Trade war? What trade war?

Consumers, from their position of relative safety, have not screamed to stop the trade war. