On trade as on much else, Trump gonna Trump. In this respect, as least, the man is what he says he was.
And that puts Republicans in a tough spot. The president has weathered the federal investigation into his campaign without very much damage, the economy is by most measures in very fine shape, and nothing seems likely to dampen the enthusiasm or erode the loyalty of President Trump’s most committed partisans. By contrast, the Democrats are wading into socialism, university-style outrage theater has spread well beyond the campuses, and the party is divided between callow radicals such as Representative Ilhan Omar and such politically senescent dust bunnies as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Which is to say, many Republicans are feeling pretty good about where they are right now and about where they are likely to be in 2020. There are many people who might lead a national wave against Trump & Co. in 2020, but it is not obvious that Senator Elizabeth Warren is one of them, nor Robert Francis O’Rourke, nor many of the other denizens of the Mos Eisley cantina that is the 2020 Democratic primary.
If the question before Republicans right now is whether theirs is Donald Trump’s party or Charles Grassley’s party, then the answer to that is pretty obvious, and it rhymes with harrumph. But in the long term, policy does matter, and the question of whether Republicans should be the free-trade party that they long have been or whether they should embrace a Wallace-Buchanan-Perot-Trump model of populist neo-mercantilism is one that deserves some attention.