A century ago, Winston Churchill characterised Europe as nations and factions having “vials of wrath”. US president Donald Trump’s opponents are self-branded as 'the Resistance'. This resistance includes elected officials and career bureaucrats as well as many well-funded issue-oriented groups and a sympathetic media. While some of the president’s decisions are popular with his core supporters, the policy changes and his administrative style have offended the resistors, refilling their vials of wrath.
An audacious outsider, Mr Trump won only 4% of the popular vote in Washington, DC so friction was expected. Congress may be plagued with an unsustainable 10% to 12% approval rating, but Washington’s elite is entrenched, and it believes in itself and its methods. This establishment’s leaders smile knowingly, self-perpetuated by political financing schemes that are unaltered and a civil service system that guarantees tenure.
Despite the rancour, some business leaders are guardedly hopeful that the president (or his party) will stay on course in terms of economic growth strategies. They point to:
- Continued positive speculation about tax rate reductions and, potentially, more significant corporate tax reform.
- An 'all of the above' energy policy that includes more natural gas. Officials suggest expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Japan and Germany, who have sworn off nuclear power. LNG facilities, blocked in the recent past, may be getting a green light.
- Pro-business cabinet appointments and early regulatory reductions. One Fortune 50 CEO was quoted as saying: “All of a sudden after the election, the waterboarding, the eight years of waterboarding, stopped.”
Former US president Harry S Truman was alleged to have said: “If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog.” As have most presidents before him, Mr Trump is said to be turning to a few close friends and associates for private counsel. If they speak candidly to him, hopefully their advice will be both sound and heeded.
Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.