Investor Alert

New York Markets Open in:

Jan. 23, 2020, 10:06 a.m. EST

Davos elites warm to Trump, recoiling at the prospect of a Sanders or Warren presidency

The Democratic presidential candidates pose more of a threat to the powerful and wealthy than Trump does

Watchlist Relevance

Want to see how this story relates to your watchlist?

Just add items to create a watchlist now:

or Cancel Already have a watchlist? Log In

By Caroline Baum, MarketWatch

MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images
President Trump, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Armed with two newly signed trade deals, U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Davos and was greeted, if not exactly as a hero then at least not as the pariah he was in 2018.

Some have even gone so far as to suggest that Trump may be the new Davos Man , a term used to describe the members of the global elite who are regulars at the yearly gathering of the World Economic Forum.

What explains the shift? How is it that Trumpism, with its populist/nationalist ideology and America First fervor, has found a receptive audience among the global business and political elites who gather each year at this time in the Alpine ski resort to see and be seen?

The Davos crowd would prefer to do things its own way, not in a fashion dictated by the state, centrally planned and administered as in China.

The attendees’ acceptance of Trump is all the more surprising given the theme of this year’s annual WEF meeting: “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.”

Trump, after all, is a climate-change denier, although he seems to have kept his denial under wraps in his prepared address. He limited his barbs at environmentalists to urging a rejection of “the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse,” including “an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s and an end of oil in the 1990s.”

The change of heart toward Trump may have something to do with the 2020 alternatives, according to The New York Times’ Annie Karni, David Gelles and Peter Baker.

With progressives like Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren “emerging as top-tier possibilities for nomination, a crowd that once rejected Mr. Trump is now more willing to consider him one of its own,” the reporters write in a page one story in Wednesday’s New York Times.

In other words, Trump didn’t get better, but the alternatives look even worse.

Read: Here’s the ‘dirty little secret’ the superrich of Davos are keeping to themselves

Status quo

Trump hasn’t changed; nor has the focus of the World Economic Forum. Therefore, the relative preference for Trump over his presidential challengers is the most likely explanation for Davos’ warm welcome for someone who has eschewed multilateral agreements, such as the Paris Climate Accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership, and adopted a my-way-or-the-highway approach in dealing with former allies.

Not to mention the fact that Warren’s proposed wealth tax probably isn’t a big seller among the wealthy at Davos.

If the theory is correct, the backlash against Warren and Sanders is somewhat surprising since much of the Davos ethos — that businesses should serve all stakeholders, not just shareholders — seems more aligned with progressive thinking than with Trump’s agenda.

Davos may tout a kinder, gentler form of capitalism as the goal — one that takes into account workers, clients and society, not just investors — and advocate for coordinated solutions to save the planet. But the Davos crowd would prefer to do things its own way, not in a fashion dictated by the state, centrally planned and administered as in China. Many of the top-down plans pushed by Sens. Warren and Sanders would apparently be a bridge too far for the Davos set.

1 2
This Story has 0 Comments
Be the first to comment
More News In
Economy & Politics

Story Conversation

Commenting FAQs »
Link to MarketWatch's Slice.