Clinton Must Toughen Up On Trade To Be Ready To Face Trump

Dave Johnson

Yes, much of Donald Trump’s message has a white nationalist and anti-woman character to it. But here is a warning: If Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee she had better get tough on trade – and mean it.

One of Donald Trump’ main elements of appeal to his voters – if not the main appeal – is his stance on trade and bringing jobs back to America. It is a winning message and Clinton is waaaayyyy behind the curve on this.

Much Of Trump Appeal Based On Trade

Much of Trump’s campaign message is about how our country’s trade deals have wiped out jobs. On Day 1 much of his speech announcing that he was running was about trade. From the transcript, here is some of the trade talk:

“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.

[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.

… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.

So here’s a couple of stories. Happened recently, a friend of mine is a great manufacturer, and you know, China comes over and they dump all their stuff.

… And it’s impossible for our people here to compete. So I want to tell you this story. Friend of mine if a great manufacturer. Calls me up a few weeks ago, he’s very upset.

I said, ‘What’s your problem?’

He said, ‘You know, I make a great product.’

I said, ‘I know, I know that, because I buy the product.’

He said, ‘I can’t get it into China. They won’t accept it. I sent a boat over and they actually sent it back. They talked about environmental, they talked about all sorts of crap that had nothing to do with it.’

I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute, that’s terrible. Did anyone know this?’

He said, ‘They do it all the time with other people.’

I said, ‘They send it back?’

He said, ‘Yea, so I finally got it over there, and they charged me a big tariff.’

They’re not supposed to be doing that. I told him. Now they do charge you tariffs on trucks when we send trucks and other things over there.

Ask Boeing. They wanted all their patents and secrets before they agreed to buy planes from Boeing.

Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?

There’s much more if you keep reading. From that moment on in his campaign, he has continued to talk and talk and talk about trade.

Trade and jobs are at the center of Trump’s appeal. He rightly says China is killing us on trade and taking jobs, and people listen. He wrongly says that immigrants are taking people’s jobs, but people believe it and people listen. But it’s all jobs, jobs, jobs, and it’s a powerful message.

Well-To-Do Donor Class Likes Trade As It Is

America’s well-to-do elites think everything is going fine. Their stock portfolios are way up, so they’re feeling good. They’re writing op-eds about how well things are going and how our corporate paradigm is doing so well for us and the world. The elite “donor class” is giving huge sums to “continuity” politicians. This is elites talking to other elites and not at all hearing what is going on in the country.

Donald Trump is not dependent on this donor class and he is saying that things are not fine, that wages are not going up, that jobs are hard to find, that trade is killing us. So people for whom things are not going fine, for whom jobs are hard to find, for whom wages are not going up and who trade is killing are listening. And that is most people in the U.S.

A Must-Read On Trump And Trade

There is a must-read on Trump and trade at Bloomberg: Trump Wave Builds in a Steel Town Forsaken by the World Economy

The town of Johnstown was devastated by floods not once, not twice, but three times in less than a century. Then came the economic wave that washed away the steel industry, and with it a way of life.

Now a backlash is building in the maple-studded hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. Captured in interviews and confirmed in statewide polls, the sentiment is propelling Donald Trump toward the Republican nomination, and possibly even the presidency of the world’s biggest economy.

It’s the feeling people get when they’re afraid of being left behind.

“This town is beyond distressed. We’ve been destroyed. It’s sad, because this was a good place to grow up. You didn’t have to lock your door,” said Robert Vargo, 63, as he talked politics with a friend in a McDonald’s. The retired Johnstown native, who worked as a security guard despite having an engineering degree, plans to vote for Trump. “People are sick of being ignored. That’s why Trump is popular. He’s actually saying the things people are afraid to express.”

Why Trump? Simple: trade.

Trump’s proposed remedy has already helped him win in places that resemble Johnstown: in the Rust Belt that used to make up the country’s manufacturing heartland, and down through the Appalachians, rich in coal but racked by poverty. The billionaire argues that decades of “disastrous” trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed the American middle class. He’s promised to slap tariffs on Chinese goods, deport illegal immigrants and force Mexico to pay for a border wall.

Just go read it…

Clinton Not Tough On Trade

Hillary Clinton is not seen as someone who will fight against our country’s corporate-driven trade policies. In the most recent New York primary exit polls, for example, voters who self-describe as pro-trade voted for Clinton over Sanders 61 percent to 39 percent. In Michigan voters who feel trade takes away jobs voted for Sanders 56 percent to 41 percent.

Clinton has been hedging. For example, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) she said, just before the first Democratic primary debate, “based on what I know so far, I can’t support this agreement.” But she also said, “I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was secretary of state.”

Clinton has said she will not lobby her supporters to vote against TPP and other such corporate-dominated agreements. She has not said that TPP and other corporate-dominated trade supporters won’t be invited into her administration. She certainly will not demand that Obama withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

The result? Clinton has a credibility problem on trade. Almost no one believes her. (See “Chamber of Commerce Lobbyist Tom Donohue: Clinton Will Support TPP After Election.”)

“Pro-trade” voters vote for her. “Pro-trade” donors continue to give the max to her campaign. In fact, this hedging has left the donor and corporate class believing she is on their side, that she supports the “free trade” agenda that has killed off so many jobs, factories, entire industries, entire regions and left us with enormous, humongous trade deficits year after year after year – while making a very few at the top wealthy beyond belief.

Clinton is hedging, leaving herself room to appeal to the donor and corporate class. But if Clinton “moves to the center” on trade after the convention, as business and donor community believes she will, she risks losing those voters who feel that these trade agreements have ruined their lives, their towns, their regions and their country.

Will they believe she is against these trade deals? Or will they turn to Trump?


A few past warnings:

Trump Taps Into Economic Anxiety Resulting From ‘Free Trade’“:

Trump is tapping into an economic anxiety felt by many, many Americans. Our trade policies are at the root of this anxiety, and Trump knows it and says it, and people nod their heads.

… If you go to the “flyover states” and even vast parts of the coastal states you see towns, cities and entire regions where shops, gas stations, even entire shopping centers are closed and boarded up. You see empty houses with the porches collapsing and roofs caving in, and somewhere you will find the “old factory” – a fenced-off empty building with broken windows and weeds growing in the cracks in the parking lot…

People Believe This Is From Trade Policies

What happened? Factories closed and jobs dried up and our government didn’t do a thing about it. This left people competing for what’s left of the jobs.

‘Free Trade’: The Elites Are Selling It But The Public Is Longer Buying

Donald Trump Was Correct About TPP And China

Why Trump Gets Traction From Trade“:

Donald Trump is getting traction. He is talking about trade, jobs, China, manufacturing, China, jobs, China and China — and it is resonating with a public sick of being told to ignore what they can see in front of their faces. “Nobody, other than OPEC, is ripping off the United States like China,” he says. And he climbs in the polls.

Trade Shapes Wisconsin Primary

Get updates in your inbox