GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
by Jim Palombo
The partnership of the Conservative agenda and Donald Trump is on. And the alliance, holy or otherwise, can be confusing. After all neither political nor individual behavior represents the perfect science, there are millions of moving parts to each that somehow have to mesh. In that light this review is intended to compile information as to what is in play, which in turn should provide a better grasp of what the partnership before us actually entails. If nothing else this will help as to where/at which partner criticism or praise might best be levied. So let’s get a look at some of the ingredients currently on our presidential table.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, capitalism is defined as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of goods where investments and profit are determined by private decision rather than state control and where prices, production and distribution of goods are determined mainly by competition in a free market”. Given the same reference source, democracy is defined as “a government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation, usually in the form of free elections”. These are the two “working definitions” most commonly applied by Conservatives (as well as Liberals, I might add) when framing our American experiment.
From the Conservative standpoint the two should mix rather well. In short what reasonable person wouldn’t like living in a system that manages a society in this way. And as long as the federal government stays out of areas it doesn’t have direct expertise in (like most state matters) while continuing to express and act upon the best of democratic intentions, well. Importantly, and given its most significant role, business, particularly under the notion of free and unfettered capitalism, should be allowed to take care of market concerns with minimal government interference/regulation/taxes. This non-interference, along with complimentary incentives and a reliance on corporate-favorable legislative and legal interpretations are what allow for the provision of ample jobs, stable income and other economic benefits tied to overall social welfare. Said another way, as profits grow in the midst of this eco-political mix so will our homeland prosperity grow. For Conservatives this is the formula by which the country has become the nation of strength, freedom and influence it represents, and our citizenry needs to maintain its focus on this fact. (With the provision of enough jobs, most people who seem disadvantaged will be able to work their way out of their situations. This in turn eliminates a great deal of “social welfare.” Of course there will always be a few who just can’t seem to hold their own, who lack in character usually due to some biological, psychological and/or moral deficiency to the extent that they will act-out, needing special attention to alter their course of action. This “attention” should rely mostly on the common sense of discipline and should range, depending on the behavior, from good-hearted volunteerism to solid and strong prison systems. And just to note, for those who want to demonstrate their own shortcomings or beliefs into more system-oriented tirades, with actions either stateside or abroad which threaten our status quo, then the idea of carrying a big stick with the willingness to use it should follow.)
With this general logic in hand we can ultimately arrive at the “clean, lean, economic machine” imagery representative of Conservative logic. Certainly there are those who object to this logic, citing mainly problems related to an over-reliance on the nature of profit and the realities of corporate/capitalist behavior. Be that as it may, the dismissal of these type objections by our electorate “is what it is” and life in the U.S. will, with all due respect, be bending toward the Conservative light.
In similar vein let’s take a look at our newly minted president – in short what do we know about Donald Trump? This seems a most important question, especially as he is personalizing his Conservative presidency to the extent of revamping his cabinet with like-minded colleagues while engaging in efforts that speak to his own interpretation of what being a Conservative means. Yet unlike his partner, i.e., the traditional Conservative agenda, this is a bit more of challenge as his character-related information seems inconsistently unclear. In any event, there are a number of indicators out there, so let’s see what can be gleaned from them.
He is a married man with children. Although he is on his third marriage, with both grown and young children in tow, this is not so uncommon in today’s world. If his marital experience points to anything, it points to the fact that such relationships over time have come to be understood in a different text than those of years passed. In short, times have changed so no need to make any past examples so significant a measure. His wife is certainly a beautiful woman, although she tends to remain in the background in terms of public engagement. This seems a bit out of character with being a First Lady but so be it. His children, especially his daughter, appear to be well adjusted and ready to take on whatever challenges their lives present. And speaking of family, his parents seem to have left him in good stead both financial and physical health-wise, although he doesn’t wax philosophical as to their role in his own story. This also appears true in the case of his siblings, even though we know a bit about his brother who tragically died of alcoholism – which is why the President says he chooses not to drink. Overall then, his family dynamic does provide some, but only some, insight as to whom the President actually is.
The same might be said in terms of his religious persona. He is a Presbyterian Protestant, belonging to the Marble Collegiate Church. The public got a glimpse of him attending mass during his inauguration but by all accounts he is not an overly active member of the congregation, attending as he likes to put it as often as he can. Here again, this standard is not so uncommon these days, there are many who have personalized their beliefs in a way that accommodates their work as well as their faith.
And there are other elements that speak to his past in terms of his boyhood and college friends, as well as his student activities. There isn’t a lot of information in this regard, although by many accounts he seemed to be an amiable type, a decent athlete, and a good student. He wasn’t involved much with campus activities, something consistent with his general non-involvement in community/social issues throughout his career. He has made claims at times about being the best in school in terms of both sports and academic pursuits. But for most others, including the few faculty at Wharton who have spoken out (he attended that school for two years post a transfer from Fordham), this seems more a form of bravado than not. But again, this “stretch” is not really a bad thing, in fact it appears it’s rather commonplace among his peers. And after all, we all have a bit of this type of “stretching” in our pasts, as well. (There is a link in this regard, a bit on the humorous side. He likes to imply that he is a very skilled golfer, claiming at times to have a 3 handicap, which puts him in the really good, almost pro category. However many of his playing partners have indicated that his scores don’t seem to reflect the number of swings he takes and/or the penalties he incurs. Nonetheless, like with his other embellishments, his “scoring” is not something so uncommon for many others who play the game, i.e., let’s not make this too big a deal.)
