Washington Slept Here: How Donald Trump Caught the Politicians Napping on Trade
31 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 2017
This paper explores how Donald Trump managed first to secure the Republican Party nomination, and then an upset victory in the general election, by running on an unapologetically protectionist platform. It argues Trump filled a political vacuum by taking positions long rejected by political professionals in both major parties and appealing to a class of potential voters that had been neglected. The analysis starts with a review of the decades-long economic transition in which producers of labor-intensive goods either became more international, thus switching from a protectionist to a pro-trade orientation, or died, thus becoming politically irrelevant. The net result was a reduction in the demand for and use of protectionist measures, and a steep decline in the political salience of trade (as measured in bills dealing with trade issues introduced in Congress, in the prominence of trade on White House agendas, and campaign promises to restrict imports). Trump recognized the large and untapped reservoir of potential votes in the post-industrial underclass that globalization left behind, and succeeded by prosecuting an unorthodox pro-protectionism campaign in which the usual sources of pro-trade campaign finance were rendered irrelevant.
Keywords: US trade policy; public policy; protectionism; US Presidential election
JEL Classification: D72; F13; J58
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation