Thursday, March 10, 2016

When Trump Talks Trade, Voters Listen


Donald Trump talking about trade during his March 8 victory speech

by Gaius Publius

Shorter Thomas Frank: It's easier for liberals to blame Trump voters for racism than to blame themselves for the job-loss and pain of the working class.

I want to share a piece about Donald Trump, racism and working class voters. It's long enough (and good enough) to ask you to read the whole thing. It's by Thomas Frank, the What's the Matter with Kansas writer, looking at the Trump phenomenon and asking why.

Before you read, though, take a moment to watch less than two minutes of Donald Trump above, from his victory speech after winning in Michigan and Mississippi. I've cued it up to start at the remarks I want to highlight, Trump discussing our trade deficit.

Now Thomas Frank, writing in The Guardian. He starts by noting the utter invisibility of real working Americans to our elite class, including our media elites, and especially our liberal media elites (my emphasis throughout):
Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump. Here's why

When he isn’t spewing insults, the Republican frontrunner is hammering home a powerful message about free trade and its victims

Let us now address the greatest American mystery at the moment: what motivates the supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump?

I call it a “mystery” because the working-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers for the candidate, filling stadiums and airport hangars, but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers. On their opinion pages, these publications take care to represent demographic categories of nearly every kind, but “blue-collar” is one they persistently overlook. The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to “engage” a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions.

When members of the professional class wish to understand the working-class Other, they traditionally consult experts on the subject. And when these authorities are asked to explain the Trump movement, they always seem to zero in on one main accusation: bigotry. Only racism, they tell us, is capable of powering a movement like Trump’s, which is blowing through the inherited structure of the Republican party like a tornado through a cluster of McMansions.
The conclusion of these writers is this:
The Trump movement is a one-note phenomenon, a vast surge of race-hate. Its partisans are not only incomprehensible, they are not really worth comprehending.
And yet...

A lot of people are racists, including those not supporting Trump. But people have other concerns as well, especially working people. They are dying faster than they used to, from drugs and despair, and they fear for their jobs and their families, for very good reasons. This economy is failing them.

They also hate — and understand — "free trade."

Trump Also Talks Trade

Donald Trump talks about more than just race and immigration. He talks about trade and the trade deficit, an issue that powered Bernie Sanders to his Michigan victory as well. From the New York Times:
Trade and Jobs Key to Victory for Bernie Sanders

No Democratic presidential candidate had campaigned in Traverse City, Mich., in decades until Senator Bernie Sanders pulled up to the concert hall near the Sears store on Friday. Some 2,000 people mobbed him when he arrived, roaring in approval as he called the country’s trade policies, and Hillary Clinton’s support for them, “disastrous.”

“If the people of Michigan want to make a decision about which candidate stood with workers against corporate America and against these disastrous trade agreements, that candidate is Bernie Sanders,” Mr. Sanders said in Traverse City, about 250 miles north of Detroit.

Mr. Sanders pulled off a startling upset in Michigan on Tuesday by traveling to communities far from Detroit and by hammering Mrs. Clinton on an issue that resonated in this still-struggling state: her past support for trade deals that workers here believe robbed them of manufacturing jobs. Almost three-fifths of voters said that trade with other countries was more likely to take away jobs, according to exit polls by Edison Research, and those voters favored Mr. Sanders by a margin of more than 10 points.
There is no question — America's billionaire-friendly, job-destroying trade policy is toxic — again, literally. That's why Obama and his bipartisan "free trade" enablers in Congress have to pass TPP, if they can, in post-election lame duck session. TPP is also toxic to political careers, and only lame ducks and the recently-elected can vote for it.

Frank again on Trump:
Last week, I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself. I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke. I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years. But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing.

Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy. Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the issue that first won him political fame. He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney, he chose to pivot and talk about ... trade.

It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
On the subject more generally, Frank adds:
Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic power brokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.

To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There’s a video going around on the internet these days that shows a room full of workers at a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana being told by an officer of the company that the factory is being moved to Monterrey, Mexico and that they’re all going to lose their jobs.

As I watched it, I thought of all the arguments over trade that we’ve had in this country since the early 1990s, all the sweet words from our economists about the scientifically proven benevolence of free trade, all the ways in which our newspapers mock people who say that treaties like the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement allow companies to move jobs to Mexico.

