will not be easy for the Democrats to turn the tide, unless—and this is always a possibility—Trump self-destructs. Remarkably, there’s been very little dirt dug up about him—it’s hard to believe there isn’t tonnes of it given that he’s been in real estate and gambling, traditionally highly corrupt industries. The bleating about the excesses at Trump University sounds almost pathetic in the face of a real champion at using media. PR companies advise people to stay on message irrespective of the subject and the question—Trump takes it to another level by not only completely disregarding everything else, but babbling on from Message A to Message B to Message F and, sometimes, back again.
He is basically dishing out lowest common denominator entertainment, and his obvious success may, indeed, be further confirmation of wider trends. The end—or, certainly, the redistricting—of globalisation has already started weighing on high-end assets and services. Trump and assorted relatives from Europe to the Philippines will keep this pressure up and, although exclusivity will always remain in demand, the “barbarians” are pounding at the gates as the world is trending towards a reduction in the appalling inequality in income and assets that is keeping global growth under impenetrable pressure.
Indeed, if Donald Trump becomes the President of the United States of America, he may genuinely end up in service of the people, if he were to follow up on some (the only one) of his saner policies—for example, preventing tax evasion in the name of tax avoidance. Of course, it’s hard to believe he isn’t personally implicated in this and, in any event, he could well throw it all away by making the tax regime more regressive than it already is.
His ascension will certainly generate huge volatility in all markets, particularly if he continues to push his more strident—and horrifying—inanities. Saying that the Chinese are raping America and he doesn’t blame them betrays not only an appalling (though unsurprising) insensitivity to what rape is, but also an appalling (and, again, unsurprising) lack of understanding of global finance and markets.
The big trick will be for him to find advisors who have some in-depth understanding of the world as it is and can also live in a The Apprentice-like environment which appears to be all he knows. Shockingly, if not surprisingly, there are already some politicians lining up with their noses and tongues hanging near his rear end.
It will also be curious to see how this shabby spectacle plays out globally. Will Narendra Modi pull out his all-season bear hug? How far away will Angela Merkel try to sit? Will Vladimir Putin challenge him to a friendly arm-wrestle? And will David Cameron bound in one leap yapping onto his lap?
Most importantly, will the Chinese jack up prices on blond hairpieces?
The author is CEO, Mecklai Financial