President Trump’s business council is no more – is this the end of Trump’s image as the pro-business president?
Not everyone is a fan of President Trump, but the markets fall into the pro-camp. They like him for his planned policies – the promised massive spending on infrastructure and forthcoming cuts in corporation tax.
The markets went out and celebrated the result of last year’s US election, with US stocks surging, and then surging some more.
Others said that at last, the White House has a man who gets business.
But these days, business is big on ideas such as collaboration, freeing up staff to make decisions and take risk, and on diversity. The CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have to be good at PR, they have to be diplomatic, they need to have more than half an eye on public perception.
President Trump doesn’t take much truck with these new-fangled ideas, but hey, at least he has his business councils, men and women, to advise him; not that Mr Trump necessarily thinks he needs advising, but its nice symbolism, all the same.
But as The Economist put it succinctly, “politicians have few easier tasks in their careers than condemning Nazis, and yet Donald Trump seemed to find this task difficult.”
And of course, as Mr Trump goes out of his way to make it clear that people who protest against obscene violence and oppression by white supremacists, are just as bad the white supremacists themselves, his cohort of business advisors desert him.
Mr Trump then tries to turn the table by dissolving two of his key councils.
But how can he survive this one? In less than one year, the US has gone from having a black president to one who appears to condone racist bigots.
Mrs Clinton did herself no favours when she described Trump supporters as ‘deplorables’ but it is clear who people with deplorable views support.
But looking beyond this latest debacle – however awful it is – Mr Trump seems to be losing the mantra of being pro-business. There is no sign of tax cuts, no sign of the infrastructure programme, and now no sign of support from the great and the good in business.
His one strength was his pro-business image, that seems to be dissolving in the acid of -perceived racism.
Can he survive this latest scandal?
From one point of view, his continued political survival beggars’ belief, but for him to go, Republican members of Congress must desert him, and to do that, they must put their own personal code of morals before the opinion polls. The next set of US elections are due next year, that is when these principled men and women who, unlike business leaders, have not let little things like apparent support of American Nazis get in the way of pragmatism, can decide whether or not to ditch their president.
The fact that Messrs George W and H Bush, Vice President Mike Pence, and even the UK Prime Minister have been quick to condemn Nazis, show that changes are afoot, however. At some point the markets will get it too – a president who does not seem to stand for collaboration, diversity and fact-based decision making is not good for them, either.
For that matter, a popular political movement that does not stand for these things is good for the markets.
When that sinks in, the impeachment bell will ring.