Trump’s poli­cies not all bad, but can he be­have?

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Froma Har­rop Froma Har­rop is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

Like the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, the Don­ald Trump up­set win threat­ens Amer­i­cans’ sense of safety and con­ti­nu­ity. Fi­nan­cial mar­kets ini­tially went into con­vul­sions, just as they did af­ter Sept. 11. The dif­fer­ence is that the 9/11 tragedy forged na­tional unity, whereas the Trump elec­tion ex­posed grave in­ter­nal dis­cord. And a world that rushed to Amer­ica’s side 15 years ago shud­ders at us now.

Calmer opin­ion says we’ll get through this. The er­ratic and un­in­formed Trump will be checked and bal­anced by Congress and wise ad­vis­ers. One hopes but also won­ders. With only a few brave ex­cep­tions, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers fell in line be­hind Trump, what­ever the out­landish con­duct. Can they stand up to an ego­tist who rains abuse on crit­ics? And who’s go­ing to choose the ad­vis­ers?

The fears ex­pressed here don’t cen­ter on the prospect of an ex­treme con­ser­vatism in the White House. Trump, as prin­ci­pled con­ser­va­tives have long com­plained, isn’t con­ser­va­tive. A for­mer Demo­crat, he called for leaving So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care alone. He’s sup­ported Planned Par­ent­hood in the past. Re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives ex­pect­ing him to end abor­tion are go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed.

Dur­ing the pri­maries, Trump de­fanged the Club for Growth, the piti­less en­forcer of free mar­ket pu­rity. The Club for Growth once an­ni­hi­lated mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans open to any tax hike — no mat­ter how small, on whom or what in ex­change for. Sup­port­ing reg­u­la­tions that might impinge on some­one’s profit mar­gin was an­other cause for po­lit­i­cal be­head­ing.

So when Trump backed tax and spend­ing hikes, de­fended so­cial pro­grams and bashed free trade, an­other sa­cred cause, the Club for Growth turned its fire hose of money against him, but to no avail. The club failed to whip up tea party anti-es­tab­lish­ment rage against Trump be­cause Trump had ab­sconded with the anti-es­tab­lish­ment crown.

On the cam­paign trail, Trump chal­lenged con­ser­va­tive doc­trine in ways big and small. In New Hamp­shire, he told an au­di­ence a rarely spo­ken truth about the con­se­quences of cart­ing the old fac­tory jobs back to the United States.

“He said that his trade poli­cies would, in ad­di­tion to bringing jobs back to the U.S., raise prices for Amer­i­can con­sumers — and that this was a good thing,” James Surowiecki wrote in The New Yorker.

This re­vived a lost tra­di­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in which gov­ern­ment pro­tected jobs and man­u­fac­tur­ers as a pol­icy goal. Con­sumers weren’t king, and keep­ing prices low at Wal­mart was not a pri­or­ity.

Trump’s tirades against the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment wal­lowed in mis­in­for­ma­tion, as did his flat re­jec­tion of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. Ac­tu­ally, the TPP is de­signed to help us com­pete against China. (China is not a mem­ber.) Econ­o­mists say Trump’s promised trade war could push Amer­ica into a re­ces­sion and cost 5 mil­lion to 7 mil­lion U.S. jobs.

Try ex­plain­ing that to the blue-col­lar whites who flocked to Trump in search of a mag­i­cal fix for their eco­nomic and so­cial dis­tress. Try to ex­plain that ro­bots are tak­ing over man­u­fac­tur­ing work ev­ery­where, China in­cluded.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse is to pre­pare these work­ers for higher-skilled oc­cu­pa­tions. That’s what we should do. But the pop­ulist con game pre­tends noth­ing has changed since the 1970s and that stop­ping cargo ships would re­store the past. (It would cer­tainly stop our prod­ucts from reach­ing other ports. See the job loss num­bers above.)

From a pol­icy per­spec­tive, Trump’s pro­pos­als are not all bad. The man’s the prob­lem. Noth­ing was worth the crude racism, vul­gar at­tacks and in­y­our-face ly­ing that Trump nor­mal­ized in the elec­tion of 2016.

Those want­ing to ad­dress our chal­lenges in a sys­tem­atic way feel their or­derly world has crashed down on them. The scary ques­tion now is, can Trump be­have? Four years will tell.

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