Winning Michigan is vital to Donald Trump’s hopes in 2020. In fact, the Midwest as a whole is key to his reelection strategy.
So it’s notable that his quixotic, high-profile tariffs have been a gut-punch to farmers and autoworkers in Michigan and across the region.
We often assume members of Trump’s base are too thick to notice when Trump is screwing them sideways, but maybe we assume too much.
Consider this passage from Greg Sargent’s column today in The Washington Post:
Unlike in 2016, voters have now seen the concrete results of Trump’s nationalist trade bluster — and the genuinely held worldview underpinning it — colliding with the complex realities of international diplomacy and the global economy.
That collision has rendered Trump vulnerable on trade — even in the Rust Belt. A new Detroit News poll of Michigan finds that Trump trails most Democratic hopefuls, some by large margins. Notably, 47 percent of Michigan voters say Trump’s China policies are bad for the state, vs. only 26 percent who say the opposite.
Crucially, among Michigan union households, opposition climbs to 55 percent, and independents oppose the policies by 2 to 1. Those groups likely include many of the blue-collar white and Obama-Trump voters Democrats must win back. Meanwhile, recent Quinnipiac polling found that in the industrial Midwest states, Trump’s trade policies are underwater.
That’s huge. And what are Trump’s options at this point? 1) Admit he was wrong and reverse his tariffs, 2) hold course and watch farmers, autoworkers, and the economy as a whole continue to take a beating, or 3) someone hammer out trade agreements with the countries he’s been lambasting for years.
Of course, he’ll never admit he made a mistake, and the current course is more likely to push us into recession than create anything resembling prosperity. His best option is to quickly resolve our trade disputes and claim victory, like when he hung a few tinsel garlands and popcorn balls on NAFTA, changed its name, and claimed it was the most brilliant thing ever. Or like that time he spray-tanned his Ed Gein lampshade skin and tried to pass himself off as marginally human.
Will that happen? I wouldn’t doubt it. But will bankrupt farmers soon forget that they’re bankrupt? And will he be able to pull the wool over their eyes for long if their lot hasn’t improved under the Great Pumpkin?
We’ll see. But this latest poll data is encouraging nonetheless.
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