Have Republicans Turned Against Trade? We Asked Them.

Reason travels to Trump country to talk free trade & free markets.

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Once upon a time, the GOP claimed to be the party of free markets and free trade.

"We can dare to dream that at some future date," Ronald Reagan told the nation in 1979, "the peoples and commerce of [North America will]…flow freely across their present borders."

In 1993, President George H.W. Bush referred to anti-NAFTA pundits as "demagogues who appeal to the worst instincts." And as recently as 2007, President George W. Bush praised international trade agreements as opportunities to "advance democracy and prosperity throughout our hemisphere."

Then came Donald Trump, who's called NAFTA a "disaster" and said he'd be open to placing tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese imports.

Since Trump's election, polls have revealed that Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to support free trade, and more likely than Democrats to favor the president negotiating "with individual private companies on a case-by-case basis." And in one poll 57 percent of Republicans backed Vice President-Elect Mike Pence's assertion that "the free market has been sorting [the economy] out and America's been losing."

Reason visited Bakersfield—a farming and oil town in California's Central Valley that went 60 percent Trump this past election—to talk to GOP activists and Trump voters about trade, jobs, and the president-elect. Have Republican's really turned against free trade and free markets?

Watch the video above to see what we found.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Graphics by Joshua Swain. Music by Igor Khabarov and Jon Luc Hefferman.

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  1. Have Republican’s really turned against free trade and free markets?

    Have Republican’s what?

    Isn’t Bakersfield mostly empty lots and biker gangs? I’m pretty sure Sons of Anarchy is a documentary about Bakersfield.

    1. It’s the Ted S. signal.

      alternatively

      It’s’ the Ted’S signal.

  2. There is also the field on which trade is played. Fedzilla has worked tirelessly to make things as difficult as possible for American businesses, be it through regulation or the tax system. It’s always amusing how people complain about jobs moving offshore without ever asking why that is. And often, those same people have houses full of inexpensive things made elsewhere.

    1. Re: ware able,

      It’s always amusing how people complain about jobs moving offshore without ever asking why that is.

      More amusing is Trumpistas explaining that Comparative Advantage plays NO role either because CA only works when the two economies are “equivalent” (meaning, presumably, their respective governments screw their citizens in the same manner) or because Comparative Advantage is not a real thing ? la Lou Dobbs – who said in the Fox News show “Outnumbered” a couple of weeks ago that Comparative Advantage is not a real thing.

    2. Fedzilla has worked tirelessly to make things as difficult as possible for American businesses, be it through regulation or the tax system

      I’d be very interested to see the level of carnage that FATCA has wrought on the US economy. The totality of that kind of thing is generally unseen because it’s hard to calculate the growth you haven’t experienced due to one specific factor. But I suspect that the consequences of making regular Americans persona non grata at nearly every major banking and finance institution in the developed world has not been good for our ability to do business.

    3. It’s not that different than all those coastal Dems that LUV themselves the notion of good-paying union jobs but bought Japanese cars. Apparently it’s only important to look for the union label and buy locally when you are dealing with small purchases.

      1. But the ENVIRONMENT knows no boarders!

      2. But the ENVIRONMENT knows no boarders!

        1. Well maybe if they paid their rent, the environment would want to get to know them better.

  3. I’m going to go out on a limb here make the claim that people who say they would pay more for goods made in america in front of the Walmart they are about to shop in are probably lying.

    1. Which is why the state needs to force everyone to buy American. It may not be what the rational consumer wants to do, but it’s for our own good, you see.

    2. I was going to make this very comment.

  4. Well my pops was certainly all for Trump stopping those Mexican GM facilities being made. I need to work my pro free trade, free market arguments into a more concise delivery.

  5. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence’s assertion that “the free market has been sorting [the economy] out and America’s been losing.”

    1. *Squirrels totally deleted the non-quoted part of the text.

      America has been losing, but he blames the free market for what the government has done to degrade property rights, free association and the rule of law.

