If you have been following my posts you can probably discern pretty quickly that I am a fan of President-Elect Trump. If you’ve read carefully – especially the earlier posts – you will see it wasn’t always this way. It took some evolving. It wasn’t until my 26th post – Quietly Enthusiastic – that I realized I had completely come around and was fully supportive of Trump’s candidacy. I don’t agree with everything Trump puts forth – especially on some trade issues – but I am firmly in the Trump camp.
At this point some disclosure is warranted. I entered the high yield market back in 1989 – working first as an analyst and then assistant portfolio manager – at an institution that held a significant presence in the high yield market. This meant that we obtained one-on-one meetings for any deal making its way through the HY market – and Trump was reasonably active back in those days. It also meant we were generally offered the chance to meet privately with any HY issuer at the various conferences we would attend each year. While I do not know the man on a personal level, I’ve met Trump on a few occasions and have had several internal institutional meetings with him – all of them in relation to deals he had brought or was bringing into the high yield market. These meetings occurred years ago – primarily during the 90’s – and involved several other individuals from my institution as well. I found Trump to be bright yet somewhat brash, friendly and cordial yet somewhat boastful – gregarious with a noticeably large personality. In all honesty, I viewed him as almost a caricature.
One further item is worth noting. I have never owned any Trump debt (or other financial instruments) – not as an analyst, a portfolio manager or a department head. I recognized what Trump was doing – taking older properties, primarily casinos, and running them for cash – but they were not what I ever considered as worthy HY bond investments. To my mind, the potential return did not justify the risk. And thus, meetings or interactions with Trump slowed to nothing.
The final time I recall seeing Trump – a large group meeting at a conference, not a private one – things got started with what I saw as an unnecessarily glamorous video highlighting the various Trump properties. This annoyed me, as the particular deal to be discussed had nothing at all to do with the properties being shown. The video ended with a 10 second shot of Trump sinking a 30-foot putt at one of his golf courses – I promise I’m not making this up. It was at this point I got up and left the room and the meeting.
I note these reactions because they are important and relevant in my evolving views on Trump as a presidential candidate. I started from a position of dismissal – an expectation of near-term and painless failure. A ratings stunt – nothing more. But I changed – he didn’t – I did. I came around to believe that he meant the things he was saying. That he really wanted the best for our country – that he shared my alarm over the direction our country had moved in.
While I was right in walking away from the bond deal, I missed something that day. I was too dismissive and misunderstood what he was really doing. Trump was in the process of making the shift – a successful one – from a property manager/developer and casino operator to a brand creator and licensor. Trump decided it was time to shift strategies and reduce his personal risk – and this is exactly what he did. I laughed when I saw The Apprentice years later. I was shocked when I found out it had made him $210 million. What seemed a stunt was actually strategy.
I laughed again when Trump announced he would run for president – but I began to take him more seriously during the primaries. I was of mixed minds over what I was seeing. I found myself agreeing with many of the things he was saying – things I never thought I would hear any politician say. It was more like listening to a radio talk show host – one whose views I generally shared – than listening to a presidential candidate. I loved that someone was finally speaking openly, saying the things he was saying, but I was a bit alarmed that while I thought he was going to win the primary, he might also be handing the general election to the Clinton Inc. machine.
I found myself a bit self-conscious over my growing support of Trump. I admit it. I was one of those who early on prefaced my comments with, “I’m not a true Trump supporter but…”. I allowed my prior biases and the general level of ridicule surrounding his candidacy – an almost social stigma – to sway how I was willing to portray myself publicly. In my defense, I live in Los Angeles – not a very conservative or Trump-friendly place. Which leaves me all the more impressed – and envious – by Ann Coulter’s willingness to declare early on that Trump had a real chance – on Real Time with Bill Maher no less – that took some guts. Despite my personal misgivings and generalized cowardice I kept finding myself more and more intrigued – even excited – over the prospects of Trump actually winning. I discovered I really wanted him as our next president.
I saw the crowds – and I saw the hope and enthusiasm they were expressing – forget Obama – this was real change happening in real time. I noted the daily tweets – some of which I groaned over – but I saw those tweets dictate the news for the day, shape conversations, raise issues. And I began to believe there truly was a method behind the apparent madness. Whether you like it or not, Trump has found a means to get out there daily – into our thoughts. He frames the issues he wants to focus on and directionally shapes them.
I began to wonder if maybe Trump was exactly what was needed – what was required – in order to produce real change. Someone who was willing to absolutely upset the apple cart in order to right it again. But then there were the polls. It all felt like he should win but the data said he had no chance. The futures markets said he had no chance. But it felt like he should win. If there were no polls and all you had to go on was the energy and crowd enthusiasm then you might assume Trump was going to crush the election. I was guessing the polls were off by maybe four or five points due to the same stigma I had experienced but that was nothing more than a guess. I had assumed the polls would suddenly begin to really tighten in the last few days – I fully expected them to reverse – to show Trump taking a polling lead going into the election but they didn’t. And so I sat down to watch the national voting with the strangest mix of resignation and hope.
And he won.
When I am writing some of these posts – particularly the ones espousing Trump’s actions, policy proposals etc. I still sometimes find myself hedging – or at least feeling like I should hedge. I feel susceptible to ridicule like I have in no other election. When this happens I try to stop and recall what I privately and fundamentally believe a Trump Presidency will entail. I remind myself that I believe we are about to see our country fundamentally reborn, our economy unleashed. I remind myself of the formation of his cabinet – one that is beholden to no one – including Trump himself. These are talented, successful and fiercely independent folks who have come to Washington because they see the opportunity to achieve real change. I think this may be the greatest cabinet ever assembled – it’s the best I’ve ever seen.
I remind myself what I truly believe on a gut level. That we are witnessing the beginning of what may be the greatest presidency in memory – a truly historical change for our country.
And yet it’s still hard to commit those words to writing. But commit I have. It’s gonna be quite a ride. And it starts in three days.
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