NEW YORK — In this citadel of the rich and powerful, where the imperious Trump Tower looms over those who pull the financial strings, it is astonishing that not one CEO of a Fortune 100 company has donated to Donald Trump’s effort to become president.
After all, Trump’s logic in claiming he should run the nation is that he is a wealthy businessman who negotiates big deals and influences people. Trump is the Republican nominee, and a majority of top CEOs are Republican. But Trump’s argument is not swaying those who know him best, his fellow business leaders.
The Wall Street Journal analyzed donations to Trump through August and reported top CEOs are avoiding having anything to do with his presidential bid. This is dramatically different from four years ago when, the newspaper said, about a third of Fortune 100 CEOs donated to Mitt Romney. This time around, many CEOs donated to Trump’s rivals during the primaries, and 11 have donated to Hillary Clinton.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, an esteemed financial columnist for The New York Times, found a number of business leaders think Trump is a bully and are steering away from him out of fear of reprisal.
Sorkin quoted Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn who recently created a card game that ridicules Trump, as acknowledging even he feared blowback from Trump. “It’s the same thing like on school grounds, when people won’t go help the kid who is being bullied because they’re worried that the bully will focus on them,” Hoffman told Sorkin.
Also, CEOs have to answer to boards of directors and stockholders; getting into messy political controversies in a divided nation is not smart business.
Nonetheless, if business leaders truly believed that Trump could bring back jobs from overseas, where his Make America Great Again caps are made, or that he could single-handedly modify health and safety regulations, or that he could solve the problems of the inner city and end terrorism or triple economic growth and cut their taxes, they would probably hold their noses and endorse him. They are not.
How does a buttoned-down pillar of the community endorse a man who, during his debate this week with Clinton, said about his profiting from the housing downturn that took millions of Americans’ homes away, “That’s called business, by the way”?
How can men and women who run multibillion-dollar companies with thousands of employees countenance a candidate who, when Clinton noted he paid no income taxes, boasted, “That makes me smart”?
How can bottom-line managers endorse a man who’s had a rash of business bankruptcies, opposes free trade and is a pariah with big banks?
How can disciplined CEOs struggling to make their companies more diverse and tolerant give money to someone who calls a Latina Miss Universe, “Miss Piggy,” “Miss Housekeeping” and “Miss Eating Machine”? (And then, unasked, derided her for gaining a “massive” amount of weight.)
Trump and his sycophantic team argue that lack of business support shows he is an outsider. They say when he boasted he gave money to politicians because he knew they would do what he wanted, it means he knows how the system works.
But the opposite is true. There is no evidence indicating Trump would not use the presidency to bully, to intimidate and to enrich his own businesses. He has no specifics about the “change” he says he seeks.
Americans who are desperate for change should realize that change can be bad. Many think a Trump era would result in fewer jobs, lower wages, more trade wars, shooting conflicts and a nasty recession. Not change we wish to see.
We are nearing the end game of this long cycle. The Donald camp of supporters remains resolute. Nothing will dissuade them from voting for a straight-talking guy who makes a mockery of political correctness. The Hillary team of backers sees her experience, preparation and eagerness to serve as indisputable qualifications to lead.
So it falls to the uncomfortable undecideds, who are squirming at having to decide. If they move to Libertarian Gary Johnson, Trump will win. If they stay home, Trump still may win.
It’s risky business, any way you look at it.
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]