POLITICO-Harvard poll: Amid Trump's rise, GOP voters turn sharply away from free trade


POLITICO-Harvard poll: Amid Trump’s rise, GOP voters turn sharply away from free trade

Read more: politico.com/story/2016/09/politico-harvard-poll-free-trade-trump-gop-228600#ixzz4LEBr29qf

**In a stunning reversal, a large majority of Republicans are repudiating their party’s traditional support for free trade, and falling sharply in line with nominee Donald Trump’s insistence that trade costs Americans more jobs than it creates.

Meanwhile, Democrats, whose representatives in Congress have traditionally been far more skeptical of trade deals — and largely voted against giving President Barack Obama the “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year — are now far more apt than Republicans to see the benefit of trade, according to an exclusive poll conducted for POLITICO and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health…**.

Trade has “gone from the gold standard to being something that’s bad,” Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s former chief strategist, told POLITICO. “I think it’s a disaster across the board for the Republican Party, because you’re betting against all these trends [in globalization] that are not going to stop.”

The most striking poll results, however, demonstrate the changing perceptions of trade in a party that has long been identified with support for open markets and low tariffs.
Some Republicans downplay the idea that the party is becoming more protectionist. After all, 49 of 54 Senate Republicans supported legislation to allow fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But longtime skeptics of U.S. trade policy think Republican leaders are missing the point: that for years, the GOP voting coalition has not been as pro-trade as their elected leaders in Washington.

“You have a paradox in the Republican party versus the populist sentiments,” says Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO. “For a long time big business has driven Republican members of Congress, and they’ve managed to keep the white working class happy with anti-immigration sentiments or social issues.”
“There’s always been a vulnerability in that position, and Donald Trump blew a massive whole in that position,” she says.


Perhaps the Dems and Repubs are returning to their roots in this regard.

The original Dems in the mould of President Andrew Jackson and his Southern successors of the 19th-early 20th century were the chief advocates of free trade and openness to foreign markets in the United States. A pro-business or mercantile wing of the Democrats persisted well into the mid-twentieth century, eventually fading I think by the 1970s.

The Repubs under Lincoln and his successors in the North, by contrast, were staunchly protectionist and insular. The victory of the Union in the Civil War secured that protectionist-Republican mindset as the national consensus until 1912 when Woodrow Wilson, the first Southern Democrat to be elected President since the antebellum era, brought back a more liberal trade policy with lower tariffs. After a brief return to protectionism under Republican administrations during the 1920s, the Democrat FDR ushered in a new period conducive to free trade that formed the post-WWII consensus.

Are the Dems slowly morphing back into the party of business and trade again? And are the Repubs returning to their native protectionist inclinations after a long “free trade” honeymoon under Nixon, Reagan and Bush?

It would seem to be the case that the GOP under Trump has lost faith in the merits of the multilateral free trading system favoured by the U.S. since the Second World War. That’s actually traditional Republicanism, oddly enough.


I think that free trade has been a net benefit for the US. That doesn’t change the fact that millions of workers have been hurt by foreign competition. Trade is not Trump’s top issue, however. That is uncontrolled illegal immigration, which has had negative effects for most Americans.


Classic pendulum effect. The challenge is to put the brakes on as it reaches dead center.


Have that many people been so affected? Or is this the demagogic issue du jour?



Perhaps the Republican politicians and leaders are finally listening to where the voters have always been.




To be fair, Trump has mentioned foreign currency manipulation to be at the heart of trade problems and such. However, no one has mentioned that the U.S. is also manipulating its currency to gain advantage.

We are getting close to negative interest rate territory and its not necessarily the central banks which are primarily responsible for that. What effect that will have on our next Presidency and Congress is anyone’s guess.


Millions of workers hurt by foreign competition?

What about the millions that have jobs because of foreign competition. Not to mention better prices on goods for consumers.


I think perhaps different people mean different things when they see “free trade” expressed. “Free trade” for whom, and under what circumstances?

