Critical analysis: Could Trump’s trade wars win him the second term?
Imagine a southern US household, in a small town of a Republican state. Two men are talking about Trump’s trade war. One says, “The trade war will actually increase prices on American goods that we buy,” illustrating the reality of what will happen. The other responds, true to Trump supporters, “Yes, but we are already suffering from China and India not playing fair, and not giving us easy access to their markets. So American companies could then bring manufacturing jobs back to us, which the Chinese, Indians and Mexicans have been stealing. So jobs will increase for us, which will benefit the long-term economy.”
Confusing and over-simplified as that might sound, this is exactly what Trump depends upon for his 2020 re-election. Even though his supporters may not realise or question that there are many other Asian GSP countries like Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, where the goods can be bought from instead.
Bashing China during election campaigns isn’t new. Since many of the blue-collar jobs were outsourced to China and India, farmers and those living in small rural towns that once flourished with manufacturing industries, want payback.
They see immigrants from Mexico, South America and Asia, and they think job competition in a tough economy. And this is the concern which Trump satisfies with his trade attacks on China, and recently India by stripping its GSP status, as well as Mexico, by threatening to levy 5% tariffs if the country doesn't stop illegal immigrants.
Mexico managed an agreement with Trump, whereby it is taking action to deploy more National Security Guards at its border and keeping asylum seekers within the country until their claims are being processed by the US.
This is not the only point that shows Trump as a strong leader who is unafraid of tough decisions and fight, but also puts him in a good position to influence his voters again for the 2020 election.
His strong stance against China has also made him stand out amongst the rest who just talk but are afraid to act against the Asian superpower. However, there are many other factors at play, such as:
Historically, candidates who have held one term, have most often been re-elected for the second. This rang true even for controversial and unpopular presidents, such as Nixon.
The US currently has the strongest economy it has seen in some time now. Inflation is nearly non-existent, unemployment rates are down, AI and tech industries are booming, and new jobs are being created in focused tech fields. Political studies show that such factors lead to re-elections.
However, since the trade war isn’t showing any signs of agreements being reached, economists are predicting a recession as early as next year. If that happens in early 2020, we could see Trump’s campaign take a hit. However, if it is delayed until the elections, it may not have enough time to push people to the other side.
The nation is at peace, there are no controversial wars that Trump has associated with this term. Wars divide people, making them feel unsafe. This could be a strong armour in Trump’s election campaign that could get people to side with him.
People have become used to Trump’s craziness. He doesn’t seem as outrageous as he once did.
Democrats do not have a contender as strong as Trump. They do not give bold statements, fearing alienation and backlash.
Democrats drifted away from the large blue-collar base in the 1970s, for the left urban audience. This is also why most of the international media are not exposed to the right-wing Trump popularising news that circulates in the US. We might think it is near impossible for Trump to win again given how unpopular he is across the world. But that’s what everyone thought in 2016 too.
The only way Democrats could be in the White House is if they grow a spine and begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.Allan Lichtman, a political historian, who has correctly predicted the last 9 presidents
Trump is ramping up his actions against countries that are disliked by the blue-collar towns. Tariffs are one of the strongest ways to show his seriousness to the nationalist agenda that resonates with his voters.
Trump asserts that the US “is in a great position” regarding tariffs and that farmers would be “very happy” with his efforts, without any proof of strong argument. This strongly signifies his trade war actions are purely in the self-interest of remaining in power.
On the darker side, China has imposed tariffs too, which have hit the American Soybean farmers, a big chunk of his voters. Last year Trump administration offered $12 billion to farmers to compensate for trade losses. This year, he is pushing for $15 billion to make up for the damages. Again in line with keeping voters satisfied with his way of working.
Trade markets have slumped and there are still 590 days until Trump’s term comes to an end.
Irony of the matter is that Trump’s efforts are only seen in a good light by his voters. The long-term negative consequences that economists predict are paradoxical to what his voters like. For example, Mexican tariffs could slump the economy, bringing more immigrants to the US. India losing its GSP benefits mean American firms will simply divert import from other GSP countries like Turkey and others in south-east Asia; not bringing back any jobs to the US. China remains a strong economic power that can hurt the US’s economy—first by soybean farmers, and then by its ramping up chip industry. Markets are still in decline and there is a strong possibility of another recession, as early as next year.
Trump could still argue he has a plan and can fix it. That he needed to be strong against these countries for the United States to have better, fairer deals.
In addition to the above factors, remember that Trump did not win the majority of votes in 2016, but he did gain a significant amount, giving tough competition to Hilary Clinton. More importantly, he won the electoral college votes, which really is the only thing that counts.
Given that he hasn’t been impeached yet, he could again win strong support from the electoral college, and to the world’s surprise, win the second term. Unless the Democrats step up their game and win the blue-collar voters they alienated almost half a century ago.