The Trump Lesson: American Capitalism Is Not a Meritocracy

America is watching agape as an entire political party implodes, its standard-bearer so feckless and lacking in judgment that there is open speculation as to whether he will even finish the campaign.

Donald Trump’s incompetence in the general election campaign is breathtaking on almost every level. For a man whose calling card is his supposed success in business, he seems to be incompetent at every talent important to being a successful businessman.

His writing and speaking skills at are at a 6th-grade level at best.

His communications skills are are mixed bag: while he is talented at attracting attention, he operates on a “any-press-is-good-press” model that works best for the lowest genres of tabloid and reality showbusiness, not for larger and more important endeavors.

He is clearly incapable at the organizational skill of running a large campaign–a talent that Barack Obama, despite not having a business background, possesses in spades.

His temperament is legendarily awful: he reportedly spends all day on TV and on the phone, lashing out whenever he sees negative coverage. He bullies subordinates, abuses staff, and plays endless games of dominance with allies and adversaries alike. He lacks any of the diplomatic skills that are essential for productive success in the real world, and his supposed negotiating acumen comes down to lying and leverage-fueled intimidation.

He’s not very good with money or the gladhanding required to raise it: his campaign fundraising is anemic, his wealthy peers shun him and his corporate interests have been through a series of bankruptcies.

He seems to have very little awareness of the basics of world affairs that would enable someone to make good decisions regarding any number of business activities from global investment to currency trading to energy cost calculations.

In short, it’s hard to see what skills beyond the basest, brashest level of raw showmanship Trump brings to the table. There are tens of millions of Americans with more organizational, diplomatic, financial, academic temperamental and other skills than Donald Trump–all of whom are far worthier of wealth and fame than Trump is.

And yet, Donald Trump is an alleged billionaire, while tens of millions of far more deserving Americans struggle to survive in a declining middle class. American capitalism may be many things, but a meritocracy it isn’t.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.