The four experts on politics and entrepreneurship were quick to acknowledge at a Jan. 30 event one shortcoming for a discussion on what President Trump might do related to entrepreneurship.
“No one knows,” said Prof. Brigid Callahan Harrison, a professor in Montclair State’s Department of Political Science and Law.
Harrison’s comment was echoed by the other panelists at the event: Julie Roginsky, Democratic political strategist and Fox News contributor, and Michael DuHaime, partner at Mercury and Republican political strategist.
Still, the panelists and moderator David Postolski, a partner at Gearhart Law, offered insight about how a Trump administration might proceed, when the president has issued many ground-breaking executive orders and statements in his first 10 days in office. More than 200 people attended the event, which was sponsored by Montclair State’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Department of Political Science and Law.
Roginsky noted the new administration doesn’t have a guiding philosophy.
“Business people do need a sense of predictability if they’re going to invest,” said Roginsky. “If there was a governing philosophy we could understand, businesses could adjust. … There are no knowables.”
DuHaime noted the flurry of executive actions—“It feels like it’s been the first 100 days already, and it’s only been 10”—but said he expects from a business viewpoint for Trump to show a more pragmatic side when he needs votes in Congress to create policy, a cooperation he doesn’t need for executive orders. DuHaime also noted Trump had been known as a pragmatic businessman from New York who for most of his life had been centrist; Trump sees his peer group as CEO’s, not senators and politicians.
Yet Roginsky was skeptical that Trump might shift to a more pragmatic approach.
“I’ve never met a 70-year-old who’s changed. Hope springs eternal,” she said.
DuHaime noted the political environment had become so polarized, so fast, with the new administration, but said he believed it could be traced back to President Obama’s failure to not get a single Republican vote on the Affordable Care Act.
In the area of tech, DuHaime said the tech industry had run away from Trump but he believed that circle is broadening. Still, Peter Thiel, the PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor, remains a great influence on Trump, DuHaime said.
“From a tech perspective, it’s Peter Thiel, and then everyone else is 10 rungs below,” DuHaime said.
But Roginsky questioned how much sway anyone can have over Trump.
“I don’t know that anybody influences Trump,” said Roginsky. “He feels his gut has gotten him this far.”
On the issue of trade—or any negotiation—DuHaime said that Trump believes the United States negotiates from a position of strength, and therefore prefers a bilateral approach versus a multilateral approach, where everyone at the table must be kept happy.
But Harrison didn’t think a bilateral approach on trade is realistic.
“To think he would be able to negotiate with everyone is a farce,” she said.
On Trump’s goal of increasing manufacturing jobs, Harrison said some of those jobs can be brought back. But she noted that automation, and a generational gap where some workers don’t have the skills they need for a more tech-savvy manufacturing world were obstacles. Harrison noted the “Laverne and Shirley manufacturing jobs,” a reference to a TV sitcom from the 70s in which the title characters worked as bottle-cappers in a fictitious brewery.
“Those jobs are gone forever from the United States…and from the world,” said Harrison.
On issues of immigration, which can impact startups trying to hire the talent they need, the panel discussed Trump’s recent executive order instituting severe restrictions on immigration from seven Muslim countries, an action that has sparked protests at airports across the country.
Roginsky called the action the best recruitment tool for ISIS, and talked poignantly about being an immigrant herself. DuHaime said there’s no one from this area of the country who doesn’t understand the threat of terrorism, yet he believed Trump’s executive order was overly broad, was “fraught with hyperbole on both sides,” and needed to be communicated more effectively.
The event was well received by attendees, including students and entrepreneurs.
Mike Malyar, who started an intellectual property law firm in Montclair, said the event was very informative. “It brought a lot of varied viewpoints to the discussion.”
Alex Famula, a junior Political Science major, said, “It’s really great that students and people from the community can connect with someone who is willing to share their political views, especially someone who is on television.”