Trump Plays the Bernie Card

Trump Plays the Bernie Card on Hillary

Hillary Clinton put to bed many ghosts that have haunted her campaign when she claimed both the Democratic presidential nomination and a primary win in California early Wednesday. But an especially stubborn one staggers on: “judgment.”

Democratic Party leaders are outright pushing Clinton rival Bernie Sanders toward the exit now that the former secretary of state has blown past the necessary number of delegates for the nomination. But even as the Vermont senator’s impassioned campaign against economic inequality that surprised pundits and inspired voters comes to an inevitable end, one of his primary attack lines against Clinton — that she’s shown poor judgment on foreign policy — lives on in an unlikely host, Donald Trump.

On Tuesday night, Clinton marked her history-making moment in an emotional speech to a raucous crowd in New York, eight years to the day after she conceded the 2008 Democratic primary to then-Sen. Barack Obama. But she didn’t miss the opportunity to hit the general election strategy she launched last week against Trump in a sharp address focused on national security.

“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief,” Clinton said Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

As the presumptive GOP nominee for weeks, Trump already has honed a retort, questioning the former secretary of state’s judgment. He’s barraged her vote for the Iraq war and blamed her push for intervention in Libya with the current “mess,” as Obama himself put it last week.

In his own Tuesday night speech, reading off a teleprompter, Trump described his “America First” neo-isolationist foreign policy prescriptions as “the opposite of Hillary’s foreign policy, which invaded Libya, destabilized Iraq, unleashed ISIS, and threw Syria into chaos” — just to name a few.

Notwithstanding Trump’s spelling of the word “judgment,” his attacks sound all too familiar.

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president because her judgement has been proven to be so bad! Would be four more years of stupidity!

In 2007, then-candidate Obama undermined Clinton’s far more extensive experience on foreign policy by seeking to highlight the unintended but disastrous consequences of some of her policy decisions, primarily her 2002 vote for the Iraq war as a New York senator.

“Even at the time, it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well,” Obama said of her Iraq vote the day after he announced his candidacy.

Obama, conveniently not in Congress at the time of the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in favor of invading Iraq, made it a linchpin of his campaign and an albatross for Clinton’s. She eventually said she regretted her “yea,” based on intelligence later proved to be false, but she struggled to shake it.

History repeated with Sanders. His constant invocation of Clinton’s vote, contrasted with his own “nay,” became his go-to response to foreign policy questions throughout the 2016 campaign, papering over his own lack of details for how his national security strategy would differ from hers, or Obama’s.

“The major foreign policy issue in the modern history of this country was the war in Iraq. I voted against the war in Iraq; she voted for the war in Iraq,” hetold Foreign Policy in January. “So I’m not going to apologize to anybody about my judgment on foreign policy.”

In April, when Sanders and Clinton exchanged fire over foreign policy in a bitter debate before the key New York primary, Sanders explicitly outlined the strategy.

“Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be a president? Of course she does,” he said. “But I do question her judgment.”

Democratic leaders fretted that Sanders’s argument could do lasting damage to the party’s likely nominee in the general election, and set up an easy play for Trump.

He’s happily obliged.

Of course, after the at-times acerbic 2008 Democratic primary, Obama asked Clinton to be his first secretary of state, a point that she has repeatedly made in answer to Sanders’s foreign policy attacks in 2016.

But against Trump, the same counterstrike may not be effective, as the real-estate magnate who’s never been elected to public office seeks to tie her to a spate of foreign policy crises that have dogged the second Obama administration.

Instead, Clinton is pulling from a grab bag of controversial statements that the infamously inconsistent Trump has made on foreign policy. It’s a preview of a general election in which her best attack lines against the presumptive GOP nominee may be his own.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration

By Molly O’Toole for Foreign Policy

Trump: I have too many Hispanic friends…to be a racist

Trump: I Have Too Many Hispanic Friends and Employees to Be a Racist

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is taking heat from all sides for what are widely viewed as racist comments towards federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, an ex-prosecutor who was born in Indiana and is overseeing litigation of a Trump University fraud case. Trump wrongly maintains the Indiana-born Curiel is “Mexican” and thus biased because of the candidate’s plan to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Anyone suggesting this makes Trump a racist is wrong, according to Trump.

“It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage,” he said in a written statements. “I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.”

He continued, “The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.”

In other words, Trump maintains he has no problem with Mexicans, except with the (non) Mexican judge who is overseeing a case regarding a sham seminar program explicitly designed — according to court documents brought to light in multiple lawsuits — to persuade people to pay tens of thousands of dollars many didn’t have for classes many found to be basically worthless.

Trump continues with a lengthy and familiar defense of Trump University, which he had falsely said would feature instructors he’d personally selected because of their long experience in the field: student surveys were positive, unsatisfied students were offered refunds, etc. He then goes into a short rant about “illegal immigration, jobs and unfair trade.” He then promises this would be his last word on the subject.

Trump’s defense came late Tuesday, after Republicans spent days hammering him for his remarks — and just hours after Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk became the first Republican to rescind his endorsement.

“While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been walking a political tightrope after tepidly endorsing the mogul despite clear differences of both substance and style, struggled to explain how Trump’s remark could be “the textbook definition of a racist comment” without the candidate himself being a racist. Ryan said he continues to back Trump.

For the record, Curiel’s father, who is Mexican, was actually in the U.S. before Trump’s own mother arrived in America from Scotland.

Photo credit: JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images


Think Tank Fires Employee Who Questioned Trump Ties

The Center for the National Interest, a Washington-based think tank, has fired one of its fellows after he criticized the organization’s decision to host Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump for a widely publicized speech, Foreign Policy has learned.

The dust-up marks the latest feud among the country’s top foreign-policy realists over whether to embrace the real estate tycoon — whose more narrow interpretation of U.S. national interests bears some resemblance to their own — or disown him as a charlatan with no serious ties to any intellectual tradition.

The employee, a junior fellow named Alexander Kirss, sharply rebuked the think tank for inviting Trump to explain his foreign-policy platform in an April 27 event at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.

“Whether intended as an endorsement or not, the Center’s invitation is tantamount to tacit, if not explicit, approval of Trump’s positions,” Kirss wrote in a Monday column for the website War on the Rocks. He added that the businessman’s positions contain numerous “logical flaws and errors.” 

In hosting the mogul, Kirss said the think tank exhibited the same “opportunism displayed by others who have sided with Trump, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, and former presidential candidate Ben Carson.”

He was fired the same day the story published.

Paul Saunders, the executive director of the center, told FP that the decision to terminate Kirss’s position had “nothing to do with Trump.”

“The real issue is that this individual publicly disparaged the organization he was working for,” he said, noting that Kirss had never voiced his misgivings about the event to his superiors. “I don’t think that any employer would tolerate that.”

Kirss, in an email to FP, said the purpose of his piece was not to “publicly disparage the Center or its work, but rather to criticize a broader tendency within the realist movement to anoint political champions without thinking about the consequences of doing so.”

Founded by President Richard Nixon in 1994, the Center for the National Interest was created to serve as a “voice for strategic realism,” an expansive school of thought in international relations that in the context of U.S. foreign policy tends to warn against costly military interventions that do not directly threaten national interests. Prominent Republicans who have been associated with realism include heavyweights such as Brent Scowcroft and former President George H. W. Bush, but realism’s most vocal adherents have largely been relegated to academia.

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the center’s flagship magazine, theNational Interest, served as a refuge for Republican foreign-policy thinkers who rejected the militaristic impulses of neoconservatives who controlled the party’s commanding heights as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan turned into embarrassing quagmires.

