Steve Forbes isn’t naive about Donald Trump. The pages of Forbes’ eponymous magazine have doubted almost every aspect of Trump’s economic plan, deflated the billionaire’s exaggerated claims about his net worth, and denounced his hard-line stance on immigration.
So why is he endorsing Trump’s candidacy?
Beyond partisan loyalty, it’s not easy to say. Pundits have labored to explain Trump’s appeal as a phenomenon of wealth inequality. The billionaire’s tough-talking protectionism and anti-élitist message resonates with a working class that, for decades, has felt excluded from national conversations about politics.
None of which should have much appeal to Steve Forbes. The wealthy scion, with estimated net worth of of $430 million, is the editor-in-chief of a magazine that has promoted free trade for nearly a century, since his grandfather, B.C. Forbes founded Forbes magazine in 1917.
Forbes says he was impressed with Trump’s ability to persuade a cynical electorate. Trump’s sixteen competitors for the Republican nomination lacked a compelling vision for the future. While the other candidates – all seasoned politicians – struggled to find their voices, the lone businessman hogged the media spotlight and hammered away at a few simple themes. It was a winning strategy. And to Forbes, that focus is central to his appeal and his image as a winner.
Incidentally, Forbes notes that Trump’s success is also a lesson for Libertarian Party candidates Gary Johnson and William Weld. “They’ve been accustomed to playing double-A ball,” notes Forbes. “They’re now going to the major leagues. And they don’t have the luxury of having months, as a normal candidate would do, to try things, get themes going, get your act together. Like a boxer getting ready for a match, you don’t just enter the ring.”
Produced by Todd Krainin. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein. Thumbnail photo by Gage Skidmore.
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