Trump isolated as neo-Nazi crisis escalates

From the NYT:

President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president’s controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, rather than put “pressure” on executives.

The quick sequence began late Wednesday morning when Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

On the call, the chief executives of some of the largest companies in the country debated how to proceed.

After a discussion among a dozen prominent C.E.O.s, the decision was made to abandon the group altogether, said people with knowledge of details of the call.

The council included Laurence D. Fink of BlackRock, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Rich Lesser of the Boston Consulting Group and Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic, among others.

“Intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” said a statement released by the council. “We believe the debate over forum participation has become a distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussions on how to improve the lives of everyday Americans. As such, the president and we are disbanding the forum.”

Before the president’s announcement, executives from his manufacturing council were expected to have a similar call Wednesday afternoon. The manufacturing panel has seen a wave of defections since Monday, as business chiefs who had agreed to advise the president determined that his remarks left them with no choice but to walk away.

Two additional chief executives — Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M — had announced Wednesday morning they would resign from the manufacturing council.

The defections left Mr. Trump all but isolated from the business leaders whose approval he covets.

Is this a social or political crisis? Via Edward Luce at the FT:

Republicans are paralysed on two counts. First, the party cannot disown what Mr Trump is doing without repudiating themselves. His victory was the logical outcome of the party’s “southern strategy”, which dates from the late 1960s. The goal has been to siphon off southern whites from the Democratic party. Most Republicans have preferred to keep their tactics genteel. The signal of choice has been the dog whistle rather than the megaphone. Thus, in one form or another, most Republican states are reforming their voter registration systems. The fact that such laws disproportionately shrink the non-white electorate is an accidental byproduct of a colour-blind crackdown. Even without proof of widespread fraud, voter suppression has plausible deniability. Over the years, the same has applied to various wars on crime, drugs and welfare fraud, which were never discriminatory by design. Mr Trump has simply taken that approach into the open. He is the Republican party’s Frankenstein. The age of plausible deniability is over.

The second Republican problem is fear. Because of gerrymandering, most Republicans — and Democrats — are more vulnerable to a challenge from within their ranks than to defeat by the other party. As the saying goes, American politicians choose their voters, rather than the other way round. Unfortunately that gives the swing vote to the most committed elements of each party’s base. Though Mr Trump’s approval ratings are lower than for any president in history, he still has the backing of most Republican voters. Any elected Republican who opposes Mr Trump can be sure of merciless reprisal. It is a rare politician who would invite vilification from their own side. Where will this end? The realistic answer is that Republicans will hide under a rock until they suffer a stinging defeat in next year’s midterm elections. But a defeat in 2018 is far from assured

Where will this end? The realistic answer is that Republicans will hide under a rock until they suffer a stinging defeat in next year’s midterm elections. But a defeat in 2018 is far from assured. Even then, it would have to be on a grand scale to reverse America’s deep forces of polarisation. Mr Trump will probably serve out his term. The more worrying answer is that US democracy is heading towards a form of civil breakdown. After the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, activist groups are seeking to remove statues of Confederate figures across the south. It was opposition to the removal of a statue of Robert Lee, the Confederate general, that drew so many white supremacists to Charlottesville. Each new showdown will offer an irresistible branding opportunity to the far right. As for Mr Trump, his historic ignominy is assured. One group in Charlottesville stood for racial bigotry. The other opposed it. Mr Trump chose to be neutral. In so doing, he has given life to the worst demons of America’s past.

How very sad for America. To lurch from Barack Obama to this.

Either way, Trump increasingly looks like a dead duck president. I don’t think it will derail the economy but it sure won’t lend it policy support.

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