Free Trade

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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