CEOs skeptical of Trump’s 2024 team of “MAGA extremists and junior varsity opportunists”: expert

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute, pushed back against the GOP narrative that the country’s business executives are rallying behind former President Donald Trump with a New York Times op-ed, arguing that while many can merely tolerate President Joe Biden, more truly fear Trump.

“If you want the most telling data point on corporate America’s lack of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump, look where they are investing their money,” Sonnenfeld wrote. “Not a single Fortune 100 chief executive has donated to the candidate so far this year, which indicates a major break from overwhelming business and executive support for Republican presidential candidates dating back over a century.”

The choice between Trump or Biden is not heartening to CEOs, according to Sonnenfeld. Both presidents have adopted populist stances towards businesses, with executives particularly incensed at Biden for his attacks on corporate greed and his administration’s vigorous antitrust enforcement. But they have also been pleased by a thriving economy and government investments in domestic manufacturing and infrastructure, while balking at Trump’s unorthodox, potentially destabilizing economic positions.

During his presidential term, Trump gifted corporate executives a big tax break and sometimes took the advice of well-connected aides from the business world like Jared Kushner, Dina Powell and Steven Mnuchin. The latter, Sonnenfeld says, is no longer the case. They are gone now, replaced by “MAGA extremists and junior varsity opportunists.”

Sonnenfeld cited a number of Trump positions that have provoked the ire of CEOs, including a proposed 10 percent tariff on all imports, stripping the Federal Reserve Board of its independence, and devaluing the U.S. dollar, all of which could drive inflation much higher. Many CEOs also resent Trump’s personal attacks on businesses with meddling and divide-and-conquer tactics, as well as statements that likened anti-racist protesters with white supremacists. Dozens of them called for Trump’s impeachment after the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

At times, Trump’s outreach to the business community has backfired. One New York Times reporter said that he received feedback from a group of executives who met the Republican nominee earlier in June and characterized him as going “all over the map” and unable to “keep a thought straight.”

Other CEOs, however, have responded positively to Trump’s extensive courtship, or remained loyal since supporting him in his first two election campaigns. They have helped him catch up with Biden’s fundraising haul with billions of dollars in donations, setting up what could be the most expensive presidential election in history.

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