The rise of Trump, who has denounced the neoconservative agenda andlocked horns with its most prominent adherents, poses difficult questions for the center and realists more broadly. While some of Trump’s positions closely match the realist worldview, especially his complaints that American allies in Europe and Asia are failing to pay their fair share for U.S. protection, many prominent realists are frightened by his impulsive demeanor and find the rationale for his policies to be incoherent.

The center has not endorsed Trump, and some of its members have published criticisms of the businessman in the National Interest, including Vice Chairman Dov Zakheim, a co-signatory of the widely publicized “Never Trump” open letter from March.

The magazine has also published essays strongly supportive of Trump, such as a May column by defense analyst Crispin Rovere.

The center’s relationship with Trump had not garnered much attention at all until it played host to the businessman’s much-touted foreign-policy address in April. Critics of Trump quickly seized on the think tank, accusing its employees and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who introduced Trump, of being lackeys of the reality TV star. The criticisms eventually forced the magazine’s editor, Jacob Heilbrunn, to clarify inPolitico that neither his employer nor Khalilzad was endorsing the candidate — merely providing a venue to air his views.

On Monday, Kirss said those assurances were unsatisfactory. “While the Center’s leaders later claimed that they invited Trump out of a benign desire to expand the scope and tenor of the foreign policy conversation in this year’s election, this line of argument is unconvincing,” he wrote.

“The Center’s defense of the event offered several approving statements of Trump’s views, and the tone of the speech was more that of a booster rally than a serious presentation,” he added in his essay.

Saunders said Kirss’s accusations had little merit and noted that besides hosting a variety of viewpoints on Trump, one of the center’s board members was Maurice Greenberg, a Jeb Bush backer “who contributed millions of dollars to stop Trump.”

“There are many different points of views on Trump, and I think there is a debate certainly at our magazine,” Saunders said. “If Mr. Kirss had approached our editors and wanted to write a piece very similar to the one he wrote that did not disparage the organization … I’m pretty confident that the editors would’ve been happy to publish that.”

In response, Kirss said, “I believe they would have tried to suppress my criticisms had I raised them internally before publication.”


Photo credit: Al Drago/Getty Images

How Trump Can Win The Nomination

Let’s get the easy part out of the way first. Bernie Sanders went into the New York Democratic primary with essentially no path to catching Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he leaves it with even less of one after Clinton’s victory. Despite some national polls showing the race effectively a tie, Clinton has a lead in pledged delegates and superdelegates that Sanders cannot catch. Unless Clinton is somehow forced from the race, she will be the nominee. Sanders assuredly still has some victories to come, but the eventual outcome really is not in doubt.

Donald Trump did what he needed to do in New York on Tuesday night. He easily eclipsed 50% of the vote statewide and in most of the congressional districts, giving him 90 of the Empire State’s 95 delegates (as of Wednesday morning). His path to winning a delegate majority remains open, but it is perilous.Now, on to the Republicans, where the outcome remains very much in doubt.

Table 1 provides a roadmap for how Trump could get to the 1,237 delegate mark. It isnot a prediction of how he will perform — the potential pitfalls are many for him to accomplish the feat — but is meant to show there is at least some reasonable chance that he could still reach a delegate majority. But that’s far from a certainty. We did not overreact to Ted Cruz’s victory in Wisconsin and declare that a contested convention was all but certain, and we’re not going to overreact in the other direction after Trump’s strong New York victory.

Table 1: Trump roadmap to a Republican delegate majority

How Trump Can Win The Nomination
Note: Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Guam are not included in the table even though they have some unbound delegates still pending. Trump could win support from a small number of delegates in those states and/or support from bound or unbound delegates who are officially uncommitted in other states and territories as well as delegates currently bound to former presidential candidates.

Source: Delegate data from The Green Papers

As things stand after New York, Trump is at 847 delegates (846 bound, 1 unbound based on The Green Papers’ count and the AP’s congressional district results). There are 620 remaining bound delegates, which means Trump needs to win 63% of them to get to 1,237 bound backers. To just attain 1,237 delegates regardless of bound status, Trump must win about 56% of the remaining 700 delegates (the 620 bound, as well as 80 unbound from Colorado, Guam, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Wyoming). This does not include any gains among delegates allocated to former candidates or officially uncommitted delegates (bound or unbound). Given the opposition to Trump that exists within the party, the fully bound path may be the only sure thing for him. However, there may be additional unbound delegates who will back him, though only one has announced support up to this point.

With that overview, here are the five most important tasks Trump must complete in order to get to a delegate majority. Completing all five of these tasks will not be easy, to say the least.

1. Do more than just win all five states next Tuesday (April 26)

Five northeastern/mid-Atlantic states vote next Tuesday, and Trump appears to be a favorite in all of them: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. However, in four of these five states, just winning won’t be sufficient.

In Connecticut, Trump can sweep all 28 delegates. Given the results in neighboring Massachusetts and New York — Trump won just under 50% in the former and far over in the latter — that seems like a real possibility. If Trump wins a majority of the vote in Connecticut, he will get all 13 statewide delegates. The other 15 delegates are awarded winner take all by congressional district. Trump could very well win all five, although John Kasich could perhaps challenge him in the affluent Fourth Congressional District. Trump just about maximized his delegate haul in New York: Can he do it in Connecticut, too?

Trump should also do very well in Rhode Island, but it awards its delegates in a very proportional manner, so all three candidates will almost certainly win delegates there. The best Trump practically could do is to win 10 of the state’s 19 delegates, but nine is a more realistic goal.

Maryland is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district. A realistic goal for Trump is winning all the statewide delegates and six of the eight congressional districts, or 32 of 38 delegates. Anything worse than that narrows Trump’s path to a majority. Kasich could be Trump’s main challenger in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, which were hostile to Trump in Virginia’s March 1 primary. However, the D.C. suburbs are split among several different congressional districts, which could dilute Kasich’s vote and benefit Trump.

Finally, there’s Pennsylvania. Trump is leading there by a significant amount in recent polls. But only 17 of the state’s 71 delegates are pledged to the statewide winner. The other 54 are directly elected and officially uncommitted. However, some have said they would support the statewide winner or the candidate who wins their congressional district. A big statewide win by Trump could effectively net him more than just 17 delegates in Pennsylvania, and he’ll almost assuredly need more than just 17 votes from the Keystone State to win the nomination on the first ballot. So Trump needs to put on a show for the Pennsylvania uncommitteds by not just winning, but winning big. Of course, there would be nothing to stop the uncommitted delegates from voting for someone else besides Trump on the convention floor, claiming perhaps that they “did what was best for the party.” So the potential reliance on these delegates to get over the top is a serious problem for Trump. But as Table 1 shows, if Trump were to get 14 of those unbound delegates (so about a quarter of them) and the rest of this roadmap played out as written, he would arrive at the magic majority number of 1,237.

The one state where winning by a single vote would be just fine for Trump is Delaware, which is a straightforward, winner-take-all state. There’s little reason to think he won’t do that.

2. Win Indiana (May 3)

The anti-Trump forces appear to be hoping to re-run their successful Wisconsin strategy in Indiana, another Midwestern state that awards its delegates winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district. That means the statewide winner, in all likelihood, will win the lion’s share of the delegates. Cruz is very clearly gunning for Indiana, and Trump may not have a path to a delegate majority without it. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote aninformative analysis of Indiana that begins by arguing “It may be Indiana or bust for Donald Trump.” He’s probably right. We think Indiana is fairly similar to Missouri, a Midwestern state with a southern orientation. Missouri also happened to be the closest primary in this year’s race: Trump won statewide by about 0.2 percentage points as both he and Cruz got about 40% of the vote. Cruz will almost certainly have to clear 40% to beat Trump in Indiana, and he very well could.

