The political enablers we know — Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell. But there were plenty of corporate enablers, too, donating money and lending their reputations to put and keep Trump in the White House.
Rousing a rabble to riot inside the Capitol was just the climax (we pray) of Donald Trump’s assault on democracy. It was clear from the start what he was up to: building a cult of strongman personality on a foundation of racism and xenophobia.
Buying off the business class with tax cuts and deregulation was always part of the plan.
Of course, we all have the right to get behind any candidate we like, for any reasons we choose. Even if the reason is as cynical as the bottom line, corporate or personal.
But that doesn’t mean Trump’s corporate boosters should get a free pass. Just as the soon-to-be former president’s political enablers will be held accountable by voters, his C-suite compadres should be held accountable by their investors, customers, and employees.
Where should these stakeholders start?
First, demand that the suits stop sidestepping the fact that Trump bears responsibility for Wednesday’s rampage in D.C.
“This act of complete lawlessness and disregard for the safety of others and utter disrespect for the heartbeat of our nation cannot be condemned loudly or strongly enough,” Bob Reynolds, chief executive of Boston-based Putnam Investments and a Republican National Committee donor, said in an e-mail to employees on Thursday.
Putnam provided the e-mail after we asked for his take on Wednesday’s events. In the message, Reynolds, who hosted a fund-raiser for Trump’s reelection campaign last summer, never mentioned the president. The closest he came to condemning Trump was this:
“A cornerstone of our Republic is the orderly transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next, which must always be maintained to ensure the ongoing health and vitality of our system of government.”
Second, demand they own up to their support of Trump and acknowledge the damage he’s done to the country while in office.
Jim Davis, founder of the Brighton-based sneaker company New Balance, donated $396,500 to Trump Victory in September 2016, according to federal campaign finance records. The political action committee is a joint fund-raising group for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Yet in a statement relayed Thursday by his spokesman, George Regan, Davis said that while he has been a “strong supporter of the Republican Party as a whole,” he didn’t back Trump and has never met him.
We reached out to auto magnate Ernie Boch Jr., one of Trump’s early and most vocal supporters, but he wasn’t ready to talk.
Third, don’t let the GOP off the hook; the party cowered as Trump desecrated the presidency.
“I have absolutely zero support for President Trump,” said David Tamasi, a Republican lobbyist who is a Massachusetts native with longstanding ties here and raised money for Trump. “I don’t care what the costs are to my business.”
Like a growing number of Republicans, Tamasi dropped his allegiance after what he saw unfold Wednesday at the Capitol, which he viewed as an attack on democracy.
He remains, however, a diehard Republican and doesn’t blame the party for what happened, though he calls out Cruz and Hawley as enablers.
“A line was crossed,” he said, but the GOP has “a lot of bright and smart people.”
Fourth, stakeholders should remember this isn’t a witch hunt. Many business leaders got involved with the administration as a civic contribution — serving on an advisory committee, for example — without endorsing Trump.
Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer, the maker of Sam Adams, took a lot of flak for attending an event at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in 2018. But the meeting was a bipartisan gathering called to discuss ideas to promote economic growth, and Koch later told the Boston Business Journal that he had attended to allow his wife, health care entrepreneur Cynthia Fisher, to pitch an idea about how to make health care costs more transparent.
He did take the opportunity to thank Trump for the tax cut, but Koch had long advocated for lower federal excises taxes on breweries so they could compete better against foreign imports.
And then there is the tricky case of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. Kraft has taken heat for his longtime friendship with Trump, but his spokesman, Stacey James, said on Thursday that Kraft didn’t donate to his friend’s 2016 or 2020 campaigns.
“The only donation he ever made was to an inauguration event, which he has also done for Democrats,” James said in an e-mail.
In a statement issued through James, Kraft said, “You cannot be an American who loves this country and not be heartbroken and disappointed in what we saw transpire in Washington on Wednesday.”
No mention, of course, of Trump.
Finally, it’s not enough to let the enablers say enough is enough, just as the Trump administration stumbles to an end. Corporate America needs to take action to stamp out Trumpism long after Trump leaves office.
This week Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter finally did what they should have done a long time ago — temporarily locking Trump’s accounts over falsehoods that helped incite a riot.
Some chief executives, in a recent virtual gathering to discuss political turbulence, are considering withholding donations to Republican lawmakers who challenged the presidential transition, according to The Wall Street Journal. Other executives told the Journal they would reconsider hiring and investments in states whose officials were fighting the transition.
While corporate titans may have failed us on Trump, they have in recent years tried to do the right thing when it comes to gun reform, board diversity, and climate change. This should be no different.
Shirley Leung is a Business columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.