Free Trade

Will Republicans Pay a Political Price for Trump's Trade War?

The GOP's willingness to follow Trump down an anti-trade cul-de-sac risks alienating voters who could be crucial on the margins of close races.

|

China is canceling contracts to buy soybeans from North Dakota farmers, costing the state "hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business," says Charles Linderman, standing knee deep in a field of soy plants and looking directly at the camera.

The ad, launched last week by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, takes direct aim at comments made by her Republican challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer. Linderman accuses Cramer of "attacking farmers" who complain about the costs of the trade war. All politics are local, and North Dakota's status as one of the nation's leading producers of soybeans means that the consequences of Trump's trade war with China will be litigated more intensely in this Senate race than in many others happening this fall.

Still, there is a national angle hinted at in the Heitkamp ad too. Should voters continue to trust Republicans, the ad seems to ask, with so much control over the economy?

It's a fair question, since Republicans in Congress largely have been happy to turn a blind eye to the ill-advised—and potentially illegal—protectionist measures pouring out of the White House this year, even as the costs of the trade war have started piling up. Farmers have been particularly hard hit, but new rounds of tariffs announced last week by the U.S. and China will spread the pain around by hiking prices on a wide range of consumer goods.

History suggests that raising taxes is a surefire way to find your party out of favor with the electorate, and tariffs are taxes on imported goods, so it seems like voters will eventually get around to blaming Republicans for the trade war. But how soon will that happen?

In places like North Dakota, where the soybean harvest will come before the midterm elections, Republicans face a greater risk that the trade war's economic pain will lead to voters delivering political pain. But the newest round of tariffs seems carefully—some might say cynically—calculated to hit hardest after the midterms and after the holiday shopping season. The 10 percent import taxes taking effect Monday will transform into 25 percent tariffs on January 1 of next year.

Even if the consequences are not yet being felt, the tariffs have created a political opportunity for Democrats in crucial Senate races. Politico reports that Democrats are pressing the trade issue in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and Nebraska—a set of states that are likely to determine control of the chamber.

In those states, Democrats may find fertile ground for a pro-trade message from voters who have become disenchanted with Trump-style protectionism, as well as those who never supported it in the first place.

Indeed, Republicans may be confusing conservative support for President Donald Trump with support for his administration's policies. Trump used his celebrity and culture-war issues to win over conservatives, but that's hardly the same as convincing voters that autarky is preferable to trade. Polls show that most Americans do not believe tariffs will improve the economy.

And while Republicans are more likely to be skeptical of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has threatened to tear up even as he tries to renegotiate it, voters generally believe it has been beneficial to the country.

On the more basic question of whether international trade is good or bad, a recent Morning Consult poll of Ohio voters found a nearly two-to-one edge in favor of trade.

The GOP's willingness to follow Trump down an anti-trade cul-de-sac risks alienating voters who could be crucial on the margins of close races. It's an unforced political error. Democrats were unlikely to pivot to trade issues in key Senate races like those in North Dakota or Indiana if the Republican hadn't created that opening.

In short, a farmer like Linderman would not be starring in an campaign ad if Trump hadn't ignited the trade war.

What have Republicans gained in exchange for creating this new political vulnerabilty? Chinese officials pulled out of scheduled trade talks this week after the new tariffs went into effect, the promised renegotiation of NAFTA is far from finished, and the White House has already had to promise a $12 billion bailout for farmers hurt by the trade war. In other words: nothing.

If the economic consequences of tariffs won't get Republicans to reconsider their support for Trump, perhaps the political consequences will.

NEXT: Mom Regains Custody of 10-Month-Old Son Who Was Taken By CPS Because She Left the Hospital Too Quickly

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They will pay a price for the “trade war”, the moment the economy stops doing so well and their opponents are able to pin it on the “trade war”. Until that happens, no they won’t. And the more time passes that it doesn’t happen, the more foolish those screaming “trade war” look. At some point the facts have to force you to at least moderate your views. That doesn’t mean you have to change your position. You can still be for all free trade all the time under any conditions. It does, however, mean that at some point you stop claiming that the country not doing that is going to cause the sacred trade monster to rise from the sea and punish the wicked.

    1. To take it a step further..and you can tell reason is relying too much on others to do their research for them… My states democrat, ardently liberal, creton of a senator Bob Casey is running anti/im tough on china ads here in Pennsylvania.