3. Win at least a majority of delegates in the confusing West Virginia primary (May 10)

There’s little question that West Virginia, an almost entirely white state with lower-than-average levels of median income and education, is tailor-made for Donald Trump. The Mountain State is the only state that is entirely defined as part of Appalachia, the 13-state generally white, working-class region that extends from western New York all the way to northern Alabama and Mississippi, and Trump has done very well in Appalachia so far, winning 297 of the 318 Appalachian counties* that have voted so far. It would be a gigantic upset if Trump did not win the most votes in West Virginia.

However, that does not necessarily mean he will win all or even most of the delegates.

Only three of the state’s 34 delegates are bound to the statewide popular vote winner. The rest are directly elected on the ballot, as in Pennsylvania. While delegate candidates are listed with a presidential preference (or are listed as “uncommitted”) on the ballot, unlike in Pennsylvania, the voting process is very tedious and time-consuming. Among the complications: voters will have to choose 22 at-large delegates. They cannot choose more than 22, or all of their selections will be thrown out, and they also cannot choose more than two from any one county. To read more about the confounding intricacies of the West Virginia primary, check out these pieces from Hoppy Kerchevalof MetroNews in Charleston and Kyle Cheney of Politico. But the bottom line here is this: Trump may dominate the popular vote in West Virginia but not even get a majority of the delegates. In Cheney’s write-up, West Virginia’s GOP national committeeman said he was skeptical that Trump could win more than 20 of the Mountain State’s delegates. Trump’s threadbare organization faces a stern test in educating the state’s voters on this confusing process; otherwise, he may fall very short of his target in West Virginia, which really should be winning every single delegate. Our roadmap above has Trump winning only 20 of 34 West Virginia delegates, which is perhaps conservative for Trump, but it reflects the uncertainty in a state that otherwise seems quite favorable to him.

4. Be competitive in Oregon (May 17), Washington (May 24), and New Mexico (June 7)

There are limited data to work with for Oregon and Washington, two states that both use mail-in voting, though the demographics suggest neither is great territory for Trump. While Oregon uses an almost purely proportional system based on the statewide vote, Washington’s district system is akin to New York’s: If someone wins a majority in a district, that candidate wins all three district delegates; otherwise, they are awarded 2-1 to first and second in most cases. But the Evergreen State’s statewide delegates are awarded proportionally with a 20% threshold. An added complication in Washington is that Democrats already held their caucus on March 26. Although there is a Democratic contest on the primary ballot, it has no bearing on delegate allocation. As Washington doesn’t have party registration, it’s possible that some Democrats could opt to vote in the GOP primary, even if it requires them to sign an oath declaring they are Republicans and haven’t participated in another party’s nomination process — given caucus turnout, many Washington Democrats surely didn’t. This could swell GOP vote totals, perhaps to Trump’s detriment. Meanwhile, New Mexico is positioned between Trump territory in Arizona and Cruz country in Texas, so it could be very competitive. But the Land of Enchantment allocates proportionally by statewide vote, though with a 15% threshold that Kasich might struggle to reach, meaning it will be difficult for anyone to win a large share. Trump doesn’t need to win all these states, and we suspect he probably won’t win either of the Pacific Northwest states. But he needs to get some delegates out of them; probably somewhere around 40, as noted in Table 1.

5. Win California and capture two-thirds or more of its delegates

California, which along with four other states votes on the final day of the primary calendar, awards 159 of its 172 delegates via winner-take-all by congressional district. This will be a 53-district battle for three delegates in each. The well-respected Field Poll recently found evidence that Cruz may challenge Trump not only in some conservative parts of the state, such as the Central Valley, but also in Los Angeles County. Meanwhile, it’s possible that Kasich could peel off some wealthy, highly-educated districts in the Bay Area. Outside of LA, Trump leads by a large margin in the rest of Southern California, analogous in some ways to his large win in Arizona. Overall, Trump can’t plausibly sweep the state, but if he wins statewide by enough he should win plenty of congressional districts. In terms of overall delegate arithmetic, he is going to need to win close to two-thirds of the districts; winning 35 districts and statewide would work out to 118 delegates.

BONUS: Win Nebraska (May 10), Montana (June 7), or South Dakota (June 7)

At this point, we’re assuming that Cruz will capture the winner-take-all states of Nebraska, Montana, and South Dakota. This is based primarily on Trump’s general underperformance in much of the Great Plains and Interior West. Additionally, both Nebraska and South Dakota are closed primaries, which have overall been a boon to Cruz (Montana is not, and perhaps Trump could be more competitive there). There’s really no polling to guide analysis in any of these three states, and maybe there’s more support for Trump than we think. Therefore, we can’t completely rule out the possibility of Trump winning one of these states even though, in all likelihood, he will not.


There’s one description of all five of Trump’s steps above: challenging but possible. This also describes Trump’s chances of getting to the magic number of 1,237 by the end of the primary season. If he does not make it but is close, perhaps within 100 delegates or less, it’s possible that he could persuade some uncommitted delegates (like members of the Pennsylvania contingent) to come to his side. But if he’s considerably short, by 100 delegates or more, then his path to victory is likely closed: Trump simply does not seem to have the organizational wherewithal to win a convention that goes to multiple ballots, particularly because Cruz is running circles around him in the actual selection of delegates. There may be a majority bound to Trump on the first ballot at the convention, but we doubt that a majority of delegates, in their heart of hearts, will support Trump if given the option of defecting. That’s why Trump winning a majority in New York was so important to his chances — but also why he has several difficult hurdles remaining in front of him.

*There are 428 total Appalachian counties, a total that includes eight independent cities in Virginia. So far, 10 of the 13 states that include Appalachian areas have held caucuses or primaries: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The three that have not are Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

By Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, Sabato’s Crystal Ball


Reforming U.S.-China Trade

Trump Vs China-Reforming U.S.-China Trade

How We Got Here: Washington Politicians Let China Off The Hook

In January 2000, President Bill Clinton boldly promised China’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization (WTO) “is a good deal for America. Our products will gain better access to China’s market, and every sector from agriculture, to telecommunications, to automobiles. But China gains no new market access to the United States.” None of what President Clinton promised came true. Since China joined the WTO, Americans have witnessed the closure of more than 50,000 factories and the loss of tens of millions of jobs. It was  not a good deal for America then and it’s a bad deal now. It is a typical example of how politicians in Washington have failed our country.

The most important component of our China policy is leadership and strength at the negotiating table. We have been too afraid to protect and advance American interests and to challenge China to live up to its obligations. We need smart negotiators who will serve the interests of American workers – not Wall Street insiders that want to move U.S. manufacturing and investment offshore.

The Goal Of The Trump Plan: Fighting For American Businesses And Workers

America has always been a trading nation. Under the Trump administration trade will flourish. However, for free trade to bring prosperity to America, it must also be fair trade. Our goal is not protectionism but accountability. America fully opened its markets to China but China has not reciprocated. Its Great Wall of Protectionism uses unlawful tariff and non-tariff barriers to keep American companies out of China and to tilt the playing field in their favor.

If you give American workers a level playing field, they will win. At its heart, this plan is a negotiating strategy to bring fairness to our trade with China. The results will be huge for American businesses and workers. Jobs and factories will stop moving offshore and instead stay here at home. The economy will boom. The steps outlined in this plan will make that a reality.

When Donald J. Trump is president, China will be on notice that America is back in the global leadership business and that their days of currency manipulation and cheating are over. We will cut a better deal with China that helps American businesses and workers compete.

The Trump Plan Will Achieve The Following Goals:

  1. Bring China to the bargaining table by immediately declaring it a currency manipulator.
  2. Protect American ingenuity and investment by forcing China to uphold intellectual property laws and stop their unfair and unlawful practice of forcing U.S. companies to share proprietary technology with Chinese competitors as a condition of entry to China’s market.
  3. Reclaim millions of American jobs and reviving American manufacturing by putting an end to China’s illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards. No more sweatshops or pollution havens stealing jobs from American workers.
  4. Strengthen our negotiating position by lowering our corporate tax rate to keep American companies and jobs here at home, attacking our debt and deficit so China cannot use financial blackmail against us, andbolstering the U.S. military presence in the East and South China Seas to discourage Chinese adventurism.