I recall the (admittedly mild) embarrassment when it was disclosed that Bill Clinton’s campaign received money from China. Then, Clinton gave China “most favored nation” trade status. That was supposed to mean “free trade” of a mutual sort.

But it didn’t. Chinese goods come freely into this country, but American goods aren’t freely allowed to be sold in China. Ask CAT. Yes, Caterpillar could sell equipment in China…as long as it was manufactured in China. So American workers in Moline lost out. CAT undoubtedly profited, but China got the jobs. It isn’t all currency manipulation. Some of it is just plain refusal to allow American goods to be sold in China.

Why, for another example, does a Jeep Cherokee that costs $27,000 in the U.S. cost $85,000 in China? It’s because China imposes large tariffs and special taxes on imported U.S. vehicles. nytimes.com/2011/12/15/business/global/china-imposes-new-tariffs-on-some-vehicles-from-the-us.html?_r=0

So, in thinking about “free trade”, I think most people would think it okay if it was more mutual than it actually is.

I see nothing wrong with Trump’s idea of renegotiating trade deals. If the ones previously made are lopsided and unfair, they’re lopsided and unfair.

And no, I don’t trust Hillary Clinton to renegotiate anything. Several million dollars paid to Bill Clinton by our “trading partners” will determine what deals get made with her.


That all may be true, Ridge, but did anyone complain when the Chinese bid up the property values in California and other places?

What’s Trump proposing, that we default on our debt and downgrade the Treasury ratings going forward? (I heard it was something like returning 85 cents on the dollar.)

I think I reached my post limit so take care.


“uncontrolled illegal immigration, which has had negative effects for most Americans.”]

Yes, cheap and unregulated illegal immigrant labor has seriously depressed the wages of unskilled and low-skilled workers in the US.


Well, their wages have been depressed. That is certain. What is not so certain is the cause. The most likely cause is the simple lack of unskilled jobs due to automation. That would be happening with or without immigration. Calling it immigration is just scape goating.


I’m not persuaded of this. Roofing isn’t automated, dry walling isn’t automated, brick laying isn’t automated, painting isn’t automated, framing isn’t automated. Those used to be well-paying jobs for Americans. Now one is hard put to see any apparently native person on those jobs. Everybody who knows anything knows those jobs are very much filled by illegal immigrants.

In the meat industry, which is common in this part of the country, also in some of the prairie states, line wages are low and they’re held by foreigners. It’s true those companies automate what they can, when they can. But the automation doesn’t seem to cause them to drop employees because automation has its limits. They just hire foreigners, many of whom are illegal immigrants, but some of which are questionable “refugees” from Islamic states. And many of them qualify for the Earned Income Credit, which is a government grant, or other welfare benefits.

Would cracking down on immigration cause meat prices to increase? Would it increase the cost of housing? Probably. But we’re going to pay for it one way or another.


The consumer wants the lower price. For example, when hiring a landscaping company, or even a grass cutter, he’s probably not going to be looking at whether the workers are documented or not. He just wants the job done at the lowest cost; it only makes economic sense.

I agree that this whole immigration issue is more about less competition for services rather than doing what’s right. Even properly documented workers through work visas and such are frowned upon in the workplace. I’ve been there.

It’s also good to remember that we are a nation of immigrants or descendants of same. Someone gave us or our grandparents a chance to make something of ourselves. If we suppress future immigration entirely, the number of Americans will decline noticeably and then who pays into our SS funds, pays taxes for defense, etc.?


The fact that there are still jobs that are not automated does not take away from the effect I mentioned. Manufacturing is greatly automated. Those that have been displaced from manufacturing must turn to other jobs that are not so automated, thus putting downward pressure on those wages. When there is an oversupply of low-skilled workers from one type of low-skilled job, it affects wages in all low-skilled jobs - even those that have not been automated at all.


I understand what you’re saying. But after two centuries of ever-increasing automation, without net job loss, what is the reason it has suddenly become a net job loser in the last eight years?

Is the “automation has caused net job loss” a demonstrable fact, or is it just an explanation that’s more favorable to the current administration than other proffered explanations?


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