Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board

Donald Trump Is Venturing Into Uncharted Territory

January 17, 2017, 3:42 PM UTC
Republican president-elect Donald Trump
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, NY on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

We’re 75 hours out from President Trump’s inauguration, and Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman is bracing for an earthquake.

In the latest installment of his quarterly slide-deck for clients, Mehlman puts some hard numbers to the new order that’s about to take hold in Washington. For starters, the incoming Trump team has vastly more CEO experience — and far less in government — than any of the five previous administrations: Only half of Trump’s cabinet nominees have served in government at all, while more than four in five initial members of the five preceding cabinets had. Meanwhile 30% of Trump’s picks have led companies, significantly more than the 18% in George W. Bush’s first cabinet, which claimed the next heaviest concentration of private-sector chops. President Obama, by starker contrast, came in with no CEOs and 23% PhDs, of which Trump has none.

Trump’s lineup, historically untested in public life, will be charged with executing an agenda breathtaking in its sweep with a legislature that is similarly inexperienced: 72% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats in the new Congress have never served with a Republican president. In the House, only 44% of the current body was around for the passage of the Affordable Care Act; 11% presided over the passage of NAFTA; and 2.5% were present for the last tax code overhaul, in 1986.

On top of the legislative initiatives and regulatory rollbacks, Trump will have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape the judiciary, inheriting on his first day a Supreme Court vacancy (with the real possibility of three more over the course of his term), plus 16 Appeals slots and 96 District Court seats.

The smash-up of such a green government tackling such system-rattling changes should make for a heady couple of years, the period when modern presidents typically secure the bulk of their achievements. It’s true that in the 2018 midterms, Senate Republicans will be fighting on favorable ground, defending only 8 seats, and only one in a state that Hillary Clinton carried (Nevada), while Democrats need to protect 25, including 10 in Trump territory. But history suggests the House will be tougher sledding for the GOP. In the last 25 midterms following a new presidency, dating back to Abraham Lincoln, the party holding the White House has only picked up seats twice. Democrats will need 24 seats to retake the House in 2018 — a margin the out-of-power party has exceeded more often than they didn’t in those contests over the last century and a half. Trump’s standing is sure to play a dominant role in those races, and he’s starting further behind than any incoming president in four decades, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll out this morning. Only 40% of Americans have a favorable impression of Trump, while 54% have an unfavorable impression, making him the only modern president to take office with a net negative rating.

You can read the rest of Mehlman’s analysis here, including a valuable rundown of lessons corporate leaders should learn from Trump’s victory.