Details of Donald J. Trump’s US China Trade Plan:

Declare China A Currency Manipulator

We need a president who will not succumb to the financial blackmail of a Communist dictatorship. President Obama’s Treasury Department has repeatedly refused to brand China a currency manipulator – a move that would force China to stop these unfair practices or face tough countervailing duties that level the playing field.

Economists estimate the Chinese yuan is undervalued by anywhere from 15% to 40%. This grossly undervalued yuan gives Chinese exporters a huge advantage while imposing the equivalent of a heavy tariff on U.S. exports to China. Such currency manipulation, in concert with China’s other unfair practices, has resulted in chronic U.S. trade deficits, a severe weakening of the U.S. manufacturing base and the loss of tens of millions of American jobs.

In a system of truly free trade and floating exchange rates like a Trump administration would support, America’s massive trade deficit with China would not persist. On day one of the Trump administration the U.S. Treasury Department will designate China as a currency manipulator. This will begin a process that imposes appropriate countervailing duties on artificially cheap Chinese products, defends U.S. manufacturers and workers, and revitalizes job growth in America. We must stand up to China’s blackmail and reject corporate America’s manipulation of our politicians. The U.S. Treasury’s designation of China as a currency manipulator will force China to the negotiating table and open the door to a fair – and far better – trading relationship.

End China’s Intellectual Property Violations

China’s ongoing theft of intellectual property may be the greatest transfer of wealth in history. This theft costs the U.S. over $300 billion and millions of jobs each year. China’s government ignores this rampant cybercrime and, in other cases, actively encourages or even sponsors it –without any real consequences. China’s cyber lawlessness threatens our prosperity, privacy and national security. We will enforce stronger protections against Chinese hackers and counterfeit goods and our responses to Chinese theft will be swift, robust, and unequivocal.

The Chinese government also forces American companies like Boeing, GE, and Intel to transfer proprietary technologies to Chinese competitors as a condition of entry into the Chinese market. Such de facto intellectual property theft represents a brazen violation of WTO and international rules. China’s forced technology transfer policy is absolutely ridiculous. Going forward, we will adopt a zero tolerance policy on intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer. If China wants to trade with America, they must agree to stop stealing and to play by the rules.

Eliminate China’s Illegal Export Subsidies And Other Unfair Advantages

Chinese manufacturers and other exporters receive numerous illegal export subsidies from the Chinese government. These include – in direct contradiction to WTO rules – free or nearly free rent, utilities, raw materials, and many other services. China’s state-run banks routinely extend loans these enterprises at below market rates or without the expectation they will be repaid. China even offers them illegal tax breaks or rebates as well as cash bonuses to stimulate exports.

China’s illegal export subsidies intentionally distorts international trade and damages other countries’ exports by giving Chinese companies an unfair advantage. From textile and steel mills in the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast’s shrimp and fish industries to the Midwest manufacturing belt and California’s agribusiness, China’s disregard for WTO rules hurt every corner of America.

The U.S. Trade Representative recently filed yet another complaint with the WTO accusing China of cheating on our trade agreements by subsidizing its exports. The Trump administration will not wait for an international body to tell us what we already know. To gain negotiating leverage, we will pursue the WTO case and aggressively highlight and expose these subsidies.

China’s woeful lack of reasonable environmental and labor standards represent yet another form of unacceptable export subsidy. How can American manufacturers, who must meet very high standards, possibly compete with Chinese companies that care nothing about their workers or the environment? We will challenge China to join the 21 st Century when it comes to such standards.

The Trump Plan Will Strengthen Our Negotiating Position

As the world’s most important economy and consumer of goods, America must always negotiate trade agreements from strength. Branding China as a currency manipulator and exposing their unfair trade practices is not enough. In order to further strengthen our negotiating leverage, the Trump plan will:

  1. Lower the corporate tax rate to 15% to unleash American ingenuity here at home and make us more globally competitive. This tax cut puts our rate 10 percentage points below China and 20 points below our current burdensome rate that pushes companies and jobs offshore.
  2. Attack our debt and deficit by vigorously eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Federal government, ending redundant government programs, and growing the economy to increase tax revenues. Closing the deficit and reducing our debt will mean China cannot blackmail us with our own Treasury bonds.
  3. Strengthen the U.S. military and deploying it appropriately in the East and South China Seas. These actions will discourage Chinese adventurism that imperils American interests in Asia and shows our strength as we begin renegotiating our trading relationship with China. A strong military presence will be a clear signal to China and other nations in Asia and around the world that America is back in the global leadership business.
Shayne Heffernan Funds Manager at HEFFX holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.

The Foreign Policy of 2017

The Foreign Policy of 2017

Opinion writer March 31 at 8:17 PM

After dozens of contests featuring cliffhangers, buzzer-beaters and a ton of flagrant fouls, we’re down to the Final Four: Sanders, Clinton, Cruz and Trump. (If Kasich pulls off a miracle, he’ll get his own column.) The world wants to know: What are their foreign policies?

Herewith, four candidates and four schools: pacifist, internationalist, unilateralist and mercantilist.

(1) Bernie Sanders, pacifist.

His pacifism is part swords-into-plowshares utopianism, part get-thee-gone isolationism. Emblematic was the Nov. 14 Democratic debate , which was supposed to focus on the economy but occurred the day after the Paris massacre. Sanders objected to starting the debate with a question about Paris. He did not prevail, however, and answered the first question with some anti-terror pablum that immediately gave way to an impassioned attack on his usual “handful of billionaires.”

Sanders boasts of voting against the Iraq War. But he also voted against the 1991 Gulf War. His reaction to all such dilemmas is the same anti-imperialist/pacifist reflex: Stay away, but if we must get involved, let others lead.

That’s for means. As for ends, Sanders’ foreign policy objectives are invariably global and universal, beginning above all with climate change. The rest is foreign-policy-as-social-work do-goodism, most especially undoing the work of U.S. imperialism.

Don’t be surprised if President Sanders hands Guantanamo Bay over to the Castros, although Alaska looks relatively safe for now.

Closest historical analog: George McGovern.

(2) Hillary Clinton, internationalist.

The “Clinton/Obama” foreign policy from Ukraine to Iran to the South China Sea has been a demonstrable failure. But in trying to figure out what President Clinton would do in the future, we need to note that she often gave contrary advice, generally more assertive and aggressive than President Obama’s, that was overruled, most notably keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011 and early arming of the Syrian rebels.

The Libya adventure was her grand attempt at humanitarian interventionism. She’s been chastened by the disaster that followed.

Her worldview is traditional, post-Vietnam liberal internationalism — America as the indispensable nation, but consciously restraining its exercise of power through multilateralism and near-obsessive legalism.

Closest historical analog: the Bill Clinton foreign policy of the 1990s.

(3) Ted Cruz, unilateralist.

The most aggressive of the three contenders thus far. Wants post-Cold War U.S. leadership restored. Is prepared to take risks and act alone when necessary. Pledges to tear up the Iran deal, cement the U.S.-Israel alliance and carpet bomb the Islamic State.

Overdoes it with “carpet” — it implies Dresden — although it was likely just an attempt at rhetorical emphasis. He’s of the school that will not delay action while waiting on feckless allies or farcical entities like the U.N.

Closest analog: Ronald Reagan.

(4) Donald Trump, mercantilist.

