Let’s accept what looks very likely: Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. This doesn’t just change key policy choices like taxes, Obamacare, environment and climate policy. Those would be a bummer. This is quite a bit more. I really wish all the talk about Trump being temperamentally unfit to be president was just talk. It wasn’t. This is not someone who has the steadiness, knowledge, emotional maturity to be president. The markets are clearly figuring this in. But a big part of what they’re figuring in is dramatic changes in global trade policy.
There is quite a lot to think about here. And we’ll be talking about all of them in the coming days. But here is one thing that I think is going to be a much bigger deal than we might have thought. Trade is a huge part of Trump’s agenda – if he sticks to it. How can we know? Trump will have a Congress dominated by a party that is still dominated by supporters of trade liberalization. Something has to give there. Is the Chamber of Commerce, Paul Ryan, most of the Republican senators going to go along with tearing up most of the country’s trade agreements? I very much doubt it.
I do think some Republicans will quickly get on board. We already saw where Newt Gingrich, when he thought he might be Veep, was happy to toss overboard his whole career as a free trader. Some will quickly do that. A lot are basically already there. You’re also going to have lots of Democrats who oppose Trump on that. But you’ll also have some who support him – maybe not support Trump himself but support him on moving in a more protectionist direction. I have grave concerns about the effect of all of this on the global economic order. But set that aside for a moment. There will be immense turbulence within the GOP over these issues.
These kinds of divisions are the kinds of things that can tear party coalitions apart, possibly both party coalitions.
Now, it’s quite possible Trump just settles for window dressing on the global trade front and goes along with conventional Republican orthodoxies on tax cutting, de-regulation, right to work laws and the rest. But I don’t know. We’re in very uncharted territory.