The last time America’s 1% called a politician a “traitor to his class,” the nation was deep into the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the “traitor” referred to was fellow aristocrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. This week, that honor goes to GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump. Political strategist Greg Valliere told CNN Money: “Wall Street hates him because he is a class traitor…He has bought into the populist rhetoric that Wall Street is greedy and makes too much money…He sounds more anti-Wall Street than Elizabeth Warren.”
Valliere’s firm, the Potomac Research Group, provides political policy analysis to the financial services industry, “Connecting Washington and Wall Street.” Therefore, it’s a good bet that Mr. Valliere knows what he’s talking about.
Still, chances are that Trump is simply co-opting the issue that Bernie Sanders has so forcefully injected into the current discourse, and his “anti-Wall Street” rhetoric is nothing more than political theater. So…what is Wall Street so afraid of?
In short, Donald Trump is a “loose cannon.” His ignorance of geo-politics and foreign affairs, his admitted propensity to “shoot first and ask questions later,” and his unfortunate tendency to run his mouth before engaging his brain makes investors very nervous. In risking billions of dollars, the investor class above all requires certainty. That is the last thing a Trump Presidency would offer. Samuel Stovall, a strategist at S&P Capital IQ, agrees: “If you’re concerned about uncertainty, I would be very concerned about a Trump presidency.”
Of course, given Trump’s idiocy and the fact that the GOP itself has been turning against him, what are the chances that the Donald will even win the nomination, let alone the White House? Political analysts are divided on this question. On one hand, former assistant Treasury Secretary Tony Fratto told CNN: “I don’t ask anyone what they think of a Trump White House because I would look dumb if I had that conversation.”
On the other hand, Robert Shapiro of the McDonough School of Business warns that it would be a mistake to underestimate Trump’s candidacy, adding, “People have fundamentally misjudged the nature of his appeal.”
Shapiro may have a point. At least one major political website, Vox, has compared Trump to the GOP’s patron saint, Ronald Reagan. Trump’s current campaign motto “Let’s Make America Great Again!” hearkens back to Reagan’s “Morning in America” ads. Readers of a certain age will recall that Reagan was elected to the Presidency twice, despite his virulent anti-labor positions, his “trickle-down” economic policies, and his Iran-Contra controversy. Today, Reagan has become as much a legend in the minds of Republicans as the minor 5th Century Romano-Celtic chieftain who is remembered as Arthur, King of the Britons.
The difference is that while Arthur allegedly lived during a time of ignorance, superstition and illiteracy, Reagan’s legacy is documented in video and in print.
Still, considering the “dumbing-down” of America over the past generation, and Americans’ inclination toward celebrity worship, Trump may indeed be giving Wall Street something to worry about.