He promises to make America strong, for which, he explains, he must first make America rich. Treating countries like companies, he therefore promises to play turnaround artist for a foreign policy that is currently a hopeless money-losing operation in which our allies take us for fools and suck us dry.

You could put the Sanders, Clinton and Cruz foreign policies on a recognizable ideological spectrum, left to right. But not Trump’s. It inhabits a different space because it lacks any geopolitical coherence. It’s all about money. He sees no particular purpose for allies or foreign bases. They are simply a financial drain.

Imperial Spain roamed and ravaged the world in search of gold. Trump advocates a kinder, gentler form of wealth transfer from abroad, though equally gold-oriented.

Thus, if Japan and South Korea don’t pony up more money for our troops stationed there, we go home. The possible effects on the balance of power in the Pacific Rim or on Chinese hegemonic designs don’t enter into the equation.

Same for NATO. If those free-riding European leeches don’t give us more money too, why stick around? Concerns about tempting Russian ambitions and/or aggression are nowhere in sight.

The one exception to this singular focus on foreign policy as a form of national enrichment is the Islamic State. Trump’s goal is simple — “bomb the s­­­­­­­­— out of them.” Yet even here he can’t quite stifle his mercantilist impulses, insisting that after crushing the Islamic State, he’ll keep their oil. Whatever that means.

Closest historical analog: King Philip II of Spain (1556-1598).

On Jan. 20, one of these four contenders will be sworn in as president. And one of these four approaches to the world will become the foreign policy of the United States.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Reshaping the electoral map

How Trump vs. Clinton could reshape the electoral mapReshaping the electoral map
A prospective general election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could significantly alter which states are in play this fall and heighten more than in any recent election the racial, class and gender divisions within the national electorate.

After successive campaigns in which President Obama expanded the Democrats’ electoral map options by focusing on fast-growing and increasingly diverse states, a 2016 race between Clinton and Trump could devolve principally into a pitched battle for the Rust Belt.

With a focus on trade issues and by tapping anti-establishment anger, Trump would seek to energize white working-class Americans, who Republicans believe have been on the sidelines in recent elections in substantial numbers. Trump would also attempt to peel away voters who have backed Democrats, a potentially harder task.

At the same time, Clinton could find Trump a powerful energizing force on her behalf among African Americans and Latinos, which could help to offset the absence of Obama on the ticket after two elections that drew huge minority turnout. That could put off-limits to Trump some states with large Hispanic populations where Republicans have competed intensely in recent elections.

Although polls give Clinton a solid advantage over Trump in a general election, many Democrats remain wary because of what one party strategist called “the unpredictability of Trump.” As one former member of Obama’s campaign team put it, “I feel like in some ways my brain has to think differently than it ever has.”

Democrats will assess the landscape in several ways: which states are likely to be in play, which of those are different from past elections, and which voting groups present particular problems. They expect to update their analyses constantly, given how quickly Trump can have an impact on events.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll from earlier this month showed stark divides among those backing Trump and Clinton.

Overall, the former secretary of state led 50 to 41 percent among registered voters. Trump led 49 to 40 percent among white voters, while Clinton led 73 to 19 among non-whites. Trump led by five points among men, and Clinton was up by 21 among women. Trump led by 24 points among whites without college degrees, while Clinton led by 15 among whites with degrees.

Many Republicans fear that numbers like those could doom the party to defeat in the fall, and they remain hopeful that they can stop Trump in the primaries or at a contested convention. But some Democrats worry that polling data about Trump could provide a false sense of security because voters might be reluctant to acknowledge that they intend to back him.

Party strategists and independent analysts have just begun to explore in-depth the contours of a Trump vs. Clinton election, examining in particular how the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate might affect the preferences of specific voter blocs. More difficult to assess, but no less important, is how a Trump-Clinton contest would affect turnout among those groups.

The main conclusion to date is that a Trump nomination would test theories among some Republicans about the potential strength and power of the white vote to change the electorate and give the GOP the White House. Given what is known, Trump would appear to have no choice but to center his energies on states in the industrial and upper Midwest.

The eventual conclusions of party strategists about Trump’s possible route to victory will affect critical choices for both campaigns as they decide where to invest tens of millions of dollars in resources for television ads, where to deploy their most extensive voter mobilization and get-out-the vote operations, and where the nominees will concentrate their campaign travel in the fall.

The Midwest’s ‘blue wall’ on the Electoral Map

Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the progressive Center for American Progress, said Trump’s only path to victory lies in “a spike of white working-class support. . . . It’s trying to break apart the heartland part of the ‘blue wall,’ with less emphasis on the rest of the country.”

The “blue wall” is a term coined by journalist Ronald Brownstein of Atlantic Media and refers to the 18 states plus the District of Columbia that Democrats have won in the past six elections. Those states add up to 242 electoral votes, giving Democrats a foundation and therefore several combinations of other states to get to 270.

Among the 18 states that have been in Democratic hands since the 1992 election are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Along with Ohio and Iowa, those heartland states are likely to be the most intensely contested battlegrounds in the country if a Trump-Clinton race materializes.

All those states have higher concentrations of white voters, including larger percentages of older, white working-class voters, than many of the states in faster-growing areas that Obama looked to in his two campaigns.

“If he drives big turnout increases with white voters, especially with white male voters, that has the potential to change the map,” said a veteran of Obama’s campaigns, who spoke anonymously in order to share current analysis of the fall campaign.

Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist and veteran of past presidential campaigns, said Trump’s overall general election strength is unpredictable at this point, in part because Trump could campaign as a different candidate from the one on display throughout the primaries. But he said that what Trump has shown to date is an ability to surprise his opponents and offer crosscutting messages to draw support.

“To be successful as a Republican candidate you have to be the equivalent of a neutron bomb,” Schmidt said. “He’s a neutron bomb. Donald Trump has been disruptive in the way Uber has been disruptive in the taxi industry.”

No one expects a totally different electoral map in a Trump-Clinton campaign, given the hardening of red-blue divisions. Analysts say that nearly all the same states that have been fought over in recent elections will remain potential targets, especially at the start of the general election. Ohio, Florida and likely Virginia in particular will be fought over until the very end of the election.

On the other hand, states such as Nevada, New Mexico and possibly Colorado could see less competition unless Trump can overcome his extraordinarily high negative ratings within the Hispanic community.

The two pairs of presidential campaigns since the beginning of the 21st century proved to be remarkably static in terms of the number of battleground states and whether they voted Republican or Democratic.

Those campaigns collectively also highlight the shrinking number of truly contested states. In 2000, there were 12 such states decided by fewer than five points. By 2012, there were just four.

The 2000 and 2004 campaigns produced close finishes in the electoral college, with Republicans winning both with fewer than 290 electoral votes. The 2004 campaign was a virtual rerun of 2000, with just three states shifting to the other party: Iowa and New Mexico in the direction of the Republicans and New Hampshire to the Democrats.

Obama’s 2008 campaign changed the map, with nine states that had supported then-president George W. Bush in 2004 backing the Democratic nominee. The 2012 campaign, like 2004, reinforced the status quo. By the end of the campaign, there were only a handful of real battlegrounds and just two states shifted from 2008: Indiana and North Carolina. Both moved in the direction of the Republicans.

William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that if Trump were to carry Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and either New Hampshire or Minnesota, he would not need some of the traditional Southern battlegrounds. Frey hastened to add that such a sweep of the Midwest appears highly unlikely. Nonetheless, he said that path through the Midwest would hold the keys to victory for Republicans if the New York businessman is their nominee.

