Today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average was well on its way to a 700+-point drop, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reached across the aisle in support of the very policy that was spooking investors: the Trump administration's embrace of trade wars, particularly against the backstabbing Chinese.
"I don't agree with President Trump on a whole lot, but today I want to give him a big pat on the back. He is doing the right thing when it comes to China," Schumer said on the Senate floor, in comments that could easily be cut-and-pasted into a Trump campaign speech. "We have watched China rapaciously take advantage of America—of American jobs, of American workers, and of American intellectual property. China's ruthless in how they go after us: They do it quietly, they do it with a smile. And unfortunately, the previous presidents, Democrat and Republican, just stood by as China did what it did to us. President Trump is exactly right."
The proximate cause for Schumer's enthusiasm was Trump's announcement this afternoon that the U.S. would be slapping tariffs on as many as 1,300 Chinese products, while limiting China-based companies from purchasing American technology companies. The White House claims concurrently that the duties will impact $60 billion worth of goods yet have a "minimal impact" on American consumers. (As always, check out the Twitter feed of trade lawyer and Cato Institute adjunct Scott Lincicome for the ins and outs of the new rule.)
But there's a broader truth behind Schumer's grin. However this November shakes out, his party—and potentially the cereal killer himself—will have considerably more power than now. And in Trump, Democrats have a willing partner for some of their worst policy ideas, from trade to spending to anti-speech sex panics.
In fact, given how much Trump is helping transform the ideologies of both the GOP grassroots and its spineless elite (today's money Trumpism from the formerly free-trading vice president: "The era of economic surrender is over"), it's long since past time to recognize a glaring truth about two-party politics in 2018: In both effective practice and, increasingly, aspirational rhetoric, there are no significant Republican or Democratic voting blocs on Capitol Hill in favor of reducing deficits, restraining government growth, tackling entitlements, protecting privacy, defending free speech, practicing transparency, challenging prohibition, conducting legislative-branch oversight, passing damn budgets, reducing war, or extending the post–World War II America-led system of reducing global tariffs in the name of both prosperity and peace.
These are among the most important issues facing the country, and the two major parties are currently awful on all of them.
This is not a nihilistic, equal-pox-on-both-houses observation. In an era of increasing polarization, it's ignorant to pretend that the parties (and as importantly, their customers) are the same. On abortion, immigration, guns, and plenty besides, there has been a great divergence, particularly in recent years.
But when we return to trillion-dollar deficits and pivot toward trillion-dollar debt-service bills without causing much more than a ripple of public fuss, it's worth stepping back and wondering where the fiscal-sanity bloc will land after our current political re-sorting. It won't take many more 700-point drops to focus people's attention and call into question whether the long, sluggish economic recovery is coming to a close. There is still muscle memory in this country about the virtues of government living within its means; it remains to be seen where that will find expression in a Trump-Schumer world.