Years ago, I learned the perils of endorsing a political candidate in a business publication. In October 2008 I was traveling with a group of companies and was met in the DIA concourse by the CEO of my largest advertiser and sponsor of the trip. Our magazine had endorsed Barack Obama the same week. Needless to say, it was a lively conversation.
Fast forward a dozen years. Today, CompanyWeek readers are flooded with political opinion, shilling for either side. Our endorsement, my endorsement, wouldn't change a thing, even if manufacturing is an entirely appropriate filter to judge each candidate.
Sidestepping an endorsement also saves me from the blow back from annoyed readers. "I don’t read your publication for political opinions," always meant, "you picked the wrong candidate."
Some of those readers would also be the same folks who today use their own platform to advocate for a preferred candidate. No doubt I'd have heard from Daniels Manufacturing Corporation (DMC) President George Daniels, based in Orlando, Florida, who last week fired an employee for publicizing Daniel's internal memo stating, "If Trump and the Republicans win the election, DMC will hopefully be able to continue operating, more or less as it has been operating lately." The letter continued, "However, if Biden and the Democrats win, DMC could be forced to begin permanent layoffs beginning in late 2020 and/or early 2021."
Daniels may be right, but for the wrong reason. Whoever wins will face the reality that today, in the midst of a pandemic, small business teeters on a knife's edge. It’s a story lost in this election cycle; or too remote. It may not be much longer. We’ve yet to find a "new normal" -- a work-life balance that includes COVID. Until we do, a new economic crisis is as likely as an extended recovery.
If I were to be pressed for an opinion, I'd say, as I have for months, that both Trump and Biden have at times been effective in promoting manufacturing: Biden as vice president in an Obama administration that orchestrated key federal investments in manufacturing infrastructure; and President Trump through more unconventional means, using both carrot and stick to compel companies to favor domestic production.
On the flip side, neither candidate has been able to articulate a strategy to shore up our domestic supply chain -- the key to U.S. manufacturing -- or demonstrate a deep understanding of the industries that will drive sustained growth. In other words, if manufacturing were the lens through which CompanyWeek would endorse a candidate in next Tuesday's election, neither would get full throated affirmation.
Instead, despite the duplicity, we’re rooting for Daniels Manufacturing Corporation. And demanding the party that emerges from next week’s election immediately set to work to undergird small and middle-market manufacturing, to support communities with the vision of San Leandro, California, or Fort Collins, Colorado, towns that value "job-dense, 50-person, high value-added employers", i.e. manufacturers.
Delivering on that promise might compel me to again endorse a candidate. It’s never too late.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.