And what makes you think what you call his “populism” is a mask? Perhaps he believes in it, and doesn’t wish to pretend he doesn’t.
The evidence from the past indicates to me that Trump is a man who looks for openings wherever he can find them. He’s spent his whole career watching for market fluctuations and partaking in risk management - although I’m sure he gets a lesser being to do the detailed, painstaking graft on his behalf - and he has used those “traits” to good effect in this case. He - or whoever has been helping him - saw an opening in the GOP base amongst white, blue-collar Americans feeling distanced from the establishment and longing for someone to provide an alternative trade policy in tandem with a stab at political correctness. Trump jumps right in there with populism, nativism and his own brand of protectionism. Voila.
Call me cynical but if such an opening had been available to him from a totally different political vantage point, I’d have no doubt that he could willingly spout progressive values that would be so liberal as to make Sanders look tame. As you conceded before, he’s all process and no ideology.
We’ve seen his notorious flip-flipping between pro-choice and pro-life. Or that hilarious episode when he was trying to woo Evangelical voters in the South and appeared on a talk show, where they asked him to state his favourite bible verse. He was in the process of putting on the “most pious man in America” mask at that point, to get away from his playboy image. He pointedly refused to name his favourite verse, opining “there are so many and its just too personal for me” or words to that effect. I’ve just got to laugh at his flagrant insincerity and double-dealing.
And he isn’t “anti free trade”. “Free trade” does not preclude working to ensure 'fair trade". His whole thrust regarding trade is getting fair deals, which he claims (and not without some justification) predecessors have not gotten accomplished.
I agree that free trade must also be fair, that is to say ‘reciperocal’. But he goes flat out and says NAFTA has been a disaster. Now, I know he derides the Mexicans - because his support base do - but are we forgetting that bilateral trade between the U.S. and Mexico totals at about $500 billion annually? And yet he promises to slap tariffs on them and force their government to build a wall. I hardly doubt that would be fair to the Mexicans, nor are they likely to see it that way. Unless they are complete *******, I’d expect them to respond in kind with tariffs - which sparks off a trade war. With your southern neighbour. What happens to that $500 billion figure?
Is that a pro-free trade policy?
I’m not anti free trade either, but I have long suspected that some of our trade arrangements are “political diplomacy by other means”. Are we, for example, attempting to buy peace with China by allowing free import of their goods while they make it almost impossible for us to export ours to them? If so, the whole thing needs to be re-examined.
On China, I do concur. You know this. Over here, the EU tried to protect European steel from Chinese dumping of cheap exports. The UK government vetoed the EU proposal because our government had just signed a deal with them. The result? Our steel industry in Port Talbort collapsed and the company is now looking for a buyer. The government has had to step in to help salvage it or hundreds of thousands of British workers will be laid off. Trust me, your not alone with this on your side of the pond.
Thing is though, while we must respond to this effectively, we can’t possibly turn the clock back on China - entirely. That would be impractical in the extreme.
Worse, was Bill Clinton’s granting “most favored nation” status to China motivated by Chinese donations to his campaign coffers?
The UK government has done worse. Believe me.
I, for one, believe it a good thing for a nation to re-evaluate its trade agreements from time to time, particularly when they’re not working well. Your country seems to be doing it at present, so why can’t ours?
As you well know and as the world’s financial institutions keep reminding us, the UK doesn’t have to do this because we are presently in an advantageous trading position. But that’s a topic for a different thread.