It’s not necessary to discuss at length the many reasons that Donald Trump is an appalling candidate for political office, and in fairness even staunchly republican news outlets who make their trade pandering to right wing hysteria have noticed this. Many non-americans have taken the opportunity of Trump’s candidacy to be extremely smug – reflecting that his particular kind of ignorant bombast would only be acceptable in US politics. However this is just typical, post GW Bush mocking of American right wingers, so no real change there! What’s new and potentially very good about his candidacy is the damage it may do to the idea that good businessmen make good politicians.
Talk to most high powered, right wing individuals about businessmen and they’ll generally admire them, and believe that by making money they’ve demonstrated worth. Talk to them about the people they work with, or their boss, or especially the people who run their company, and suddenly their understanding gets a bit nuanced. Yes this guy is a top producer who makes lots of money for the company, but there’s this other guy who mainly just steals credit for other people’s work and advances by sucking up to management. I’ve had to stifle many a laugh at hearing my Thatcherite colleagues complain about their bosses, or even the bank’s shareholders, expropriating the fruits of their labour. It’s a really peculiar piece of cognitive dissonance – being able to see on the micro level that people can get rich by being dishonest, grasping, venal etc, but not being able to apply this insight in the abstract.
I fervently hope that for many people, Trump’s erratic behavior provides the shock therapy to get them over this blind spot. The typical retort by free marketers to charges that businessmen or the wealthy in general don’t deserve our admiration is that we can’t really know what’s good or useful, but on average, the market does know. However this retort misses the point that it wouldn’t matter if someone like Trump were president of the ‘Acme cancer cure company PLC’ dispensing cures for breast cancer for $1 a pop, he’d still be an obvious idiot. It doesn’t matter whether the business is good, what matters is that our current social consensus credits the guy (almost invariably guy not girl) at the top. That’s ridiculous. Trump’s inability to not clown around on TV will hopefully persuade plenty of people of this fact – and hopefuly the idea that having been ostensibly in charge of a business that made a lot of money makes you qualified to lead will suffer too!