Barack Obama and Donald Trump walk into a bar …
… and Donald Trump’s new campaign slogan is born:
"Hope and Change"
[No one laughs.]
Will we be haunted by the unfortunate success of that slogan even after President Barack Obama is out of office?
Because it is the unspoken slogan of every political campaign ever. (Except maybe Hillary Clinton’s.) Perhaps the vagueness of the slogan worked well for President Obama because it personified hope and change … in the flesh.
Now it is The Donald’s turn with the slogan … and he seems to be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Obama ran on hope and change. In some cases, he even promised it and laid out a plan for it. And like every politician worth his weight in elephant and donkey dung, he walked back those promises once in office.
Trump is talking about hope and change. But he seems to have no plan.
Maybe he just hopes voters see his politically incorrect and morally suspect personality as sufficient change.
I just know Trump seems to be flirting with some very good change elements that he cannot articulate well enough. He’s given us no reason to hope — no reason to believe in him.
A well-known historical figure once wrote, "[Belief] … is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance in what we do not see."
Every four years, we are asked to put our belief in someone hugely disconnected from us.
My Election Ask …
My preference would be to completely avoid the U.S. Presidential Election. That means don’t read the articles, don’t watch the ads, tune out the news channels and skip the ballot box.
But that’s hard to do. Especially when I take my responsibility to my readers and subscribers, who have investment dollars on the line, very seriously.
So what I ask of you is this:
Are you basing your vote primarily or largely on what you perceive as best for your investments?
To be sure, this is not me judging you or anyone else who may answer "Yes."
This is me genuinely wondering whether our readers — YOU — put the markets at the forefront of your vote for President. Let me know your thoughts in our reader mailbag.
Because here are two dominant narratives I see in this election:
1. Donald Trump is the wild card at best. But more likely a pending disaster for the social mood of the nation, the economy and the markets.
2. Respect her or not, Hillary Clinton represents the status quo. One from which the nation, the economy and the markets know what to expect.
Those are not my sentiments at all — those are simply what I’m picking up on from the headline-surfing I do every day.
Accurate or otherwise, it sure seems like voters are resting a lot of their decision on those two narratives.
Is that surprising?
Yes. All of the above.
Surprising because the status quo is a slow-moving disaster. The destruction is hard to measure in real-time … especially when the news cycle has narrowed to about 67 minutes’ worth of relentless sound bites, and progress is measured by how much more crap an American can consume.
Logical because voters are disconnected from the president and the federal government on personal, relational, social, ethical, economical and moral levels. Why not rest our decision on the most-tangible impact a presidential election can have on our personal situation — our money? Makes sense.
Sad because 18 to 24 months into this circus, Donald Trump has been unable to articulate a concrete plan that helps the American people realize his campaign platform isn’t just about his personal achievements and shallowness.
Trump is Flirting
Indeed, he is flirting with ideas that would represent the type of change, and produce the type of hope, many Americans so obviously crave. Here’s a short list, albeit somewhat exhaustive:
Get disciplined on illegal immigration. Enforce the rule of law. At the same time, remove incentives that exploit America’s safety net and undermine American workers’ competitiveness.
Get smart about "free" trade. Stop tying the U.S. to trade deals that perpetuate an imbalanced, globalized economy … one that dis-incentivizes domestic production and job-creation. Be very careful and discerning if and when it comes to crafting tariffs and trade barriers. Stop putting China under the microscope and start putting the status quo’s preference for domestic fascism and globalism under the microscope. And remove any tax incentives for American businesses to relocate offshore.
Get the federal government out of the domains that should be reserved for family, religion and community. Explain that "social justice," culture, diversity, religious freedom and family life are not issues meant to be finagled, restricted and manipulated by Washington, D.C., but rather rights and ideas simply to be protected.
Get the financial system and monetary policy refocused on sustaining Americans’ standard of living. Don’t promote increasingly debt-dependent GDP growth that must necessarily beget wider income inequality. Instead, encourage a system of money that inherently incentivizes Americans to produce and consume as needed, while at the same time fostering responsible stewardship of natural resources and environment.
Get American soldiers home. If there is the slightest hint of a war being fought as an end in and of itself, end it by bringing the troops home. Stop making excuses for the U.S. war machine and reveal to Americans the tyranny of the Deep State.
Get the tyrants out of federal regulatory agencies and keep them off the Supreme Court. Have some reverence for America’s founding documents. And not for their mere symbolism, but because they carry a spirit and a resolve that puts the burden — the privilege — of morals and ethics on We the People (and not on appointed officials with a natural inclination to play God). Get those demigods out of the business world as well by repealing the overreach and intimidation tactics that make operating a small business unfeasible.
Get control of the gun control debate. Shoot — make up a story like the one some guy at Wal-Mart told me while standing at the gun counter. He said how the Japanese et al were scared to invade the U.S. during World War II because private American citizens (primarily hunters at the time) were so well-armed. Then, as needed … and using myriad real gun statistics and data … explain the truth behind the bumper sticker, "Guns don’t kill people. People kill people."
Sure, there’s a lot of JR in those points. But I think there is a lot of America and liberty in them as well.
Again, to Trump’s credit, he’s flirted with those ideas. He just can’t seem to formulate a cohesive plan that helps undecided voters have confidence in what they hope for and assurance in what they so far do not see.
The pot is calling the kettle a misogynist. And since the kettle has no defense and no coherent fallback plan to change the dialogue and point out the fact that the kettle’s job is to sound the alarm when things get too hot, the pot wins again.
As I wrap this up, my phone’s Yahoo! Finance app just ran this headline across the screen:
Trump campaign unveils plan to spend $1 trillion on roads, bridges, and other infrastructure with no tax hikes.
Hmmmm. Clearly Trump is trying to pick off moderate voters who aren’t averse to government spending. I’m not surprised. It’s somewhat consistent with his vague, America-centric platform.
But it’s not the plan I was hoping for.
Finally, to that point, here is some feedback I received from a reader:
"I personally am glad that Donald Trump is running for the presidency — not because he is perfect, he is very human — but because he truly understands the need for putting the well-being of the American people, and America in general, before every other consideration."
I’m not sure I can personally use the word glad. But making America responsible again is the hope I put in a possible President Trump. It’s just that my confidence is pitifully low.
Hope and change.