      1. So, he’s a Prog?

        1. More like some kind of Keynesian or monetarist (at best) mutant.

        2. Progressive ideas aren’t limited to members of the Democratic Party.

          1. That is a very sad reality. Bad enough when Progs make progressive arguments, pathetic when erstwhile conservatives do too

            1. I said it yesterday: the hallmark of progressivism is the idea that government’s job is to make people better, and that notion can be found across the political spectrum.

              1. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people?better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.

                -MR

                1. Goram right.

          2. Mercantilism predates progressivism by a long time, and there have been many instances around the world of conservatives supporting it. In the US, support for free trade has long been a major criticism of the Republican Party in recent decades by paleoconservatives.

            The reason I say this, is that I think it’s more accurate to say that support for mercantilism is found across the political spectrum in many different camps. Each group generally has different reasons for it, though they often share core logic (e.g. conservative opposition to free trade is usually based on nationalism, while progressive opposition is often based on it allegedly being “anti-worker” or exasperating inequality, but at the root there’s a common theme of perceived unfairness).

  6. In 1993, President George H.W. Bush referred to anti-NAFTA pundits as “demagogues who appeal to the worst instincts.” And as recently as 2007, President George W. Bush praised international trade agreements as opportunities to “advance democracy and prosperity throughout our hemisphere.”

    Nothing says “free trade” like multi-thousand page tariff agreements!

    1. Yeah, my past job experience includes working in a field that only exists to decode NAFTA regulations for cross-border services and customs. It simply wouldn’t exist if we actually had free trade. Conflating “free trade” and “NAFTA” is frankly either disingenuous or ignorant, and I’ll appreciate it if Reason actually discussed the issue with, say, someone in the field WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT.

      1. Implying that opponents of NAFTA want unilateral free trade is also either disingenuous or ignorant.

        1. Where did I imply that?

          1. The choices in today’s United States are not between thousand-page agreements and unilateral free trade: they are between thousand-page agreements and arbitrarily high trade restrictions.

            I seriously doubt anyone at Reason prefers NAFTA to unilateral free trade. So you don’t need to act like they do by yelling at them when they take the actually existing NAFTA position against demagogic tariffs.

            1. Re: MikeP,

              they are between thousand-page agreements and arbitrarily high trade restrictions.

              Exactly. And that much is implied when El Trumpo says he wants “smart” trade, which is another way of saying that there should be NO imports.

            2. That same utilitarian argument could be raised to defend the Carrier deal and other cases of helping “individual private companies on a case-by-case basis.”

              The choices in today’s United States are not between crony tax breaks and across-the-board tax cuts: they are between crony tax breaks and arbitrarily high taxation.

            3. That same utilitarian argument could be raised to defend the Carrier deal and other cases of helping “individual private companies on a case-by-case basis.”

              The choices in today’s United States are not between crony tax breaks and across-the-board tax cuts: they are between crony tax breaks and arbitrarily high taxation.

              1. Except that one is rule-of-law and the other is rule-of-personal-whim.

                If the Carrier deal were produced by a broad-based, equally applied, stupid subsidy, we could debate its merits against current and expected broad-based, equally applied stupid taxation — just as we can debate the merits of NAFTA against what came before it or what would come after it.

                I’ts not the same.

                1. Except that one is rule-of-law and the other is rule-of-personal-whim.

                  It doesn’t take thousands of pages to apply broad-based, equally applied tariff reductions and eliminations. It takes thousands of pages because it carves out exceptions for large politically connected companies and industry sectors.

                  I’m not saying NAFTA is the worst thing ever, but it’s not free trade any more than the Carrier deal represents a jurisdiction-wide tax cut.

            4. They also don’t need to act like NAFTA is actual free trade, but they do anyway. Almost like they’re being fundamentally dishonest or something.

              War may not be peace, freedom may not be slavery, ignorance may not be strength, but cronyist regulations is free trade in Reasonworld.

              1. In short, if your argument is that NAFTA is better than protectionism, actually argue that. Don’t lie to my face about its nature and then expect me to accept it.

                1. And let’s also not get into how absolutely destructive that lie is to the cause of free trade in the long run, because then we get to go down the wonderful path we’re already going where capitalism means bank bailouts and regulatory capture.

