Donald Trump is the subject of ferocious opposition and his re-election is clearly in danger. So why does he continue to take major actions that are obviously not in his best political and re-election interests?
Most politicians protect their re-election chances by avoiding anything that might hurt. On a number of issues, Trump has done the opposite.
Take, for example, his trade battle with China. Personally, I believe his tough China stance is the right thing to do. It’s about time a president stood up to China’s economic warfare. But it’s clearly hurting him politically and, if it results in an economic downturn, could be the end of his presidency.
Trump does a lot of contradictory things. But it’s quite remarkable that he would work against his own political interests.
He’s taken a big risk by imposing tough tariffs on China, especially because China’s strategy is obviously to wait him out until election day, hoping he won’t be re-elected. The tariffs are clearly hurting China, but the autocratic regime has determined to absorb the pain with the expectation that the next president will cave in.
Trump is at risk politically because the tariffs have roiled the U.S. stock market a couple of times, contributing to big drops, and have hurt farmers and some manufacturers.
If the tariffs contribute to a serious economic decline next year, then Trump’s re-election is likely doomed.
So it’s an enormous political risk, when Trump could easily have just done a lot of tough talking about China – like other presidents have done -- but never taken serious action.
China’s extreme anti-U.S. economic actions certain warrant Trump’s tariffs and other measures. China blatantly steals intellectual property, forces technology transfers, hacks sensitive information, dumps heavily subsidized products on U.S. markets, allows exportation of deadly fentanyl, blatantly manipulates its currency, and works against U.S. interests across the world.
Those Chinese practices have come to be known the “seven deadly sins” in the Trump administration. The playing field is far from level in commerce with China.
Trump playing hardball did come close to winning some major concessions before China reneged. A second Trump term would likely bring China to the table willing to compromise.
To their credit, a few Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have supported Trump in his tough China stance. But most Democrats have excoriated the president for being naïve, not knowing what he’s doing, and for endangering the U.S. economy.
No question exists that Communist China wants to dominate the world economically. And it will use whatever means is necessary to accomplish its goals. While it obviously doesn’t want war with the United States, it will use its growing military and economic might to intimidate its neighbors and gain strategic advantages in many regions.
I know it’s unpopular to say anything positive about Trump. (There’s a reasonable chance my wife will make me sleep in the dog house tonight – and the dog house is 140 miles away at the farm.)
But I think he’s right to stand up to China, even if costs him re-election. I would hope the next president won’t cave.