In the last few weeks President Trump has shown that he's not afraid to implement ideas that were historically, liberal democratic cornerstones.
This past two weeks, President Trump has taken at least two actions more typical of liberals than conservatives.
First, he has slapped on tariffs to restrict trade, channeling Representative Dick Gephardt of the early 2000s and himself and Hillary Clinton in the last campaign.
Why would he do that?
The idea is to protect American industry and farmers from products or crops made with cheap labor elsewhere. As the AFL-CIO has shrunk, it has moved further and further into advocating trade restrictions – except for unions affected by the export/import business like the Longshoremen’s union and public-sector unions who don’t worry about foreign competition. But the Autoworkers, the Steelworkers, the Coal Miners and what is left of union movement in the basic industries have shifted in that direction.
The issue of tariffs is as old as the American republic. The antebellum South opposed tariffs because the retaliation of other countries led to higher prices. The North wanted tariffs to protect new capitalistic enterprises.
To return to modern times, the Democratic Party is generally more favorable to tariffs in an effort to protect union jobs. The Republican Party tends to oppose tariffs, seeing itself as the party of business.
There are important exceptions. President Bill Clinton brokered the tariff-reducing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and First Lady Hillary Clinton was outspoken in her support.
In the new century, however, Mrs Clinton’s positions on tariffs and trade began to change.
Most Republicans and most Democrats during Bill Clinton’s time and all recent presidents of both parties have been more likely to be globalists and to hell with the labor movement. NAFTA, developed and passed in a bipartisan manner, and over union objections is the globalists’ prime accomplishment.
Then came Trump who promised to wield the tariff weapon and get out of or re-negotiate trade deals and he is keeping that promise.
Mr. Trump can point to a growing economy. Unemployment is down, consumer confidence is up. Jobs are being created.
There are certainly underlying problems. One is that the labor force participation rate is still too low. Not enough men in the prime years of working life are in jobs or looking for jobs. Economists sometimes call this cohort the “discouraged unemployed” and they are not included in government figures on unemployment. Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama before him tended to overlook this group when bragging about any drop in unemployment. But nevertheless, the Trump record is impressive.
The troubling thing is these tariffs. We generally oppose tariffs and they could hurt investors and hence the economy. We’ll see.
The other area of Mr. Trump’s liberalism is of course the one-day summit with North Korea. Is Mr. Trump – aided by his Ambassador Nikki Haley’s – work on sanctions at the UN – bringing that country into the 21st century or is he simply placating Kin Jong Un, thug leader of what is essentially the world’s worst county?
It is far too early to tell but we would make several points:
• The Democratic talking points put forth by Senator Dianne Feinstein and others is that any nuclear deal with North Korea should have rigorous inspection guidelines just as Mr. Trump said were lacking in the Iran deal. We agree.
• Leftists will give Mr. Trump plaudits for shutting down the joint military exercises that we routinely conduct with South Korea. The President inelegantly used North Korean rhetoric, saying that they were “war games” and “very provocative.”
• Our view is that any serious agreement with North Korea should be considered a treaty unlike the runaround that Mr. Obama employed with the Iran Deal.
From Truman to Obama with the egregious example of Bill Clinton declining to stop Jimmy Carter’s meddling in 1994, presidents have not handled the North Korea problem well. It’s time to see what Mr. Trump who was taunting Kim recently and mentioning his own nuclear weapons can do.
We are cautiously encouraged with diplomacy with North Korea and the economy.
But not everyone feels this way.
Political comedian Bill Maher recently said: ” I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point. And by the way, I’m hoping for it. Because I think one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy.”
Do you think Hillary Clinton should put Mr. Maher in her basket of “Deplorables”?