Jamie Dimon Joins the Trump Normalizers
Just which “critical issues” does the JPMorgan Chase CEO think Trump got right?
JAMIE DIMON ISSUED WHAT CNN characterized as a “warning to Democrats” this week. During a CNBC interview on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum at Davos, the JPMorgan Chase CEO said that Donald Trump “wasn’t wrong” about certain “critical issues,” so Democrats should not too quickly dismiss Trump’s base as a cult of personality.1
The danger in Dimon’s remark lies as much in what he did not say as in what he did. Such a statement from such a powerful and influential business leader is just what a mad doctor ordered to normalize Trump.
Trump—having already inspired an insurrection, already promised to be a “dictator on day one” should he be re-elected, and already called for the “termination . . . of the Constitution”—on January 9 had his lawyer argue before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that, as president, he could direct Navy SEAL Team Six to assassinate his political rivals and still be immune from prosecution.
Notably, Dimon mentioned none of that Wednesday as he praised Trump “policies.” In going out of his way to say Trump was “right about some critical issues,” Dimon didn’t bother to note that Trump continues to reject the results of the 2020 election and has convinced the vast majority of Republicans that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected.
Guess Dimon—who, days after the 2020 election, said “We must respect the results of the U.S. presidential election and . . . honor the decision of the voters”—no longer thinks the integrity of our elections is a “critical issue” for our entire democracy.
Join a community that still does think that. Sign up for a free or paid subscription today:
In their 2018 book How Democracies Die, Harvard political theorists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write that “an essential test for democracies” is what they do when demagogues arise—whether national “leaders . . . work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place,” including by “refusing to endorse or align with them.” Dimon’s endorsement of Trump’s policies serves as a kind of permission slip to others in the world of finance and commerce to move in Trump’s direction.
AND HOW ABOUT THOSE POLICIES? Dimon’s praise for the supposed actions Trump took while in office doesn’t stack up well against the factual record.
For example, Dimon said broadly that Trump “was kind of right about immigration.”
Exactly which part was Trump right about? Separating children from their mothers? Saying that too many immigrants came from “shithole countries”? Telling anyone who would listen that a wall would keep immigrants out? Falsely assuring Americans that Mexico would pay for the wall?
And which part, pray tell, is Trump right about now? Claiming that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country”? Calling on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to block the developing Senate deal on border security and aid to Ukraine?
You don’t need to be as smart as Jamie Dimon to recognize that Trump’s immigration initiatives are designed to create an enemy “other,” just as the Third Reich did with Jews, gays, and Romani. The point is to spread an “us-versus-them” mentality, promote xenophobia by instilling fear, and exploit it to produce allegiance to an all-powerful leader.
Even this week, Trump is still deploying these same despicable tactics to discredit and dehumanize his political opponents—witness the false birther attack on Nikki Haley, much like the one he used years ago on President Barack Obama. Trump dog-whistles that they are not American, not like us, and therefore unworthy of your vote.
Meanwhile, what’s the evidence behind the narrative that Trump did so much better than Biden has done in deterring illegal immigration? In November, the libertarian-leaning Cato Institution analyzed the government data and reached this conclusion:
Migrants were more likely to be released after a border arrest under President Trump than under President Biden. In absolute terms, the Biden DHS is removing 3.5 times as many people per month as the Trump DHS did.
ON THE ISSUE OF TAX POLICY, Dimon told CNBC that Trump’s “tax reform worked.” But for whom?
As ProPublica reported in 2021, a “study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the provision. And most of that amount went to the top 0.1%.”
Dimon’s estimated $1.5 billion net worth would easily land him in that select group. So, yes, maybe the tax reform worked well for Dimon. But the grim record of federal deficits and debt that emerged from the Trump years belies the claim that his tax cuts worked well for the American people in general.
With regard to foreign policy, Dimon asserted that Trump was “kind of right about NATO.”
Really? Perhaps Dimon missed this 2019 Trump statement, reported in John Bolton’s book: “I don’t give a shit about NATO.” And maybe Dimon didn’t read the December 2023 article in the Atlantic entitled “Trump Will Abandon NATO,” by historian and foreign policy analyst Anne Applebaum.
If Dimon means to suggest that Trump was right to insist that NATO members spend more money on defense—something that presidents of both parties have been demanding for decades—Trump’s ineffectual hectoring doesn’t hold a candle to Joe Biden’s record of accomplishment, encouraging and leading the NATO response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and helping to oversee the growth of the alliance that Trump wishes to destroy.
DIMON’S COUNTERFACTUAL PRAISE for a would-be tyrant demonstrates precisely what Timothy Snyder describes at the start of his 2017 book On Tyranny:
Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. . . . Individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.
Is Dimon teaching Trump what he can do? Are we watching a powerful business influencer hedge his bets to protect his institution and his own pocketbook in the event of a possible Trump second term? For social leaders to adopt the narratives of an insurrection-inciter like Trump is a parlous step toward ending the rule of law and American constitutionalism.
We citizens, however, need not offer up our own power in advance. Customers of JPMorgan Chase, for example, can voice their disapproval, as can any person who uses social media. What will preserve our freedoms and our democracy is for each of us to tell influencers like Jamie Dimon to stop normalizing Trump by praising a would-be Caesar instead of burying him in truth.
Correction (January 23, 2024, 12:30 a.m. EST): Due to an error during editing, the second sentence of this article as it was originally published erroneously attributed to Jamie Dimon the words “Donald Trump was right about some critical issues.” Dimon’s actual words—that Donald Trump “wasn’t wrong about some of these critical issues”—are now reflected in the corrected article.