Trump & Johnson have Strikingly Similar Strategies – Guest Author Nirmalya Chatterjee
The size of Boris Johnson’s victory in last week’s British elections was stunning. The Conservative Party gained 67 seats from the last parliament winning 365 seats out of a total of 650 seats – the largest majority the party achieved since Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the mid-1980s. It sure looked as stunning as Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory. So, what happened here? The two leaders have pursued very similar strategies in pulling the upsets. Populism, economic nationalism and abandoning the traditional conservative fiscal restraint have been the cornerstones for their victories because they appeal to the voters’ pocketbook issues. These policies are some major shifts in conservative politics from when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher governed the two sides of the Atlantic.
Both Trump and Johnson focused their attention to the blue-collar working-class voters tapping into their frustrations of feeling economically left behind. Traditional manufacturing jobs dwindled. Plants closed. Unemployment grew. These families suffered. Trump persuaded many of the disenfranchised blue-collar voters with his ‘Make America Great Again’ call and flipped the rust belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in his favor clinching the 2016 Presidential election. Johnson precisely played the same theme in the left-leaning strongholds in the northern part of Britain with his slogan of ‘The People’s Government’ and won big there.
British people, in their 2016 national referendum, expressed their frustrations with being a part of the European Union and wanted ‘Brexit’. They felt the British economy suffered because of the EU constraints. They wanted freedom from the EU. Johnson has been a vocal proponent of Brexit and voters heard him loud and clear. Immediately following the election results, Johnson announced to get out of EU by January 31, 2020, and negotiate major trade deals with the United States. EU was initially formed and expanded several decades ago for the European nations to closely cooperate with each other on trade and fight against US dominance. Johnson’s move could start to upend that scenario. Similarly, Trump has been a strong critic of unfair trade practices of China (and a few other trading partners) and attributed the sufferings of American workers to China’s unfair trade practices. He has been pursuing his campaign promise to this day by continuing to be tough with China on trade. Trump called for ‘America First’ strategy. It hit a raw nerve of many Americans. Moreover, both men have been vocal critics of their respective issues with immigration – Johnson with the immigrants from the eastern European EU countries and Trump with the immigrants from south of the border.
Trump engineered a major tax cut with the support of his party causing an estimated annual federal budget deficit of $1 trillion or even more. This is an unprecedented shift from the traditional fiscal policy of the conservatives who have been steadfast proponents of a balanced budget in the past. Trump’s gamble, some argue, has paid off as unemployment is now at a historic low, consumer confidence is running high and economic growth has picked up the pace. The current low-interest-rate is helping to manage through the budget deficits which might change when the interest rates creep up or there is another financial crisis. Johnson announced immediately after last week’s election that he will follow through his campaign pledge of spending upwards of $130 billion in infrastructures, healthcare, schools and policing.
Johnson’s big victory would understandably give Trump an added confidence to double down on his playbook and get the voters behind his ‘Keep America Great’ slogan. Democrats are determined to beat Trump in 2020 but are torn between the progressive policies (Warren and Sanders) and more moderate policies (Biden and Buttigieg). No matter who the Democrats nominate, it is not going to be easy for them to beat Trump as long as the US economy continues to do well & the consumer sentiment stays positive. Trump will make a strong case for the voters to keep it going. Voters tend to care more about their pocketbook issues than any other ones. Both Trump and Johnson understand that well.
Nirmalya Chatterjee is an 11 year resident of Las Vegas. He is a retired Senior C-Suite Executive with a wide array of experience in diverse industries. During his professional career, Nirmalya had several senior levels and ex-pat assignments. He was the Chief Financial Officer for Coors Brewing Company; Vice President of Finance for Las Vegas Sands Corporation; Sr. Vice President of Finance, Galaxy Entertainment Macau; and General Manager of Revlon India. Most recently, Nirmalya served as the Chairman of the Hindu Temple and Jain Center of Las Vegas.