As journalist Thomas Frank noted this week on CBC Radio and earlier in the Guardian, Trump’s success with white working-class voters in the U.S. stems less from his racism and more from his recognition that free trade has cost too many people their jobs.
In his rambling, stream-of-consciousness speeches, Trump returns again and again to free trade. Does Ford want to build cars in another country? Go ahead, Trump dares the auto giant. But be prepared to pay a stiff tariff on every vehicle you bring into the U.S.Does Carrier plan to move its air conditioner manufacturing plant from Indiana to low-wage Mexico? Fine, says Trump. Just don’t expect to sell those air conditioners in the U.S.Perhaps Trump too is simply playing politics. Perhaps he’d fall into line with the free-trade needs of corporate America if he won the White House.
But in the meantime, he and Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders, another free-trade critic, are changing the dynamic of American politics.
Make no mistake. Trump's supporters are seething with resentment. And, in general, they're pretty ignorant. But they're also the people who have lost their jobs to the globalized race for free trade. Sanders supporters are young and have had no jobs to lose. They know, however, that what "free trade" has left them is McJobs.
If Trump becomes president, the world will be thrown into chaos. But, if Trump and Sanders force a discussion on free trade which ultimately re-balances the system in terms of who wins and who loses, then perhaps some good will come from the wretched campaign for the American presidency.