            5. The choices in today’s United States are not between thousand-page agreements and unilateral free trade: they are between thousand-page agreements and arbitrarily high trade restrictions. even worse thousand page agreements.

              Does anyone think any of these agreements will be simple? What planet are you living on?

              1. So their lack of simplicity makes them actually “free” even though they amount to nothing more than slightly reduced crony protectionism? I will call it planet accuracy or perhaps planet intellectual integrity.

                You guys really are Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. “If you want to look thin, hang around fat people”.

    2. Re: Marshal Gill,

      Mexico’s tariff schedules were some of the worst in the world before NAFTA. The lie touted by the economically-illiterate Trumpistas has been that NAFTA only benefited Mexico despite the fact that US exporters have greatly benefited from a more open border with Mexico.

      Before NAFTA, most American-made products sold in Mexico were smuggled in. So even if we’re talking about a 1000 page tariff agreement, it is still much better than what we had to endure for 6 decades of socialism (before President Salinas)

      1. Fair enough. Just don’t be surprised if calling better trade agreements “free” doesn’t confuse people who do not understand the benefits of free trade in the first place. You don’t even have to know what is in it to know that it is a table of government preferences or it wouldn’t require so much detail. Proponents of actual free trade calling such a thing “free trade” might just leave the “illiterate Trumpistas” a tad suspicious about their integrity.

  7. In 1993, President George H.W. Bush referred to anti-NAFTA pundits as “demagogues who appeal to the worst instincts.”

    Considering that El Trumpo, an anti-NAFTA pundit, started his presidential bid speech with claiming that more than half of all immigrants from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers, I would say that GHW had it exactly right. What’s more horrifying is that El Trumpo won because people accepted his absurd assertions without question…

    1. claiming that more than half of all immigrants from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers

      Are you playing that semantic game where saying “some, I assume are good people” must mean that he was intentionally implying that over half of Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers? Instead of, I don’t know, just speaking off-the-cuff and imprecisely?

      Or is there some quote floating around that I’m not aware of where he literally said “over half of Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers”?

      1. I’m pretty sure that OldMexican is rather obsessed with the former.

      2. Re: Password podesta,

        That’s not a semantic game. That is what the Logic of what he said suggests.

        “Some” cannot mean anything above 1/2 of the total, correct? And when he added “and” he closed the universe of Mexican immigrants to include only rapists, drug dealers AND some who he thinks are good people, did he not?

        If you want to argue that the man has a problem with logic, I’m all ears.

        1. I want to argue that he, just like everyone else on the planet, sometimes speaks imprecisely. I have zero sympathy for someone who writes something imprecise. I give plenty of leeway to someone not actively considering what fraction the word “some” implies for a previous sentence.

          “said some significant fraction of Mexicans were criminals” yeah.
          “possibly intentionally implied” sure, fine.
          “claimed” no.

          1. Re: Password: pode$ta,

            I want to argue that he, just like everyone else on the planet, sometimes speaks imprecisely.

            There’s a BIG difference between speaking imprecisely and simply making shit up. And El Se?or Presidente Bananero Trumpo was not being imprecise.

            I give plenty of leeway to someone not actively considering what fraction the word “some” implies for a previous sentence.

            Oh, please! He’s not quoting Milton.

            “said some significant fraction of Mexicans were criminals” yeah.

            No, he said only “some” were good people. There’s no way to spin that one, P.

            1. I don’t see the spin there. I didn’t say the statement was thoughtful and elegant. Simply that interpreting Trump’s speeches like a textualist poring over the Constitution is somewhere between silly and misleading.

              1. Re: Password: podesta,

                The problem with his statement goes beyond a lack of refinement. The man is insane. His new attack on Toyota is further evidence of this.

        2. “Hey, let’s take a New Yorker who constantly speaks in vague terms as literally as possible, that’s the logical thing to do.”

          1. Re: John Titor,

            “Hey, let’s take a New Yorker who constantly speaks in vague terms as literally as possible, that’s the logical thing to do.”

            Is that a commentary on New Yorkers, John? Are you really applying the soft bigotry of lower expectations when talking about the most powerful person on Earth?

            If you want to argue that you have your head up his ass so high that you could eat for him, then that’s fine.