      Chances are probably just as likely dems hop on board if it benefits them, like casey, especially in union strongholds like pa. And are likely to hop off in states with lots of farming like the dakotas.

  2. The price will be more seats in Congress for Republicans.

    Trump will be reelected in 2020 and even more seats will go to Republicans.

    Trump captured the hearts and minds of Americans blue collar workers.

  3. We can only hope. Watching the right unmask itself as being out-and-out protectionists has been one of the most infuriating parts of the Trump Experience.

    1. “Watching the right unmask itself as being out-and-out protectionists has been one of the most infuriating parts of the Trump Experience.”

      That’s just silly. There was no unmasking going on. There have always been protectionists on both sides of the aisle. Pat Buchanan has been running as a Republican Presidential candidate for decades.

      That being said, traditionally the Democrats have been more app to demand tariffs and protections for American jobs. But it’s hardly been a decisive Left versus Right issue.

    2. “”out-and-out tax loving protectionists””

      FIFY

  4. In order for the Dem’s to get any traction out of it they would have to make the public believe that the have suddenly become free trade advocates.

    Which is something that they have never been and never actually will be,

    They are also the party of perpetually wanting higher taxes and have just spent lots of time criticizing Trump’s tax cuts and making false claims about who does and doesn’t benefit from them.

    1. Hillary ran against TPP and NAFTA.

  5. MAGA!

  6. I call it an “emergency vote” whenever I vote for a major-name democrat, even though there is a down-ballot libertarian running for office. I do it when a Republican candidate scares the crap out of me, or makes me spitting mad. I have done this only once in the past 30 or 40 years. This fall, I will do it again, to send Trump and His Minions a “message”, mostly related to this utterly stupid trade war.

    I suspect that millions of others will be doing similar things at the ballot… Here comes a blue wave…

    1. Millions of others will not be doing that. If they vote in D legislators, it’s because they are sick of the R sellout they’re voting against.

      It certainly won’t be for things like trade protest votes.

  7. >>>It’s an unforced political error.

    Is it? Opposing T seems to be the “political error” right now

  8. History suggests that raising taxes is a surefire way to find your party out of favor with the electorate, and tariffs are taxes on imported goods, so it seems like voters will eventually get around to blaming Republicans for the trade war. But how soon will that happen?

    And will it cleanse the gigatonnes of shit they’re heaping on themselves obstructing Kavanaugh? Ending the trade war sounds like a good idea unless you bundle it with basally fucking the domestic social structure.

  9. One would think that Democrats have an opportunity to reconnect with working class voters after ignoring them these last odd 40 years. I’m not holding my breath though.

  10. Not sure if the tariffs will drive the farmers to vote for dems who want to grab their guns and micromanage their land use.

    1. The democrats biggest problem is that they have nothing to run on other than “Trump is a big poopy head”.

  11. Should voters continue to trust Republicans, the ad seems to ask, with so much control over the economy?

    Should voters continue to trust that a SINGLE MAN can unilaterally decide who you can or cannot trade with? So far the Democrats haven’t figured out that they gave way too much power to the office of the President, and the Republicans don’t fucking care because they’re currently in power.

    Putting aside the issue of whether tariffs are good or bad (they are bad), shouldn’t this stuff at least be decided by treaty or something? Why is a man whose been bankrupt four times, whose every business venture outside of real estate has failed, be in charge of who gets to buy what?

    1. Why is a man whose been bankrupt four times, whose every business venture outside of real estate has failed, be in charge of who gets to buy what?

      Republican voters.

      And spare me the “but Hilary!” nonsense; before voters (at large) were choosing between Clinton and Trump, Republican voters were choosing between Trump and a half-dozen other Republicans. And he was their choice.

      So why is President Trump the President? Because Republican voters wanted him more then any other Republican candidate per their agreed-upon rules for selecting their nominee.

      1. Republican voters were choosing between Trump and a half-dozen other Republicans. And he was their choice.

        You may have that backwards. He won the nomination BECAUSE there were so many others. He was the choice of a mere 37% of the primary voters, roughly the same number of Republicans who believe Obama was born in Kenya.

        I find it … amusing … that you people say “he was elected” to cover any or all blunders, corruption, obstruction and collusion. Obama was elected, too, but the GOP ignored that. Double standard much?

        And you ignored the question. with a diversion into tribal Republican talking points. Why should one man be in charge of deciding what we buy? This is a libertarian site.

