Aug 17, 2020 - Economy

Dealmakers aren't pretending 2020 won't be a consequential election

Illustration of images of an elephant and a donkey overlapping.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Dealmakers always pay attention to presidential elections, but in 2020 they're no longer claiming that the outcome won't significantly affect transactions.

Between the lines: This isn't to say that one candidate is better or worse for dealmakers, or for particular industries. It's to say that the winner won't be a passive bystander, particularly as the wall between regulated and non-regulated industries has decayed.

Worth noting: In the past, readers have gotten very upset when I've mentioned politics, insisting that it's separate from "business." That was even true when the candidate was private equity veteran Mitt Romney.

  • In the present? Crickets.

Just take the escalating U.S. Postal Service fight. Most coverage has focused on ballots, but it also has a more immediate impact on the ever-increasing number of direct-to-consumer companies, including everything from digital pharmacies to online consignment shops. If USPS is no longer a reliable constant, then the economics and viability of these companies change.

  • Or the ongoing TikTok dispute, which is really a proxy for all tech companies that either originate in China or receive investment from China. The White House is now explicitly and unapologetically picking winners and losers.
  • Or disputes over how to classify gig economy workers, which at some point soon will leapfrog from state courts to D.C.

Then add in all of the more obvious issues that could reshape and revalue entire industries.

  • For example, look at tax policy (corporate tax rate rollbacks or carried interest?), health care policy (Medicare for All or drug price caps?), energy policy (fracking bans?), and antitrust policy (new laws or increased enforcement?).
  • Not to mention policies related to COVID-19, including everything from contact tracing to vaccine procurement/deployment to what is likely to be a continuing series of stimulus and bailout plans.

The bottom line: Every election feels like the most consequential of our lifetimes. For dealmakers, it's finally true.

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