When President Donald Trump touches down in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum, he will be surrounded by many of the world’s financial and political elite - many of whom have expressed disdain toward him personally and his “America First” agenda.
But now Trump has a choice to make. He can present himself as narcissistic, needy and always desperate for adulation, or he can make a compelling case for his presidency before an audience of some consequence. With a year under his belt, Trump now has something of a credible agenda. He can invite these world leaders to join him in a quest for economic growth, secure borders and fighting Islamist extremism.
Writing in The Washington Post, Niall Ferguson offers several insightful points as to why conventional thinking may be wrong and why Davos may ultimately accept Donald Trump. “The real issue,” Ferguson notes, “is the message Trump chooses to communicate to a global business elite that has an embarrassing little secret they would rather not say too much about: They may hate his tweets and his politically incorrect rhetoric, but they have spent the past year loving his economic policy to bits.”
Well said. Unlike President Barack Obama, who only saw the economic elite as just another group he could lecture, Trump truly believes in the role these individuals - and the businesses they run - play in promoting prosperity and generating wealth.
As I wrote last week, the World Economic Forum is a fine institution that does a global good. But in recent years, it has drifted to the left and accommodated tiresome, politically correct social issues and jargon that don’t really have much to do with creating prosperity. As individuals, many of those in attendance secretly cheer Trump. However, as a group, Davos Man attendees (think Burning Man for the global elite) have moved left of center and rarely acknowledge the power of profits.
Trump could ratchet the Davos crowd back to their economic roots, which would serve everyone well. And as commander in chief of the world’s most powerful fighting force, Trump can offer leadership on issues that haven’t exactly been fashionable at Davos - think secure borders and fighting Islamist terrorism. With a message of the power of profit, secure borders and battling Islamist extremists, Trump may not be delivering the messages Davos is used to, but he may be delivering the messages Davos needs.
It remains to be seen whether Trump has the foresight and discipline to pull this off. But doing so would contribute to Trump’s claim of legitimacy as an effective leader on the world stage. Now, in particular, Davos has become so focused on fringe issues that attendees have forgotten about the basics. Everybody needs freedom, prosperity and security. Get that right, and people will build their own lives. Get it wrong, and we will have conflict, poverty and oppression. The international community needs to hear Trump’s call to prosperity via pro-growth policies, secure borders and combating Islamist extremism.
Trump has had opportunities to prove himself before. But those opportunities have been overshadowed by unforced errors and an ego in need of constant attention and approval. Davos presents Trump with the exact platform he needs to build credibility on the world stage.
Trump can either invite the world to join him in creating economic growth, securing borders and combating Islamist extremism or, in a tirade of manic non sequiturs and insults, he can turn away an audience that already doubts his competence and potential. The choice is his.
Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour in 1991.