Separate wells of support

What makes the coming campaign so intriguing is that Trump’s and Clinton’s demographic strengths are near-mirror opposites. He has drawn significant support among white working-class voters during his march toward the Republican nomination, especially white men. Clinton has drawn sizable support among minority voters, particularly African Americans, in her contest against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Trump’s strength among men is offset by his weakness among women. Clinton has at times struggled to attract younger women in her battle with Sanders, but few doubt she would have a significant advantage in a general election campaign against Trump.Similarly, Trump’s support among white voters without college degrees could be offset by the prospect of similarly strong support among whites with college degrees — a growing force in the Democratic coalition.

The focus on white working-class voters will not negate the key role minority voters could play in the outcome next November. “I think that energy underneath the wings of the minority community could be as strong as it was for Barack Obama, only this time against Donald Trump,” Frey said.

One Democratic strategist said that on the basis of preliminary analysis of poll data, Trump’s vote share among Hispanics could be lower than Mitt Romney’s 27 percent share in 2012 and that his margin among African Americans could be nearly as low as Romney’s.

A recent Washington Post-Univision poll of Hispanic voters showed Trump currently doing worse than Romney, trailing Clinton in a hypothetical general election by 73 to 16 percent.

Republican Schmidt, however, warned Democrats that Trump could prove more appealing to minority voters, especially African Americans, than they assume. “He’s an asymmetric threat,” Schmidt said. “He fits into none of the conventions. He has a completely unorthodox style.”

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.

Snake-Oil Economics of Protectionism

John Cowperthwaite deserves a lot of credit for Hong Kong’s prosperity. As a British appointee, he took a hands-off policy and allowed the colony’s economy to thrive. He didn’t even want the government to collect statistics since that would give interventionists data that might be used to argue for interventionism.

I have mixed feelings about that approach. I constantly use statistics because they so often show that free markets and small government produce the best outcomes. I even use data to show that Hong Kong’s economy should be emulated.

On the other hand, there are some statistics that cause a lot of mischief.

I’ve argued, for instance, that we should focus on how national prosperity is generated (gross domestic income) rather than how it is allocated (gross domestic product). Snake-Oil Economics of ProtectionismIf we changed the focus to GDI, the debate would more naturally focus on pro-growth policies to boost wages, small business income, and corporate profits rather than the misguided policies (such as Keynesian economics) that are enabled by a focus on GDP.

That being said, there’s a good argument that the worst government statistic is the “trade deficit.”

This is a very destructive piece of data because people instinctively assume a “deficit” is bad. Yet I have a trade deficit every year with my local grocery store. I’m always buying things from them and they never buy anything from me. Does that mean I’m a “loser”? Of course not. Voluntary exchange, by definition, means that both parties gain from any transaction. And this principle applies when voluntary exchange occurs across national borders.

Moreover, people oftentimes don’t realize that the necessary and automatic flip side of a “trade deficit” is a “capital surplus.” In other words, when foreign companies acquire dollars by selling to American consumers, they frequently decide that investing in the American economy is the best use of that money. And the huge amount of investment from overseas is a sign of comparative prosperity and vitality, not a sign of weakness.

And for any readers who nonetheless think protectionism might be a good idea, I challenge them to answer these eight questions.

I’m confident that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be able to successfully answer any of them. Yet it appears they’ve gained some traction with voters by calling for protectionism.

That’s quite unfortunate. If the pro-trade policy consensus in America breaks down, that would create dangerous opportunities for politicians and bureaucrats to rig the game in favor of special interests while also imposing higher costs of taxpayers and consumers.

Let’s dig into the issue.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Mort Kondracke and Matthew Slaughter combine to produce a strong defense of trade.

…the four leading presidential candidates…oppose the U.S. ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All four demonize trade the same way. …Where is the leader with the courage to tell the truth? To say that trade made this nation great, and that trade barriers will destroy far more jobs than they can ever “save.” …America’s exporters and importers are among the country’s most dynamic companies, paying their workers about 15%-20% more than workers earn elsewhere in the economy. The overall gains are large. Trade and related activities—spurred by accords such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, have boosted annual U.S. income today by about 10 percentage points of GDP relative to what it would have been otherwise. This translates into an aggregate gain of about $1.8 trillion in 2015—thousands of dollars per U.S. household every year. …creative destruction—the movement of people and capital from weaker businesses to stronger ones and new opportunities—is how many of the gains from trade arise. …For generations, American presidents of both parties have spoken about the benefits of trade. “Economic isolation and political leadership are wholly incompatible,” warned John Kennedy. “A creative, competitive America is the answer to a changing world,” said Ronald Reagan. “We should always remember: protectionism is destructionism.”

By the way, I think Kondracke and Slaughter paint with too broad a brush. Both Cruz and Clinton are far less protectionist than Trump and Sanders. Though the authors are correct in noting that they’ve been reluctant (especially in the case of Clinton) to vigorously defend free trade.

The great legal scholar Richard Epstein (also my former debating partner) writesabout the dangers of protectionism.

There are of course major difference between the insidious Trump and buffoonish Sanders. …Still, the real selling point of each boils down to one issue: In the indecorous language of the pollster, Pat Caddell, Americans feel “they have been screwed” by free trade. …free trade is in retreat as protectionism becomes the common thread across the both political parties. It is as though the economic unwisdom of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act is back.

Richard makes a very important point that politicians often support protectionism in an attempt to hide the damage they do with other misguided policies.

Free trade offers an uncompromising indictment of, and a powerful corrective for, America’s unsound economic policies. …the reason that local businesses outsource from the United States is the same reason why foreign businesses are reluctant to expand operations here. Our regulatory and labor environment is hostile to economic growth and there are no signs of that abating anytime soon. …the steady decline in freedom and productivity inside the United States has continued apace. Ironically, the strong likelihood that the next American president will expand protectionist practices will only make matters worse: firms, both foreign and domestic, are more reluctant to invest in the United States…free trade gives the federal government and the individual states strong incentives to clean up their act so that they can once again be attractive to foreign investment.

My buddy Ross Kaminsky explains in the American Spectator that free trade is good because it is part of the competitive process that boosts living standards, particularly for the poor.

…in trade, as in any economic endeavor, there are losers in the short run. Capitalism is, after all, fundamentally a system of creative destruction. But if there is any area of agreement among economists of all political stripes…it is that free trade provides large net benefits to the societies that engage in it, even if other nations do not lower trade barriers to the same degree. Furthermore, the benefits of trade accrue in large measure to the lower economic echelons of society in an extension of Schumpeter’s profound observation that “the capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.”

And Ross echoes Richard Epstein’s point about the real problem being anti-growth policies that make America less competitive.

Trade is complex and like all complex things politicians will dumb it down in a way that benefits them, generally by lying to the public and creating a frothy anger against those “damn furiners” instead of pointing fingers at the true culprits: unions, regulators, and politicians of all stripes.

Ross and Richard are right. If politicians really want more jobs in America, they should be adopting policies to boost U.S. competitiveness.

And we don’t need giant steps. Yes, a flat tax would be great, but even incremental reforms such as a lower corporate tax rate or the right tax treatment of business investment would yield big dividends.

Let’s add a few more voices to the discussion.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal debunks Donald Trump’s protectionist tirade against China.

The real-estate developer recently added Japan to his most-wanted list of job killers… “They’re killing us. You know what we sell to Japan? Practically nothing.” Is $116 billion worth of annual goods and services exports to Japan practically nothing? Japan is the fourth largest U.S. export market in goods after Canada, Mexico and China. …The best way to boost American exports is to remove trade barriers with new trade agreements. U.S. farm producers would particularly benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and 10 other countries. Japanese tariffs on beef would fall to 9% in the 16th year of the deal from 38.5% while the 20% tariff on ground pork would be eliminated in six years. Japan’s 21.3% levy on poultry and eggs would be abolished in six to 13 years.

Writing for the Washington Post, David Ignatius defends trade in general and trade agreements in particular.

