Was I Vindicated About Donald Trump or What?

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I’m obviously not about to endorse the guy (here’s where I said nice things about polar opposite Bernie Sanders) but please forgive me crowing for a minute about being vindicated (though I can’t claim to be always right) concerning Donald Trump’s seriousness and viability as a Republican candidate.

[Ian Fletcher| May 5, 2016 |Huffington Post]

In September 2015 — oh so long ago! — when famous political statistician Nate Silver was dismissing him, I said Trump was serious, indeed the only serious solution from a Republican point of view: 

The Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980 - free markets and social conservatism - and needs new ones to survive... Enter nationalism. Specifically, economic nationalism, because the economy is what voters care about most. Mr. Trump’s protectionism is a form of economic nationalism. So is his stance against immigration. (I take no position on the merits, but anti-immigrationism is definitely a form of economic nationalism.)... The joke is that the Republican establishment is fighting so hard against being saved. They may be the last to figure this all out.

Why didn’t the Silvers of the world call Trump correctly? Silver himself didn’t because he’s a political data scientist, and there simply weren’t any observable data points available accurately indicating Trump’s prospects. The rest of the establishment pundits didn’t because they’re wedded of professional necessity to the belief that Trump’s ideological positions are too absurd to be politically viable. For them to concede that his ideas could win the nomination, would have meant conceding they made at least a certain amount of sense.

As a trade specialist, I’ve had my eye on Trump for years. That’s why I wrote this article way back in 2011: 

I think Mr. Trump understands this better than anyone else. That’s one of the things I like about him. The reality is that the United States is already in a trade war with China. Kowtowing to China today is economic appeasement, with the same result as political appeasement in the 1930s: a few more years of relative quiet with a bigger explosion at the end.

I also predicted, long, long before the current election cycle, that economic nationalism, the essence of Trump’s appeal, would take over the Republican party: 

Foreign state capitalism is forcing America into economic nationalism. Like it or not, we don’t have a choice - except, of course, surrender and economic decline. For the first time since the American Revolution, the United States is being pushed around by foreign economic forces, rather than being an economic force reshaping the rest of the world. The hard fact is that America cannot compete playing Marquis of Queensbury rules against foreign competitors (read: “China”) who play by the Law of the Jungle. We can’t even compete against foreign competitors who play by the cleaned-up, polite, gentrified version of the same practiced by Japan, Germany, and their imitators from South Korea to Switzerland. If the Republican party doesn’t get ahead of this curve here and proactively embrace economic nationalism, it risks being sidelined for a generation or more by the Democrats embracing it.

Naturally, Mr. Trump represents a lot more than hawkishness on trade. His other big issues simply aren’t my field of expertise and I have nothing to say about them.

What do I think of his chances in the general election? I have no secret polling data, and nothing to add to the obvious comments, like “he needs to offer specifics, clean up his clown act, and sound presidential,” that everybody is already making. The one new thing I can say, with great confidence, is that when Hillary Clinton forces a real national argument between his nationalist vision of economics and her globalist one, she will lose that argument. The hard economic facts, and public sentiment, will fall on his side.

Whether you like the messenger or not, economic nationalism is here to stay.

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  • commented 2016-05-11 12:23:35 -0400
    As Dr. Paul Craig Roberts explained, on page 155 of his book, “How The Economy Was Lost:” “The offshoring of American jobs is the antithesis of free trade.”

    Free trade assumes fair trade, and fair trade assumes balanced trade. China is cheating us in every way possible. See “Death by China,” by Peter Navarro and Greg Autry. The book is excellent. They have made it into a documentary, available for free on YouTube. There is a five minute trailer for the movie that will make your blood boil.

    We were told that, if we opened our markets to China, China would become more democratic, and a billion Chinese people would start buying our products. Of course, that was all hogwash. The majority of the Chinese people are no better off. All of the profits from our purchases are going to enrich the honchos of the Chinese Communist Party and to build up the Chinese military.

    All you have to ask yourself is why the worker dorms at FoxConn — the company that makes our iPhones, have suicide nets under the windows. You might also Google “Son of Chinese Government official crashes Ferrari in Paris.” Here is one link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2198246/Ling-Gu-death-Ferrari-crash-covered-Chinese-officials.html

    Bruce Bishop
  • commented 2016-05-06 12:29:12 -0400
    Thank you Ian Fletcher, I always appreciate your patriotic and informed perspective on the problems and solutions in our disastrous trade policy.

    I have been astonished to watch myself involuntarily move from revulsion to being prepared to give (skeptical) support to Donald Trump, based on his America First critique of the insane trade and “diplomacy” pursued by both parties and their appointed experts. I campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and still enthusiastically support him, but if HRC takes the Dem nomination I will switch to Trump in a desperate hope that he will change our course for the better.

    After all that, a lingering knot of questions:

    What do you make of Hillary Clinton’s recent words that she (finally) opposes the TPP, both now and after the election? It seems such a break from her career promoting corporate globalization. For all my distrust of Trump, his words have been more consistent on trade and he has no record in office to disprove his sincerity (or qualify him for the Presidency, I know…). How should we weigh Ms. Clinton’s recent words of opposition to the TPP? Doesn’t she have a record of promoting it as Secretary of State, and didn’t she vote yes on 2 of the 3 FTAs that came for a vote during her tenure in the Senate?