            1. Hey OldMexican thinks there is actually some guy’s head up Donald Trump’s ass, he has no idea anatomy works, what a nut what a retard.

              See I can play the “take everything as literally as possible” game too.

              And whats worse is you didn’t say it, you typed it.

            2. Demands speech be treated absolutely literally, suggests I have my head up Trump’s ass.

              Work on your self-awareness OldMexican.

              1. Re: John Tutor,

                It is one thing to say that a man was speaking metaphorically, quite another to defend a man who could make such a glaring and stupid logical error. You would be right to criticism me for taking his words too literally if the first case was true, but it is not. He’s not an Oracle or a soothsayer. His speech was clear and simple. He’s simply incapable of threading ideas with a reasonable level of coherence.

                1. His speech was clear and simple. He’s simply incapable of threading ideas with a reasonable level of coherence.

                  So which is it, is he clear and simple or incapable of threading ideas with a reasonable level of coherence? You have just argued two completely different points, one of which completely contradicts your initial point. Your entire argument consists of determining he said something based on a strict literalism that completely ignores the context.

                2. Read The Art of the Deal, or better skim it so you don’t waste time on the BS stories. But get the nugget: Trump is always negotiating.

                  He takes negotiating positions that may be outrageous to lower his opponent’s expectations and to get leverage. The way he has lots and lots of room to adjust his position to get what he really wants. Take everything he says as indicators of a direction, not a policy.

                  You’d think that after 18 months of listening to Trump some of you would research his methods.

                  1. “He takes negotiating positions that may be outrageous to lower his opponent’s expectations and to get leverage.”

                    this reminds me of the time when mr. burns thought homer simpson was a brilliant negotiator.

      3. Well I’ve learned that rape stats need to be taken with several grains of salt unfortunately but…

        TW HuffPoo80% Of Central American Women, Girls Are Raped Crossing Into The U.S.

        The Daily Mail reports a lower figure at 60%

        This Fox News article reports several different estimates offered by shelter workers in Mexico, but nothing shy of 40%.
        (will follow up with link)
        There is apparently some merit to the claim that the migrants crossing illegally have a much higher frequency of rapists in their midst than the general population in either country do.

        1. correction: the 80% refers specifically to central American women. The 60% from the Daily Mail referred to *all* female migrants.

        2. I don’t know why that might surprise anyone. People are deliberately trying to avoid the eyes of the authorities or anyone else who might report their crossing. Who are they going to report their rapists to in order to get justice, anyway? Are they going to go back to Mexico or give themselves away to authorities in the US after illegally entering?

          Just like other black markets, they tend to attract the worst sorts of people.

          1. Just like other black markets, they tend to attract the worst sorts of people.

            That, methinks.

      4. It should also be noted that he was almost certainly speaking only of illegal immigrants, since immigration officials still tend to look askance at a rap sheet.

        1. So what? Explain to me how his logic works if he was talking about ‘illegal immigrants’? Because that is still a humongous number of rapists.

          Why not simply concede the man has a problem threading ideas together with any measure of coherence?

    2. Some of them, he assumed, were good people. So rest easy.

      1. Re:Free Society,

        That is still a mind-boggling humongous number of rapists and drug dealers, F. My problem with El Presidente Bananero Trumpo is with his lack of awareness.

        1. That big mouth of his has helped him almost as much as it’s hurt him. A bit of a double-edged sword.

  8. Once upon a time, the GOP claimed to be the party of free markets and free trade.

    Yeah, they’ve claimed a lot of other shit, too. For a brief period during the ’80’s I was actually doing enough drugs that I believed the GOP, but when they picked that shithead Bush as Reagan’s heir, I sadly faced the fact that they were a bunch of lying shitweasels and I joined the LP. Then the LP nominated Bob Fucking Barr and I had to leave the LP.

    Currently, I’m the sole member of the Leave Me The Hell Alone Or, I Swear To God, I’ll Stab You In The Neck With A Fucking Fork Party but I’m starting to get irritated at myself and may have to leave the LMTHAOISTGISYITNWAFF as well. (Among other irritants is the fact that I refuse to adopt the simple and succinct acronym FOAD for the party just because I’m such a stubborn old cranky bastard.)