        Do YOU agree with Trump, that his tariffs are a matter of national security — which is the ONLY way he can set tariffs on his own. Was he elected to abuse his power here also?

        P.S. Stop confusing primary and general elections

        Left – Right = Zero

      2. So why is President Trump the President?

        That really wasn’t at all the question he was addressing tho

  12. Here’s the math. Trump existing tariffs will already cost $500 to every household in America. And he threatens to double that

    The latest round is a 10% tariff on $200 billion = $20 billion .
    Divide that by 122 million households = $160 tax increase for every household in America.
    But it jumps to 25% next year, so 250% of $160 = $400 for every household.in America.

    We already have a 25% tariff on $50 billion. That’s 1/4 the recent one. So add 25%, he’s already at $500 for every household,. He threatens tariffs on ANOTHER $250 billion of Chinese goods, which would double that to = $1,000 per household. Every household in America.

    This is Bastiat’s broken window fallacy, famously used by liberals. Show the steel jobs, and ignore the consumer prices. Trump’s blue-collar base is taking the worst hit.. He’ll blame Hillary’s email server. (lol)

    Trump is not draining the swamp; he’s pumping more shit into it!. Trump has already added more new 8-year debt in less than two years, than Obama added in eight years. (current forecast vs Obama actual)

    He campaigned on paying off the entire debt in 8 years. Instead of $0 by then, he’s taken us over $33 Trillion,.

    Trump was a Democrat most of his life. Now we know what a Republican New Deal looks like.
    If we just keep looking only where he tells us to … will his base keep chugging the Kool-Aid.?

  13. 4% growth
    Lowest unemployment

    Seems like it’s working, despite the dogmatic denials from Reason that we must be in a depression because tariffs are bad, m’kay?

    1. 4% growth

      4.2%. Obama had 4 quarters higher, one over 5%.

      dogmatic denials from Reason that we must be in a depression because tariffs are bad, m’kay?

      Grow up.
      And deal with reality,

      Trump’s existing tariffs will increase prices by $500 per every household in America, and he threatens to double them. That would be $1,000 per household (average)

      Trump may declare tariffs unilaterally ONLY to deal with threats to national security. That’s the law, Describe for us these threats to national security, m’kay?

  14. I know that you don’t know this because you live in your Reason “I Hate Trump No Matter What” echo chamber, but believe it or not, many conservatives have been quite outspoken against the tariffs. Conservatives are free trade folks. They like free trade. They don’t like tariffs.

    It’s also possible to disagree with someone on a few policy points but agree with that person on everything else, leading to an overall support for that person.

    1. Umm, libertarians have known that for 50 years, which is WHY we think Trump is a menace.
      And you just admitted that many conservatives ALSO strongly oppose Trump on this.

      you live in your Reason “I Hate Trump No Matter What” echo chamber

      (chuckle)

  15. Trump reverses himself all the time on his most bombastic initiatives.

    I would like to believe that sometime in the next couple weeks he’ll come out against some of his tariffs in return for these groups changing their criticism to praise.

    If the tariffs do reduce Trump’s leverage after the upcoming election, then I’ll believe he’s just a doofus who got lucky with the economy so far.

    1. Trump inherited the longest recovery EVER for an incoming President — from Obama, who had inherited the second WORST recession since the 1930s.

      He lies about 4.2% GDP growth being a record. Obama beat it four times, including one quarter over 5%.
      If we look at GDP and employment , on historical charts, they show the identical slope for ten years.
      Unemployment is down for the same reason it often was with Obama, record-low Labor Force Participation. Too many have STILL given up. Also still a record high working part-time whio seek full-time.

      Yeah, it’s lot easier when you walk in to the 7th year of a recovery. As with Trump’s life, he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple!

      But the signs are harder to ignore. Trump has already added more 8-year debt in less than two years, and the only President EVER to increase deficits over 50% … in a single year … nevertheless a booming economy!

  16. Those smartest people were pointing out that tariffs must first hurt consumers before they can hurt foreign producers. Foreign producers are hurt when domestic consumers buy less of their stuff, and domestic consumers buy less of their stuff because tariffs make that stuff more expensive. This hurts consumers because now they get less stuff for their money. The fact that consumers must be hurt before tariffs can have their desired effect of hurting foreign producers is ignored, denied, or dismissed by protectionists. That is what the smartest people say anyway.

    Moschino Logo Swimsuit Red
    moschino backpack

  17. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you .

    http://www.Mesalary.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.