The Six Ingredients of Trump’s ‘Hostile Takeover Playbook’

By Frank Gregorsky Published on December 7, 2015

How many political insiders do you know who are opposed to Barack Obama and his nefarious works — IRS abuses, corporate bribes, climate fantasies, bailouts for Iran, importing saboteurs — yet save their peak agitation for Donald Trump, a presidential candidate they say “can’t” be nominated?

If it “can’t” happen, why sputter to the point of apoplexy? Perhaps because “it” is being defined too conventionally.

Let’s try a different lens: Trump’s terrain-shifting methods fit the Hostile Takeover Playbook. The rules of corporate raiding are quite different from the ordinary rules of primary politics, and seem to fit the mood of over a third of the Republican rank-and-file, who favor Trump over his primary rivals and over the timid “Directors” they sent to Congress to stop the Obama Onslaught. Seen in this light, what we’re watching is one heck of a Proxy Fight for “GOP Incorporated.”

(1) Trump is a long-suffering “shareholder” himself. He speaks of backing John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. He described the latter as a competent golfer who starts to choke on the final three or four holes. Isn’t that the way one business guy sizes up another?

(2) His track record is pragmatic and opportunistic. Trump has backed candidates from the other party, including Hillary Clinton for Senator in 2000. Like classic corporate raiders Carl Icahn and T. Boone Pickens, he treats consistency as the hobgoblin of small minds. Lucky for him that many Republicans no longer see “ideological correctness” as Priority One.

(3) As of June 2015, the stage is set: He opens the Takeover Campaign by floodlighting an issue — one product line, one pulsating niche — starved for attention by the existing Management: Border Control, Sanctuary Cities and most graphically the violent crimes committed by illegals.

(4) Because every other presidential candidate except Ted Cruz has been evasive on that matter, Trump’s candidacy quickly gains critical mass, which grows further as he shows how to escape the boxes long used by Big Media to constrict Republican officeholders and policy options.

(5) As personal attacks arrive, he either flicks them off — e.g., handing out Lindsey Graham’s phone number — or responds with tactical nukes. Yes, the latter has made Trump look like a hypersensitive Tweet-monger. But such pinpoint aggression also shows he’s comfortable sustaining a battle. And it strongly indicates he won’t be a calculating controversy-dodger in 2016.

(6) Trump mixes big-picture opportunity with kitchen-table directness. For the latter: “If I win, we will not have to listen to the politicians who are losing the war on terrorism. We will keep America safe. And we will make America great again.” The takeover sketch also includes new suppliers and new customers: Trump can win 25% of the Black vote in 2016, one poll suggested. No national Republican ticket has done that since the 1950s.

Admittedly, the parallels — presidential campaign with business takeover — become awkward the more one stretches them out. And what about all those cases where a megalomaniac CEO with a spineless Board just about destroys a solid company? Some reformers and “disrupters” end up worse than the ailments they battle against.

But analogies need not be exact to be enlightening. And it’s plain enough that, while GOP Establishment types gauge Donald Trump by longstanding campaign and media rules, he has used his own playbook to make off with at least a third of their shareholders.

Distribution Channels and Customers Taken for Granted

Looking at how past Congresses controlled by Democrats made life hell for Presidents Ford — compelled to issue a whopping 66 vetoes in 2 1/2 years — and especially Reagan, any conservative today should be aghast at what Republican House and Senate “Directors” continue to default on.

They treat donor lists as the foundation for Good Governance. They undo the spending caps their own Speaker negotiated in 2011. They fumble even those social causes that have popular majorities. And their top Senators let this pro-Iran President produce a de facto treaty without two-thirds approval while the opponents are told to go find two-thirds to stop it — for a show-dog flim-flam vote that’s not even allowed to take place.

After all of that, they assume right-of-center voters will give them even more power to transcend the self-contracted paralysis on display now.

Political authority is even more valuable than corporate dominance. And takeover bids materialize when those in control settle for defeatist tactics, protect their perks, take the enterprise’s distribution channels and loyal customers for granted, and utter excuse after excuse why the “turnaround” needs ever more staffing and office space.

Which brings us back to the start: How many insiders do you know who don’t like Barack Obama and his nefarious works — yet save most of their anger for Donald Trump? Between now and the first formal GOP shareholder meetings in Iowa, keep in mind that contradiction. In many cases it signals where the insider feels personally threatened.

 

Frank Gregorsky covers U.S. economic and governmental history in his capacity as a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute.

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