What's really behind Trump's protectionism

The People’s Party faded quickly, but its agenda and some of its policy proposals were soon taken up by new champions within the political mainstream (Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressives, the Democratic Party) who devised a more viable response to the concerns of the voters who rallied to the populist message.

The situation today is different, and more dangerous, because the populist has the power of the presidency in his hands, and the fact remains that protectionism is economically foolish. The global trade war Trump appears eager to provoke is far more likely to harm the nation as a whole and in most of its parts than it is to spark a resurgence in the regions of the county that most strongly support the president.

But politically? There it’s simply too soon to assess the impact and importance of Trump’s effort at championing the interests of those who have failed to thrive in the free-trade era. The proof will be found in who follows him in political power — and what of his agenda gets preserved, transformed, and refashioned for a more prosperous and equitable American future.