Well, here is a video of a company moving its jobs to Mexico, courtesy of Nafta. This is what it looks like. The Carrier executive talks in that familiar and highly professional HR language about the need to “stay competitive” and “the extremely price-sensitive marketplace.” A worker shouts “Fuck you!” at the executive. The executive asks people to please be quiet so he can “share” his “information”. His information about all of them losing their jobs.
Frank goes to greater length, and again, please click through. But you get the idea. This is what Trump is speaking to, whether he means what he says or not, and this is what his voters are responding to, whether they like his racism or not. After all, haven't you, at least once, voted for someone with qualities you dislike because of policies you do like?

Whose Fault Is This? Both Parties, But Especially the Democratic Elites

One final point. Frank takes on the issue of responsibility:
Trump’s words articulate the populist backlash against liberalism that has been building slowly for decades ... Yet still we cannot bring ourselves to look the thing in the eyes. We cannot admit that we liberals bear some [or most] of the blame for its emergence, for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiraling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trumpism is just a crude and ugly expression: that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.
I am certain, if this comes up in a general election debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, she could very likely get her clock cleaned; not certainly, but certainly very likely. First, she can only equivocate, and Trump will have none of it. (Trump: "Let me understand. You were for this before you were against it? So ... will you be for it again next year? I'm just trying to understand.")

Second, this is a change election, Trump is one of only two change candidates in the race, and Clinton is not the other one.

Here's that Carrier Air Conditioning "we're moving to Mexico" video that Frank mentioned above. Take a look, but prepare to feel some pain as you watch:

Are all of these people racists, the man walking past the camera at the 30-second mark, for example? Of course not. What these people do have in common is hopelessness, powerlessness, and creeping despair. If you were any of those people, would your response be different than theirs? And if you were any of these people, is your candidate Hillary Clinton?

My view: In a Trump–Sanders contest, Sanders gets at least half of these voters. In a Trump–Clinton contest, Trump gets them all.

Something for the "free"-trading leaders of the Democratic Party to consider as they move toward the convention and the 2016 fate that awaits them.

Support Your Progressive Candidates

Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you'd like to help out, go here. If you'd like to "phone-bank for Bernie," go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here.

In addition, Blue America is proud to endorse P.G. Sittenfeld as senator from Ohio, running in the Democratic primary against an agent of all that neo-liberals like Clinton stand for, Ted Strickland. Help put Sittenfeld in the general election by clicking here.

Then vote!


Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

100%. All US blue collar workers have gotten from the Democratic Establishment for the past two decades is sneers and attacks on unions. And they will vote against Clinton en bloc.

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

..Um.. no. What remain of unions have endorsed Clinton and their members WILL turn out in majority for who they are told to support. Twas ever thus, to the detriment of them all. They voted en masse, again, for obamanation even after the ultimate betrayal in Wisconsin. And even Wisconsin couldn't recall Walker... so they have only themselves to blame... but they won't. They'll do another Clinton and feel good about it... as their ranks are further decimated.

Back to the main piece... I think too much thinking going on on the learned left.

Today herr drumpf is correct on trade. But if you graze the interwebs for his past statements wrt his feelings toward the great unwashed, you discover he just could not give a flying crap about them. Trevor Noah scratched the surface on it this past week, but there are reams of proof. Of course his brown-shirted devotees will neither research nor care nor believe it... but there you are.

IMO, herr drumpf is using trade (which should be called free capital flight) because folks, in some amorphous way, hate "free trade" because it's bad -- though 98% of them couldn't articulate exactly why. In fact, supported by decades of those internet video thingies, he doesn't care either about "trade" nor its victims. He cares only how "trade" can make him richer.

But yes, hilbillary has been wrong on trade for nearly 40 years and voters to the left (because a lot of them still think) know it and remember bill's singing its praises as he drove the first stakes (NAFTA, WTO, GATT) through the heart of the working class... but at least he "feels our pain"... NOT!! So she would be very vulnerable to herr drumpf for this also.

Herr drumpf is not running a thinking person's campaign. He's running a cracker hate fuck campaign. I'm not sure anyone that doesn't already feel the "seig heil" will go to his side over trade. What trade will do is make millions of lefty voters avoid hilbillary, should they win the nom.

Either way, drumpf gains an advantage... unless Bernie is the nom. But, as usual, lefty voters cannot get out of their own way. Either they gleefully vote for their own buggering... or they fail to vote to keep the predators away from their kiesters.

as an aside, we are almost certainly going to find out very shortly whether herr drumpf was correct. Soon, someone will be killed at one of his rallys. If one of his Brooks-Brothers-suited goons kills a protester, will anyone decide not to support him any more? Probably not.

If a protester kills a supporter, however, might as wall swear drumpf in right now because that's what we'll get. He might get more states than Reagan in '84.

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Trump video at the top of the post doesn't play. It says the account no longer exists.


Post a Comment

<< Home