There may be no American presidency in my lifetime more polarizing than that of the Oval Office’s current resident, Donald J. Trump. Similarly, no sitting president has ever demanded so much of his people, or challenged or demeaned their most hallowed institutions, to the extent he has. That’s why, like it or not, even for those who remain patently dumbstruck by some of the crude and hateful things our sitting president continues to say and do, we will likely all owe Mr. Trump a huge debt of thanks at some point in the not too distant future. Let me explain that from a business perspective. Look, I’m a manufacturer. Most of you know that. I make my living and have built my business on the backs of products I make here and sell the world over. I traffic in the global marketplace, in other words. That’s why the whole notion that a global trade war can be a good thing, much less “winnable,” is clinically insane. Patently insane, in fact. I know it. You likely know it. Heck, anyone with any sense of history at all, or even trace-amounts of understanding of the laws of macro-economics knows it. Yet Mr. Trump came out, thumbs a-blazing, a few weeks back and boldly tweeted that, in essence, history and economic theorists were full of so much hot air. After all, he was the Donald, was his implication; he was the great deal-maker and brilliant businessman who could easily “win” a trade war.
So what happened? Exactly what you’d expect.
The free-market capitalists – those raging Wall Street bulls upon whose Brooks Brothers suit-wearing shoulders the modern Republican Party was erected – were stunned, if not stupified. They publicly railed against the president, calling him out for the absurdity of his tweet, however out of the box it may have been.
A number of Republican senators and congressmen likewise began distancing themselves from the president — a president from their own party, mind you — much like one might distance himself from a friend or family member charged with some creepy, sordid sex crime.
Even the president’s own chief economic advisor, former Goldman Sachs honcho, Gary Cohn, jumped ship 48 hours after the mind-numbing tweet. It’s one thing, after all, to swallow a bitter pill here-and-there in the pursuit of a bigger fish you’re trying to fry. It’s something else entirely to betray everything you’ve ever worked for, or everything for which you will ever stand.
But that’s not all. Once the president called for tariffs that would negatively impact our biggest allies, countries like Canada and the U.K., who was it that came out in support of them? Who was it that rallied behind the tariff-loving president and his duty-licious ideas? A number of Democrats, that’s who – including two members of Congress from Ohio, both of whom stated publicly and proudly that the president should be applauded and that Mr. Trump was absolutely right in proposing duties on all foreign steel and aluminum.
You see, my friends, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in America. That’s how the cards are supposed to fall on the American political landscape; the Republicans on the side of a deregulated, open market, and the Democrats all-in for government intervention as a shield to protect blue collar jobs from the realities of the market.
Republicans for global capitalism and Democrats for internal social relief.
But that’s not the world we’ve grown to see unfolding these past two years; what with Republican Wall Street gazillionaires spewing frothy rhetoric about supporting noble coal miners and down-on-their-luck steelworkers, and Democrats extolling the deep and bountiful wisdom of the open marketplace.
But thanks to Mr. Trump, things are, at long last, getting back to some semblance of normal. Thanks to his one simple, tone-deaf and horrifically anti-business tweet, Republican wolves far and wide found themselves freed to finally shed their sheep’s clothing and lash out, fangs bared, while just as many Democrats were able to, at long last, return to their labor union/blue collar roots and speak a language they grew up speaking.
No, the culture war at the heart of our national divide is not over. And no, this country’s rank-and-file will not be lining up behind Nancy Pelosi any time soon. But this is a step in the right direction. And we owe Donald Trump a tip of the cap for that.
In the last presidential election, the man brought millions of completely disengaged Americans on the far right back to the political process. His rhetoric – even if it was merely that; rhetoric – spoke to them in a way no politician had in years.
Similarly, it’s a virtual certainty that as many Americans (and, likely, significantly more) who are long-disenchanted voters at the political center (not to mention left of it) will likewise be re-engaged by Mr. Trump – even if it is to try to humiliate him in the midterm elections.
America lives and dies by its electoral process. That’s an absolute certainty. And in time, my sense is, we will thank him for all he did to bring tens of millions of American voters back to that process.
Similarly, the business of America is business. And, unless I miss my guess, for all Donald Trump did just to expose our business and political leaders – left and right – for who and what they are, we will likewise owe him a deep debt of thanks. Because someday Mr. Trump just may be remembered as the politician who, through his lies, lack of understanding, and aversion to facts, made all the other politicians finally stand up and speak the truth.