If there is one thing to give Donald Trump credit for, it’s this: He is, has and always will be an expert marketer of the Trump “brand.” Even in the face of astounding and very public failings, he has always landed on his feet, all while escaping the reality of his decision-making.
For instance, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, he marketed his alarming six bankruptcies as being a “smart businessman” simply taking “advantage of the system.” In reality, every single one of those businesses that went bankrupt had real-life consequences for those who worked on them, for them and invested in them. But this marketing worked, thus enabling him (and his voters) to escape the obvious reality that a good businessman doesn’t need to take “advantage of the system.”
The self-donned “King of Debt” strategy to business only works if someone else is left holding the bag. And this incredible ability to market himself as being successful in the face of a bludgeoning reality persists today, well into his presidency.
Who will be left holding the bag for his decisions this time?
One of the most recent examples of Trump marketing against reality has come in the form of his recent trade war and its effect on the economy. In a recent speech regarding America’s second-quarter economic numbers (a terrific 4.1 percent GDP growth), Trump promoted that it was due to the quarterly trade deficit being “reduced by $52 billion” in an effort to prop-up the imposed tariffs as “working.” In reality, as Morgan Stanley economist Ellen Zenter warned, the surge in U.S. exports was due to “doomsday prepping” in the face of the impending tariffs that hadn’t even been activated yet. That meant the third-quarter numbers could see a huge drop-off in U.S. exports (and subsequent GDP) as countries are now stockpiled on U.S. goods and materials.
Sticking with tariffs, another example of this strategy comes in the form of the $12 billion bailout to farmers hurt by his trade war with China. As Trump continues to tout himself as a president who sticks with farmers by tweeting things like, “China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect,” in reality, as Republican Rep. David Young of Iowa told CNN, this bailout is “an admonition that tariffs are harming agriculture and harming farmers.”
But most important, China just witnessed Trump blink.
For instance, if this trade war is a race to the “bottom” and Trump is betting that China gets there first to give him the upper hand in trade negotiations, a $12 billion aid package to farmers while pleading with the public to “be a little patient” and to “be cool” is a big red flashing light to the Chinese. It signals two important things: one, that patience is already wearing thin in farm states; and two, in a Republican-held Congress, bailouts to solve a self-imposed problem are not the answer and could cost them a lot of seats.
The Trump business strategy of marketing against reality has always come with the benefit of making others collateral damage in a battle he personally could get out of unscathed. But one glaring fact this president has continued to overlook time and again is this: You can’t take America into bankruptcy and take “advantage of the system” to get out of it. Unlike the contractors, employees and investors Trump has dealt with in the past, it would be the entire American population left holding the bag this time. And they aren’t as forgiving when it comes to the next election.
Ryne Vyles is a Salt Lake City business marketing specialist.