Post-Election Uncertainty — Opportunities for SRI Investors — 5: Civil Society, Civil Rights

While we can’t be certain whether the immediate financial-market reactions to his election will continue for the length of a Trump presidency, we think that some of the policies proposed by the incoming administration give even more reasons than ever to make sure that your investments are aligned with your values.

In Part One of this series, we posted on proposed changes to the tax code. In Part Two, we wrote about probable impacts on international trade. Part Three was about Trump’s efforts to reduce government regulation. And Part Four was about issues of environmental regulation in particular. Today, in conclusion, Part Five: “Civil Society, Civil Rights”.

 

5: Civil Society, Civil Rights

Trump kicked off his campaign with a rambling speech on June 16, 2015. Famously, he spoke of immigrants from Mexico, saying “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”. The crowds at his rallies often broke into chants of “Build The Wall!” — a wall “paid for by Mexico”, designed to stop immigration across the southern border. Immigration continued to be a central theme of his campaign, and now of his transition plans: apparently his closest advisors are insisting that he maintain the campaign’s hard-line positions. Mexican immigration wasn’t the only topic on which Trump has caused alarm, however. Late last year, Trump argued for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. Trump has since waffled on whether he really wants such a ban, and on whether or not he wants to force all Muslims living in the US to register with the government, but both measures seem blatantly unconstitutional. And the American Muslim community is still feeling “shock or despair” at his election, and hate crimes against Muslims have increased dramatically since the election. Trump spoke of African-Americans in offensive terms, saying that “the African-American community”, who live in “the ghetto” or “the inner city”, in conditions “more dangerous that some of the war zones”, are condemned to lives characterized primarily by “The violence. The death. The lack of education. No jobs.” This “left many black voters angry, dumbfounded, or both”.

In one of the early GOP debates, Trump responded to a question from moderator Megyn Kelly about his history of misogyny with more obvious misogyny against Kelly. About a month before the election, a tape leaked in which Trump bragged about being able to sexually assault women without repercussions, because “when you’re a star, they let you do it”. And while Trump periodically made claims about being pro-LGBT — after the Orlando attack, for example, and at the Republican Party Convention — Vice-President-Elect Pence has a long record of anti-LGBT extremism, and neither Trump nor Pence has said or done anything to tamp down the flood of hate crimes against LGBT people in the last few months. Moreover, the people that Trump has said he intends to nominate for positions in his Cabinet are “remarkably anti-LGBT”, according to The Advocate.

These sound like attacks on some of the basic civil rights that Americans have been taking for granted. If we find that the positions Trump has taken in the campaign, and the policies he appears ready to try to implement, are offensive, we have a few things we can do. Trump’s cabinet picks appear to be stacked against our civil rights. For example, Jeff Sessions has been nominated to be Trump’s Attorney General, and so to oversee the Department of Justice, including the Civil Rights Division. But Sessions was not confirmed to a federal judgeship in 1986, because of racist remarks; he has spoken out against any “immigration reform”; and he has long been an opponent of same-sex marriage. It’s hard to understand how Sessions could be expected to defend our civil rights; to prevent his confirmation, we need (yes, again) to contact our Senators and urge them to vote against him.

And as investors, we can support companies that have put progressive policies on these key issues in place, and continue to signal their continuing commitment to “sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and women’s empowerment”. We can use corporate accountability measures like the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “Corporate Equality Index” when we’re building our portfolios, to help make sure that we own companies that support LGBTQ employees and customers — and that lobby their representatives at the national, state, and local levels for supportive legislation. We can use the power of our shareholder proxies, working with partners such as the Pride Foundation or Trillium Asset Management, to push the companies whose shares we own to adopt better diversity policies, covering race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and many others. And we can direct our community development investments to the support of women or under-served minority communities.

It’s clear to us that the Trump Administration will pose a complex set of problems to our industry, our business, and our clients. But with the political tools we have at hand, and the economic and investment strategies we have honed over the years, it’s possible that we, collectively, can help to resist some of the worst tendencies and encourage further advances in progressive directions.