Mr. Trump is not, by his own admission, really politically savvy. His real claim to fame is as a show business person (Miss Universe and The Apprentice have both been successful given their presentation of pretty people mixed with power, money and a bit of humbleness as well as humiliation) and as a business person with a considerable history in the field. (Consider the Trump “brand” itself.) In this context he has demonstrated some significant aspects related to his character, especially in regard to the professional qualities and other attributes he has relayed to his viewership.
On this note it’s fair to say that Donald Trump is definitely not afraid of work, appearing tireless at times spending days and nights focused on what he might do to better his standing. He is no doubt successful in business and his portfolio speaks to an impressive array of corporate interests. Unfortunately, like with other aspects of his life, it cannot be known exactly how successful he actually is. It doesn’t help that his tax returns, a primary piece of the puzzle, have not been offered for public review. But given the continuing auditing issues that he’s noted this should not be seen as a tactic to avoid disclosing his net financial value. In fact he has no problem expanding on his successes, what he is worth and how well his business acumen has served both. As the book “Art of the Deal” implies, he may in fact be the best businessman around, having been known to navigate business dealings in the most advantageous ways. This includes knowing how to create and manage debt (his “king of debt” moniker speaks to that) and how and when to use Chapter 11 bankruptcies. (In terms of debt management and his six bankruptcies he’s noted that it’s simply smart business when one can lose mostly other people’s money when things don’t work, but attain significant personal profit when they do. Indeed, his strategy seems hard to argue against, i.e., it seems simply astute business practice.)
His attachment to what some reference as a privileged life seems not to infringe on his own notion of being a populist, “good-ole boy.” He does in fact demonstrate this in many instances, talking and shaking hands with the public every chance he gets. Nonetheless it’s hard to imagine where this notion might come from. Again he certainly couldn’t make this claim given his upbringing, nor in terms of his level of business or attachment to common work, nor any military experience, nor given his personal surroundings and lifestyle. In any event as he himself suggests, perception is always important when dealing with and trying to help others. This seems to be what is at point. (On this note, it’s worth mentioning Mr. Trump’s connection to the lawyer Roy Cohen, a mentor of sorts, who was famous for his work with Senator Joe McCarthy’s efforts to rid the country of communist influence. Among others things Cohen encouraged the young Donald Trump to remember that no matter the side, certitude pays and perception is key — an axiom that Mr. Trump obviously continues to hold dear.)
So, with all this in hand, we do have some sense of who Donald Trump is. Some argue that this sense should tell us that he may not be who or what he says he is. They say his underhanded manipulations, like the creation of his own swamp while laying claim to drying up another, his off-handed remarks regarding important racial and gender concerns, the constant use of “truthful hyperbole” and his temperamental reactions when questioned about it conjure up a problematic image. In fact there are those who liken the image to the man/wizard exposed behind the curtain in the film “The Wizard of Oz.” In that scene, the man, proposing to be “the wizard” that can cure all, is caught as he manipulates the mechanism that is supposed to be the actual wizard – proceeding to say in his best slight-of-hand way – “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
For his naysayers then, we are in trouble. This is especially so when Mr. Trump’s character is coupled with the overall Conservative agenda, one that has “the market as savior” at its core. In this regard these individuals cite the monumental social struggles that have occurred throughout our history with the tenets of market-focused/capitalist policies. For them it’s important to consider events like the labor movements, with fair wages, better working conditions, etc., at stake — and the civil rights movement with expanded opportunities being fought for — and the choice by corporations to move/flee the country in the first place. These are the realities that speak to the true nature of corporate character.
But for those who voted for him, who support his efforts to “make America great again” they object strongly to this characterization. The Conservative agenda and Mr. Trump should be given the chance to try to make things work, to bring more jobs back stateside, to hone the labor force to benefit legitimate Americans whose futures are at risk. Whether through providing corporate incentives, or rebuilding the infrastructure, or re-shaping the government, or reorganizing military strategy, or altering health care, or immigration restrictions and the wall, or whatever — the cost should not be considered too high in terms of reinstating America back to its rightful place. For these individuals, liberal policies have simply not done the trick in addressing the country’s problems. Trump is a born leader, and his union with the Conservative agenda speaks to the opportunity and freedom that America is about.
So who will win here? For those who Trump represents the answer is they will, for like it or not, he is now the President. Yet, it seems it’s not going to be that easy, that no matter the side there’s a rough ride ahead. Again, some will continue to believe that the Conservative-Trump agenda is the “perfect storm,” that we may well be drowned by the wave that is the rest of the world. Others agreeing with Mr. Trump believe that it will be us who’ll create the wave that the world will have to navigate.
From my own perspective the Conservative-Trump union is a phenomenon that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. It’s at the same time civically educational, painful and even entertaining to watch, perhaps a bit like his television shows. Does the union put us in dangerous waters? I think we were already there no matter what. In that context what is happening with our new presidency seems as much a reflection of that fact as anything else. Will the union take us out of dangerous waters? I’m afraid not. Will it add to the dangers ahead? I think probably yes.
So we shall see. Again, without doubt, it’s a complex time. Whatever comes our way, we should be able to stand up to it, learn from it and move on accordingly. As noted, this piece was offered to add some clarity to our collective considerations. It was also offered knowing that none of us wants to be made a fool of. After all, when all is said and done, we all have higher hopes than that.
About the author:
*Jim Palombo is currently at work organizing a national based “education-discussion caravan.” It follows from the issues touched upon above and the concerns raised at the Campaign for an Informed Citizenry, www.cicorg.com. You can read more about him in “About Us” . You can reach him here at:
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