…the revolt against free trade that has captured both parties could do the most long-term damage. …there’s strong evidence that trade has benefited the U.S. economy and created whole new industries in which the United States is dominant. That’s the essence of the “creative destruction” that makes a market economy so potent: It relentlessly pushes innovation and change. …The bipartisan protectionism of Trump and Sanders has focused its attacks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership… Robert Z. Lawrence and Tyler Moran estimate that between 2017 and 2026, when TPP would have its major impact, the costs to displaced workers would be 6 percent of the benefits to the economy — or an 18-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio. …David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson…noted that the pact would promote trade in knowledge industries where the United States has a big advantage and that “killing the TPP would do little to bring factory work back to America.”

Ignatius also makes a very important observation that protectionists want us to be scared of nations that have much bigger problems than the United States.

Trump, the businessman, seems weirdly out of touch with real economic trends. He speaks of Japan as though it were an economic powerhouse, when it has actually suffered a two-decades-long slump; he describes a surging China, when the numbers show its growth is sagging.

Amen. Japan has huge problems and China still has quite a way to go before it becomes a developed nation.

Let’s close with some good news. Politicians may be engaging in anti-trade demagoguery, and there may be some voters that are motivated by hostility to voluntary exchange, but that doesn’t mean the protectionists have won.

Indeed, pro-trade sentiment has never been higher by some measures. Here’s some amazingly positive polling data from Gallup.

Snake-Oil Economics of Protectionism

P.S. One final point. The growing burden of government spending and taxation since World War II have been very unfortunate, but the good news is that we have strong evidence that the economic damage of worsening fiscal policy has been offset by the economic gains from trade liberalization. It would be tragic to see that reversed.

P.P.S. Fans of Richard Epstein may enjoy this video of him reminiscing about Barack Obama’s undistinguished tenure at the University of Chicago Law School, as well asthis video of him dismantling George Soros in a debate that took place at Cato.

March 19, 2016 by Dan Mitchell of The Cato Institute.

The Anti-Establishment Year: 2016

2016 Trump and Sanders: The Anti-Establishment Candidates

No doubt 2016 is the anti-establishment year for U.S. politics.

Nationally, both Sanders and Trump are polling at about 40% in their respective primaries. In both parties, experienced candidates have gone out with whimpers.

Clinton has been able to hold Sanders off thanks to being in a two-person race; in the scattered GOP field, Trump’s 40% means establishment candidates like Rubio and Bush have been shellacked. At this point, Trump appears unstoppable despite prediction after prediction of his demise coming any day now.

All this is true despite every imaginable establishment advantage: donors have poured hundreds of millions into establishment campaigns to try to hold off the rising insurgent tides. Trump and Sanders have nary a political endorsement to their names (Christie’s cynical realpolitikbid for VP aside). Experienced economists and lawyers denounce their plans as unrealistic. Every respectable media outlet—and even highly partisan right-wing ones—have a singular message: stop Trump at all costs. (It probably won’t happen.)

The establishment’s days seem numbered; party leaders and pundits alike are left dumbfounded and speechless to explain it. Erik Fogg, IVN Independent Author

And yet… here we are. A specter hangs over the establishments. Their most fervent bases—long relied on as pillars of support against the enemy party—are rebelling en masse. The establishment’s days seem numbered; party leaders and pundits alike are left dumbfounded and speechless to explain it.

What on earth happened? As the reality of Sanders’s and Trump’s staying power set in, pundits are scrambling to bring theories to bear in order to look like they’re the ones that have figured it out. Most of these theories attempt to explain the rise of one or the other from an ideological perspective, but these theories can’t explain the simultaneous rise of both at once. And given how many voters are divided between Sanders and Trump, any plausible theory must explain them both. So where do we start?

As we dig into the political history of the past 20 years, we find the groundwork being laid. The terrible irony here is that the planting was done by the very establishment elements that are now scrambling to contain the effects. Each party establishment has sown the seeds of its own demise. The work was not intentional, but it was deliberate, and the parties have nobody to blame but themselves for the dilemma they now face.

In the 1990s, each party began adopting two key new election strategies. The first was apocalyptic demonization of the other party. The second was focusing on maximizing the turnout of its most partisan bases.

Demonization and its Consequences

Voting on election day is an emotional choice as much as it is a rational one. As Jonathan Haidt eloquently explains in The Righteous Mind,the emotions that govern our political behavior are most closely linked to a sense of tribal identity. This tribalism explains why each party can maintain cohesion despite holding to peculiar—and often contradictory—combinations of policy ideas.

To illustrate: in 2014, Nancy Pelosi declared that “civilization as we know it would be in jeopardy if Republicans win the senate.” In 2012, the American Enterprise Institute boldly predicted “10 disasters America will face if Obama gets a second term,” including the end of religious freedom, economic prosperity, and U.S. military superpower status. 2004 election ads compared Bush to Hitler.

The endless bashing of each party has had the intended effect: Americans’ opinions of each party have indeed dropped. But because the effect is bilateral, both parties suffer.

As of 2015, both parties had reached new favorability lows of under 40%. Congress’ favorability, which hovered between 30 and 40% in the decades before 2000, tanked to a cataclysmic 9% (famously lower than North Korea and cockroaches) before rebounding to a meager 14%.

The result? Americans no longer want anything to do with either party. Since 2004, American voters have fled both parties in droves: the number of self-identifying independents has skyrocketed from 32% to a record high of 43%, leaving Republicans (with 26%) and Democrats (with 30%) at record lows.

Is it any surprise that primary voters are scorning the party establishment? We should instead be puzzling why it hadn’t happened already.

A Partisan Focus and Its Consequences

The 1990s also saw a sharp increase in the use of consultants and high frequency, detailed polling in political campaigns. They quickly learned that the most hard-line partisans in each party voted and donated money far more frequently than other voters, and this meant messaging changed.

Rather than championing policy positions that reflected about half of the electorate, candidates learned that the way to win elections was to win this hard-line base by pandering to them. This grew increasingly important in primaries, where turnout is traditionally comparatively low (especially for Congress).

As much as each party tries to also grab for the center in the general election, the damage is often done by the time candidates emerge from the primary as winners—Mitt Romney’s infamous 2012 “etch-a-sketch” flap illustrates this problem.

The unintended consequence of this highly partisan focus is that the tail of the party now wags the dog: the candidates that don’t effectively run to the extremes during the primary struggle to make it to the general.

Hillary Clinton–who was expected to be a shoo-in–had to scramble for months to solidify her role as front-runner. Establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki, and John Kasich have either fallen by the wayside or have found they have few weapons at hand to oppose Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

If we look briefly at the issues challenging the establishment, we can see this at play:

The rebellions of the party bases are likely to grow stronger in 2020, not weaker.

Democrats have spent the past 8 years blasting Wall Street as criminals and “the 1%” as moustache-twisting robber-barons. They hopped on board with the Occupy Wall Street message when it was politically convenient in congressional elections, and told their base that the financial sector is to blame for their woes. How silly are we to be surprised that the message of “economic revolution” has so much appeal?

Republicans have steadfastly opposed amnesty for undocumented migrants in the country since President Obama took office, calling the plan dangerous, economically disastrous, and even morally wrong for rewarding illegal behavior. Who can wonder why Trump’s plan to “build a wall” and (somehow) deport ten million people has gained traction?

Democrats have rallied their own base by attacking “big oil” and fighting fracking. Given the party’s years of fervor against fossil fuels, is it any question that Clinton’s oil connections are weighing her down like an albatross?

Republicans won the House in 2010 on a message that Washington is broken and its bulk a threat to American interests. The Tea Party Caucus swept in through opposition to the old, “out-of-touch” establishment interests in Congress. After 6 years of conservative campaigning against Washington as a whole, there was every reason to expect voters to see experience as a liability and prefer the guy who has no political resume at all.

