Fighting With Their Tentacles Tied Behind Their Backs

It’s easy to forget that this campaign began with a major corporate backlash against Donald Trump’s speech announcing his candidacy for the presidency. For example, Macy’s severed their relationship with Trump because they didn’t want to be associated with a man who was calling Mexican-Americans a bunch of rapists. They later tried to soften their stance by saying that they wouldn’t carry a line of handbags sponsored by Hillary Clinton, either, but that was revisionism after the fact. The truth is that corporations don’t want people boycotting or simply avoiding their products and services because of their relationship with Trump.

Now that Trump is the Republican Party’s nominee, that’s driving a wedge between corporate America and the GOP, and, as former deputy press secretary for President George W. Bush, Tony Fratto, points out in the Boston Globe, it’s going to have a negative impact on Trump’s ability to raise money for the fall campaign.

“Even if you suspect Trump might win, if you contribute to his campaign, you’re buying a ticket on the crazy train. … You own everything that he does.”

Trump will do his best. Despite spending a good deal of time during the primaries castigating hedge fund managers for “getting away with murder,” he named Steven Mnuchin, chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management, on Thursday as his national finance chairman.

And if he can ever close his gap in the polls, he might actually find some people willing to give him money as a hedge against him actually winning. But, for now, the smart money is on Hillary.

“I think most Wall Street money will be with Hillary Clinton,” said Brian Gardner, a Washington analyst with investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc. “There are relationships there. There’s familiarity. So even to the extent that some people on Wall Street don’t support her policies, I think there’s just a comfort level with her versus Donald Trump.”

…Clinton is way ahead. Trump has raised only about $540,000 from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political money.

Clinton has raised more than $40 million from those industries. (Former Florida governor Jeb Bush still outpaces them all, having raised more than $68 million from the sector before he dropped out of the race.)

It’s true that Clinton’s cozy relationship with the financial sector is at the core of the support Bernie Sanders has enjoyed in his candidacy, but that’s a separate issue from whether Trump and GOP are going to be cash-starved in this election.

What Sanders’s strength has demonstrated is that there is pull in both directions, and Clinton is undoubtedly getting the message from both sides. On the one hand, a huge faction within her own party is calling for rough treatment of our corporate overlords, and this thirst isn’t confined to the left, but also helps explain as least part of Trump’s success. So, she has to be cognizant of that both as a candidate and as a potential president. On the other hand, part of the realignment we’re witnessing is a destruction of the GOP’s ability to count on corporate bigwigs for financial support.

It’s going to make it hard for them to compete, and it’s just a compounding factor that exacerbates the problem they’re having with internal divisions and their inability to use their media organs to speak with one voice. The things that have made conservative dominance possible over the last couple of decades are coming apart at the seams, and the ways the have won elections in the past are becoming inoperative strategies.

Without a money advantage, without a partisan media advantage, and without superior message discipline, they are going to be fighting with all their tentacles tied behind their backs. And they’ll be doing it while spitting into a demographic wind.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.