  9. Let the record show that Sarah Palin, bless her pointy little head, is still in favor of free trade.

    http://avanneman.tumblr.com/po…..s-in-a-pod

    1. Vanneman = shreek hypothesis confirmed.

  10. This is great news for the Libertarian party. With Trump and Clinton both speaking out against Free Trade, and our leader Gary Johnson being the only proponent of Free Trade, Libertarians almost managed to double their vote to 2%.

    1. I thought it was 3%?

  11. Is it still free trade when one country has tariffs and it’s trading partner doesn’t? Doesn’t free trade have to be a two way street?

    1. It doesn’t have to be, that’s exactly what “unilateral free trade” is. But these trade agreements as we have had them aren’t that and they aren’t two way streets either, despite being sold as such.

    2. Re: Metalbard,

      Is it still free trade when one country has tariffs and it’s trading partner doesn’t?

      Yes.

      Doesn’t free trade have to be a two way street?

      No. It means the two parties are free to trade, not that the governments screw their citizens in an equal measure.

    3. Strictly, yes. But raising tariffs doesn’t make it more free, even if it makes them less disparate.

  12. One thing to keep on mind is that you’re talking to folks in “farming and oil” communities. It’s not surprising to see such folks, whether Republican or Democrat, have populist ideas on trade ? recall that Trump’s talk on trade during the campaign was effectively the same as Sanders’. By comparison, talking to Republicans in more white-collar or service-oriented areas are liable to be more free trade regardless of party (as a R in NJ, I can attest to this, knowing lots of pro-TPP folks in my own party, for example).

    There’s a cognitive bias in elections where folks assume that parties’ viewpoints exactly correspond to where they got 50%+1. Looking by, for example, congressional districts, would give a better picture.

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  14. Um… if Zack offers to sell me a lid and I’m willing and of legal contractual age… izzat trade? God’s Own Prohibitionists were the ones that made light beer a felony the week before Bert Hoover was sworn in in 1929. Ring a bell?

  15. I nominate “Bovine Incomprehension” for the missing alt-text

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  17. Bakersfield also produced Korn, but with that krop they went too heavy with the fertilizer.

  18. You have missed the obvious. Republican voters never approved free trade only the leaders of the Rebublican party did. Every Republican presidential candidate from Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to Alf Landon in 1936 ran on a platform of tariff protection. All who won delivered. Senators Barry Goldwater and Prescott Bush voted against the Kennedy Round of tariff reductions. The tariff protection did not do the harm your “Boogie Man is going to get us” report suggested. From about 1816 until 1967 the United States was the most tariff protected nation on earth. During that time none of Ivory Tower theory of bad things actually happened. Instead we prospered.

  19. Does it make a lick of sense to saddle your Local Businesses with all sorts of Taxes, Fees, Licenses, Regulations, Fines, etc as a REQUIREMENT to compete for Local Customers, and then invite Foreign Competitors who can escape all these burdens to play on the same Field?

    If Free Trade is defined as ignoring the fact that Local Businesses have to put up with all sorts of nonsense and costs in order to compete for our neighbor’s business, and inviting Foreigners to compete for those Same Limited Customers without burdening them with the same, THEN HELL YES!

    This is why Libertarianism will remain in the world of Mental Masturbation. Y’all don’t get that Open Borders and so-called ‘Free Trade’ are neither fair or reasonable given all the BS we are made to endure from our own Gov’t. You all seem to keep saying that as long as we can get cheap goods or services from foreigners, then it is okay to saddle our own people with all sorts of nonsense that hinders us from competing for the same resources.

    This line of thinking will keep Libertarians from ever making any lasting impact on our nation or communities. What sort of person thinks it’s okay to f^ck your own neighbors over, and subsidize their foreign competitors?

    Establishment Democrats & Republicans, and Know It All Libertarians.

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    Simple example though … If we made all out smartphones here, they might cost, say $500 each. If we buy them from manufacturers in China they cost, say $300 each.

    So for our $500 we can have a phone made in the US or the same phone made in China plus a new bicycle. Which makes us better off?

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