A Trump Presidency Is Not A No-No Any More; And He May Be Good For India


Now that Donald Trump is the “presumptive nominee” of the Republican party for President, having trounced his opponents by a wide margin, it is worth looking at what a Trump presidency might look like.

This is, of course, jumping the gun, for there is a more than 50 percent chance right now that Hillary Clinton might beat him this November. But if I were a betting man, I would not bet against Trump. Remember, when he started his campaign for the Republican nomination, less than five percent thought he would get it.

Now, having bested Ted Cruz all over (Trump beat him in Indiana, which delivered the knockout punch), and John Kasich putting an end to his campaigning, Trump is the last man standing. Even though he is still around 190 votes short of the magical nomination figure of 1,237, he has kicked his opponents out of the ring. The remaining votes are his for the asking.

So, don’t rule out the possibility of a Trump win in November. The reason why the media still thinks he won’t win include the following: he is seen as fairly unloved in America; his nasty words (against women, the disabled, the LGBTs) put off many people; and (most important) the media is largely pro-Democratic in the populous states of the north-east.

Just as the Indian English language media, despite Narendra Modi’s popularity, thought he was unelectable till almost end-2013, Trump suffers for the same reason. The media’s assessment of a candidate may not often be that of the average American.

However, there are many more good reasons to think Trump is not going to be a pushover just because Hillary Clinton appears to be more inclusive and presentable. Here are some of them.

First, he is a genuine outsider to mainstream American politics. Trump is viewed with concern even within the Republican establishment. They did everything to stop him, and still lost. The fact that he won against the odds shows that this is the year of the outsider. Americans are less willing to believe the establishment today, when the economy is hurting, and they appear to have no solutions except for more of the same. They may be willing to gamble on an outsider, who might bring something new to the table.

Clinton, in contrast, is the ultimate insider, married to one former President, and having worked closely with another. It is interesting that just as Trump secured his nomination by trouncing Cruz in the Indiana primary last Tuesday (3 May), Clinton actually lost to another outsider, Bernie Sanders, in the same state. That Sanders does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping Clinton now is immaterial. His strong showing despite Clinton’s massive lead indicates that the dominant sentiment in both the mainstream parties is anti-establishment.

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We should not presume that the outsider will not win against the insider in November just because he talks uncouth.

Second, despite the negative rhetoric of the campaign trail, Trump is actually much better at understanding business than Clinton. He is, after all, a businessman. This means, his solutions for reviving America may actually make more sense than the Clinton’s.

Even though people say he has no plans for the economy, his prime proposals are crystal clear and pro-business. He wants to cut the corporate tax rate (currently at an extortionate 40 percent, even higher than India’s and certainly among the highest in the industrialised world) to 15 percent. This may not happen, but any sharp cut in rates will be a spur to investment and growth. He is also planning a one-time 10 percent repatriation tax on profits held by American companies overseas in order to avoid the 40 percent rate. This could result in a massive inflow of profits from overseas outfits of US companies to America. Again, a possible investment booster.

He might want to make work visas more difficult, or force software companies to do more work in America rather than farming out jobs to cheaper offshore centres. But Barack Obama has already raised H1B visa fees massively, and Indian software companies are already thinking more automation and less manpower as future growth strategies. This will anyway shift some jobs to America, since the highest-quality talent is there. Indians in Silicon Valley may benefit as much as Americans in this qualitative shift from labour arbitrage to automation.

Our software giants (TCS, Infosys, Wipro) will grow jobs less fast in future, but their profits will not shrink as they too are embracing the idea of automation. Whatever Trump may do to stem the inflow of Indian talent into America would have happened anyway, as offshoring itself undergoes a change.

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Third, Trump is likely to be stronger on anti-terror strategy, which is good news for India. Clinton, in contrast, is likely to be more mealy-mouthed, and will allow Pakistan to do its usual blackmail act of extracting money for arms, while double-dealing on terrorism. Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border can, at best, involve pouring more money into tougher policing and border management; it will not stem the flow of immigrants from the south by much.

This is one promise he can’t fulfil, but no American actually expects him to do much, since the Hispanic vote will make a huge difference in California and Texas, among other states. Trump will probably swallow a part of his words during the rest of his presidential campaign.

Fourth, Trump may be unpopular for his unsavoury language, but Clinton is no darling of the female masses either. Interestingly, while older women may vote for her out of female solidarity, millennials have voted more for Sanders than Clinton. Trump may be even less popular with women than Clinton, but this would make it a question of who is more unpopular, as this Guardian story notes.

But it is unlikely that Trump, once he hits the campaign trail, will be eager to lose the women vote by default. Also, he could win a larger share of the male vote, especially the male vote in the economically losing parts of America.

Fifth, Trump is moderate on evangelical politics. He is not a born-again, nor is he a Bible-belt politician, having made his name in the hurly-burly of real estate business – where he won and lost as often. He would be a realist, and not a Bible-belt staple. Modi should be able to do business with him at least as well as he did with Obama.

A Prime Minister hailing from India’s most business-friendly state may not find it difficult to do business with an American President who beat the born-again establishment after making his billions in business.

In any event, this year’s presidential polls are unlikely to be about gender or colour. They will be about jobs. The agenda will be set by the economy, and if Trump looks like having the better answers, he could well win.


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