The roots of the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been digging into the soil of American politics for decades: this year, they are bearing fruit.

This insurgency can be explained far more clearly by understanding how the parties groomed the electorate, rather than by a sudden and inexplicable shift of a bulk of the electorate toward preferring authoritarianism and socialism.

If the establishment is able to cling to power in 2016, will they be able to pivot their messaging toward more moderate policy proposals? It’ll require a discipline that the parties may not be able to muster. The rebellions of the party bases are likely to grow stronger in 2020, not weaker. Prospects for the establishment are likely to get a lot worse before they get better.

About the Author: Erik Fogg is the CEO of MidTide Media and leads the Something to Consider Movement, which aims to re-build the lost middle ground in US politics. In 2015 he co-authored Wedged: How You Became a Tool of the Partisan Political Establishment, and How to Start Thinking for Yourself Again.

Will the GOP Defy Its Own Voters?

March 16 at 7:37 PM  
With the increasingly loud talk of a contested Republican convention, the obscure process of picking who actually gets to be a delegate is about to get underway in states across the country — with an urgency that has not been felt in decades.These are the 2,472 people who will be filling Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in July, many wearing silly hats and waving placards. Normally little more than props in a week-long infomercial, delegates could instead be the power brokers who determine the nominee at the GOP convention this time around.Nearly all will be required to vote for a specific candidate on the first ballot, based on the results of the primaries and caucuses in their states. But if no candidate wins enough delegates to clinch the nomination, there will be subsequent rounds of voting. In that scenario, the vast majority of delegates would be free to vote as they please.The potential for intrigue is enormous. State delegations who vote for one candidate on the first ballot could actually turn out to be sleeper cells for another as the voting proceeds.

Nor are they bound at any point to support the candidate to whom they are pledged on fights over rules, credentials, the platform or the vice presidential nominee. Those kinds of battles can determine whether the convention is an orderly coronation or a street fight, possibly even putting new names in contention.

Here’s why Donald Trump isn’t a sure bet to win the GOP nomination

Donald Trump will almost certainly be the delegate leader heading into July’s Republican National Convention – but that doesn’t mean he’ll win the nomination outright. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

If it comes to that, a nominating campaign that has already defied every expectation and every norm would go even deeper into uncharted territory. The Republican electorate would be further splintered, jeopardizing the party’s chances to win in the fall and its ability to restore any semblance of functionality.

The identities and loyalties of individual convention delegates could become the subject of intense interest and scrutiny. The process of selecting them will be crucial and will be the subject of hand-to-hand combat in nearly every state over the next few months. In the Internet era, there is no such thing as a smoke-filled backroom; once-anonymous delegates could find themselves feeling the heat from all sides.

South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore said he has already warned those who may represent the Palmetto State as delegates: “Expect every person in America to have your cellphone numbers and email addresses.”

Only a handful of delegates have been named so far across the country. Most will be selected at local and state party gatherings, which means that the picks will be heavily influenced by the GOP establishment in those states — governors, party chairmen, elected officials, donors and longtime activists.

Usually, the mechanics are of little consequence, given that the nomination is locked up well in advance of the convention.

This year, however, there is the very real possibility that Donald Trump could reach Cleveland with a plurality of pledged delegates but be short of the 1,237 majority it takes to claim the top of the ticket on the first round of balloting.

Were Trump to arrive with the most delegates and leave without the nomination, “I think you’d have riots,” he said Wednesday on CNN.

Noting that “many, many millions of people” have voted for him, Trump added, “if you disenfranchise those people and you say, well I’m sorry but you’re 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short, I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do.”

The system, however, says otherwise. “You don’t get the nomination if you’re close. This isn’t like horseshoes and hand grenades. There are no points in close. You have to get 1,237,” said Stephen Duprey, a mainstay in New Hampshire politics and a member of the Republican National Committee.

Each state has its own peculiar system for naming delegates after the results of its primary or caucus are in.

Largely left out of the equation: The candidates themselves.

Fully 73 percent of delegates are selected without direct input from the presidential contenders, by state party executive committees or at state and local conventions, said veteran GOP campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg. “The campaigns have to be sure their people and people who are loyal to them are elected as delegates. That is a complicated process and requires on-the-ground organizing.”

Virginia is a good example. As a result of its March 1 primary, Virginia’s convention delegation will be casting 17 votes for Trump; eight for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and five for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. It will also give 16 votes for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and three for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, even though they have suspended their campaigns since the primary.

Of Virginia’s 49 convention delegates, 33 will be chosen at district conventions between now and June 1, and 13 will be picked at the state convention at the end of April. State chairman John Whitbeck and the national committeeman and committeewoman are the remaining three.

“This year, it’s like the campaigns are actually taking notice” of a normally sleepy and parochial process, Whitbeck said. “We see the most activity with the Cruz campaign in Virginia, in terms of an organized effort.”

Officials elsewhere also say that Cruz’s forces seem most engaged in state and local delegate selection.

“What we are focused on is after we won a state, to go back in and make sure we got delegates to hold their commitment to vote for our campaign. That’s a laborious process, and we are absolutely doing that,” said Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe.

Typically, “once the election’s over, [delegates] are nominated from state, county and congressional districts to be nominees to their state conventions. In that process, we make sure that we have slates of people that are supporting Ted Cruz,” Roe explained. “So that’s a county-by-county, congressional-district-by-congressional-district, state-by-state process that’s ongoing for the states that have already voted.”

The Trump campaign is putting a team in place to track the delegates who have already been designated on state ballots, said senior adviser Ed Brookover, and it will coordinate with its state staffs to monitor delegate selection.

Brookover, who is managing the process for the Trump campaign, says that skepticism of its ability to compete in this sort of process is “wishful thinking on the part of Mr. Trump’s opponents.”

He did not say how many staff members will ultimately be assigned to track delegates, but he expressed confidence that the campaign has the resources and the organizational muscle necessary to navigate the system.

Still, the process predates Trump’s candidacy in some cases. All of South Carolina’s 50 delegates, for instance, will be committed to supporting Trump on the first ballot. But to become a national delegate, someone has to have been a delegate to last spring’s state convention, which happened before Trump was even in the race.

“We have a known delegate pool,” South Carolina chairman Moore said. And their allegiances are likely to be closely tied to state officials such as Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, both of whom have tangled with Trump.

As for himself, Moore said, his decision on subsequent ballots, should they happen, will be based on which candidate has the best chance in the fall, which has the most fealty to the party platform, and possibly the selection of a running mate.

There are states where the candidates have more of a say in selecting delegates.

New Hampshire, for instance, is a rare one where delegates have already been named, and they were based on slates offered by the candidates themselves. Trump’s own campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, will be a delegate from the Granite State.

“New Hampshire is objectively one of the fairest delegate selection processes,” state party executive director Ross Berry said. “The control rests almost entirely with the campaigns and the candidates and the voter.”

Looking ahead, the campaigns will not only be tasked with tracking and lobbying delegates, but will also need to keep an eye on the emerging composition of the Republican National Convention Rules Committee. That committee of more than 100 will carry wide authority over the nominating rules at the convention, including rules over who can be nominated at all on the floor of the convention.

As it stands, one controversial rule dictates that candidates have to have won at least eight states with a majority to be nominated on the floor. Trump is the only candidate to have passed that benchmark thus far — which, ironically, was initially intended to protect establishment-favorite Mitt Romney in 2012.The composition of that committee will be decided in proxy fights between the establishment and grass-roots wings of the party at the state level. Party officials in each state will select two delegates to appoint to that committee — which is separate, and larger, from the RNC’s rules committee — and will have to balance grass-roots pressure alongside the preferences of power brokers in their regions.