Wry & Dry

Americans are afraid

US Presidential Election – an opinion piece (like anything else in W&D, actually)

First Samuel is in the midst of its annual CIO Investment Dinner Series.  Six of these events (small dinners for clients to discuss investment matters directly with the person managing their investments, of course over fine food and wine) have already been held. 

At Question Time, the very same question has been asked at all but one dinner, “What will happen to my investments if Trump gets elected?”

The answer has two parts, remembering the response is about investment outcomes.

Firstly, do not fear a Trump victory, but there will be a significant and global emotional response.  However, there is little he can really do without the acquiescence of Congress (Supreme Court nominations excepted).

Secondly, fear a Clinton victory coupled with Democrat control of both the Senate and the House [1].

In W&D’s very humble opinion, readers should not be concerned, because Clinton will win but without Democrat control of Congress.

W&D has told readers this election prediction as every forecaster, from weather to sporting has put in his two bob's worth, and so, well, W&D might as well also express a view. 

But the election outcome is not the issue.

The flaws in each candidate have been well dissected by the media.  The sum of those flaws is large.  And presents to the world a United States that is afraid.

Imagine a rucksack full of unconnected worries:

  • flat real wage growth for the last eight years
  • disruptive technology making the world spin faster
  • geographic terms unheard of in US schools: Brexit, South China Sea, ISIS and Syria
  • asymmetric terrorism

...that normally Americans might carry in their stride.  But the strength to carry that load has been steadily drained by a powerlessness that has emerged from:

  1. the brainlessness of Bush (G.W.);
  2. the cowardice of Obama;
  3. the insouciance of the economic and political elite; and
  4. the greed of Wall Street, broadly defined.

And so the Americans on Main Street are struggling to carry the load.  Their world is changing too fast for them to understand. 

Sure, some Americans will grasp an opportunity.  The creative geniuses will still emerge: Steve Jobs (Apple) has gone, but Elon Musk (Tesla) [2] has arisen.

But the wider response is for America to now curl itself up in a ball, to retreat into introspection, introversion and a preference for the certainty of yesterday.  To build walls, to control people, to more government.

Consider these facts. 

Donald Trump is widely seen as the most outrageous Presidential candidate, ever.  Yet over 40% of Americans will vote for him.

Hillary Clinton is the most reviled Presidential candidate, ever.  Yet she will almost certainly become President.

Image result for cartoon trump clinton

A gloomy thought, indeed.

W&D's hope for the US to avoid entropy is for Ms Clinton to free herself from the multitude of micro-social issues that tug at her coat tails (and to which she has always been happy to respond).  And instead be bold, domestically and internationally.  And she cannot ignore the voice of the 40% that didn't vote for her.  It will be quite a journey for her to rise above her prejudices and to overcome her flaws to lead.  

She may overcome her prejudices and her flaws.  But she may not overcome her past.  

Donald Trump began laying landmines for himself to step upon from the time he entered business.  Many have already exploded.  On the other hand Ms Clinton's landmines remain largely undisturbed.  But W&D has sense that her presidency will see these land mines explode.

She will be tortured by her past.

[1] The 2014 (mid-term) elections gave the Republicans control of the Senate and control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the 2004 election. With 247 seats (of 435) in the House of Representatives and 54 seats (of 100) in the Senate, the current Congress began with the largest Republican majority since the 1928 elections.

[2] Whereas Jobs was an American, Musk is a South African.  He moved to Canada from South Africa when he was 18.  He moved to the US when he was 21.  He became a US citizen in 2002, aged 31.