The hashtag #NothingMatters had become a sort of shorthand for “Oh my god, how is this actually happening” among normal people from both sides of the political spectrum over the last year. The outrages and insults to the norms of our democracy and our way of life, too numerous and widely known to list here, would be greeted with a semi-sarcastic #nothingmatters and then we’d move on to the next insane thing, and then the next.
But apparently, something matters.
You can’t expect members of the Fortune 500 and representatives of the labor unions to stick around when you equivocate in the aftermath of Nazis murdering someone. You can be an atrocious person and perhaps the worst leader this country has ever known, and you can get away with a whole lot of shit, but not Nazi sympathy.
Nice to know there’s still a line somewhere. I was beginning to think that there wasn’t. “He doesn’t really mean it, come on…”
Over the last few days, members of the President’s “American Manufacturing Council” began to drop off and openly criticize the President’s outrageous response to the Charlottesville incident. One by one, they announced their resignations and told their constituents (employees, shareholders, customers) why. They had no choice, whether because of conscience or because of business pressures or some combination of both, it doesn’t matter. You cannot run a multi-national corporation with employees of every background and customers around the world if you’re tacitly supporting Nazi and KKK sympathizers.
By lunchtime today, the “Strategic Council” (the one with all the Wall Street people like Jamie Dimon, Steve Schwarzman and Larry Fink) had unanimously agreed to disband and liquidate. And then Trump came out and acted like it was his idea and claimed to be disbanding it himself. It probably saved him the humiliation of another two dozen public announcements about how inappropriate and disgusting his response was.
One thing we as Americans can count on, and I don’t mean this cynically, is that money talks and bullshit walks. As Puff Daddy used to admonish the aspiring rappers on his reality show – it’s all good, until you mess up the money. Don’t mess up the money.
Trump messed up the money.
None of these council members signed on to have protestors in their lobbies, employees flipping out and customers leaving in droves.
The biggest investment trend over the next decade will be the push toward ESG portfolios, especially with regards to the institutions that manage the bulk of our $67 trillion in wealth. None of this racial violence stuff is going to fly any more and none of these executives could afford to be in bed with it, regardless of the purity of their intentions.
The Russian election-hacking investigation and the money laundering investigation and all of these other things may turn out not to matter. But now we know that something does matter. The President will rage and act like he’s not wounded, but you know better. Gaining the respect of Wall Street and other powerful business executives has been a fifty year quest for him, something that’s eluded him his entire life. Everyone who’s ever covered him for the media or written books about him or even watched him closely knows this.
And it was right there in the palm of his hand. He had it. They were lined up outside the White House this winter and coming and going, up and down, in his Trump Tower golden elevators. Signs of respect. It was his to lose. But he chose to cling to whatever it is he thinks his base is instead of growing into the role he’s meant to play.
Today represents the first tangible example of his behavior costing him something real. Nothing mattered until now. But today the floodgates opened.
Something matters after all.