Yesterday, Merck CEO Ken Frazier quit Trump's advisory council and today the CEOs of Intel and Under Armor joined him, which raises the question: why were these guys on the advisory council for an avowed white supremacist who campaigned on a platform of racial discrimination against Mexicans and Muslims?
The short answer is that, by definition, there just aren't that many 1%ers and even fewer 0.1%ers. In order to win an election, 1%ers need to convince a bunch of people to vote for policies that clobber the economic interests of the 99% and benefit the 1%.
Traditionally, this has involved a "conservative values" appeal that fluxuates in its virulence, finding new scapegoats to herd conservative turkeys to the polls and mark an X for Christmas. Historically, brown people have been at the forefront of these scare tactics (cf Willie Horton), and Jews, gays, trans people, women, women who get abortions, women who take birth control, people on social assistance, and other plausible bogeymen rotate in and out of the crosshairs.
But there is no fluxuation to speak of in the effect of the policies of the Republican party on its base. The more "business-friendly" policies are enacted, the more likely the median Republican voter is to lose their health care, get their jobs offshored, send their children to a sub-par school, be injured on the job, get sick from industrial pollution, and be boiled in their own pudding as climate change scorches their homes and lives.
So the scare story needs to get scarier in order to distract from the increasingly obvious axe that Farmer Brown keeps sharpening, otherwise Republican voters stop showing up at the polls, or, worse, change sides.
Trump's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to demonization represents many things, but among them is a demonstration that it's getting harder and harder to distract GOP voters from the fact that things keep getting worse for them — the rhetorical stakes now must include the media, protesters, the opposition, his own party leadership… As Trump likes to say, "Only Trump can save you." Everyone else is jettisonable ballast.
The marriage of inequality-boosting, 1%-friendly policies to scapegoating isn't a freak accident. It's an inevitability, the only way to consistently guarantee turkey-votes every Christmas. That's why the American establishment responds to unarmed people at Standing Rock seeking safe water as if they were terrorists, but handles murdering neo-Nazis rampaging through the streets of Charlottesville with kid gloves.
Trump's economic policies are very, very good for CEOs, but the civil disorder, racism, homophobia and terror he uses to gain and retain power are not good for business in the long run. Customers don't want to buy products from companies that are aligned with actual Nazis; scarce engineering talent doesn't want to work for those companies (though there is an obvious and enthusiastic rump of engineers who love authoritarianism and discrimination, busily penning memos about the intrinsic superiority of men and/or developing spyware for Palantir). It's the very scarcity of engineering talent that has caused these companies to set aside some of their bias in order to hire more broadly — just as the exclusion of women from the workforce couldn't survive the need to build WWII battleships while the men were all in uniform, the need to build the internet trumps the intrinsic and often unconscious bias of the overwhelmingly white, well-off dudes who found and fund Silicon Valley companies.
Trump isn't "normal." He figured out that shattering normalcy and speaking bigotry aloud rather than whispering it softly was a way to re-energize frightened, small-minded bigots and get them to vote for more misery for themselves (so long as it came with transvaginal probing for women seeking abortions and a ban on trans people in the military).
But speaking bigotry aloud also shatters the social contract between the rich and the bigoted, in which the rich get their policies and fund the campaigns of cynics who'll quietly enact bigotry without ever speaking it aloud. So the CEOs who joined Trump's kitchen cabinet in order to protect tax cuts and the right to pollute and maim employees and customers with impunity are now forced to choose whether they want to continue to align their companies with overt Naziism. They're choosing not to, and hoping that there will be a way to elect Republicans who keep the bigotry down to dog-whistle volumes rather than shouting it from the hills.
There will be plenty of Republicans who want this to be possible, too: they're the ones hoping to get elected up and down the ticket in 2018, who know that fronting for the semi-respectable face of the American Nazi Party will energize lots of people to come out and vote against you.
But these Rs are fighting against the hardest-line economic wreckers, the Galt-cultists who literally believe that there is a group of people whose genome makes them into the "job creators" that we all need to kowtow to. These people — and the fake mathematicians whom they pay to write baffling equations that prove the virtue of selfishness — are willing to hitch their wagon to anyone provided that person will continue the march toward privatizing roads and fire-departments and city governments. These people believe "freedom is incompatible with democracy" because ultimately the turkeys won't vote for Christmas anymore, and so their project is to perfect techniques of social control in Singaporean fashion, creating a system where the executions are handled behind closed doors and the majority go along to get along, accepting any discussion of inequality or unfairness as "out of bounds."
These would-be-Ubermeschen view the major problem of Naziism as its potential for chaos. They're indifferent to its intrinsic odiousness. If they believe that they can channel the anger of the base, they're happy to keep whipping it up.
It's a hell of a moment to be on the left, as the right tears itself apart. Now, will our so-called leaders actually lead, seizing the moment, or will they continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?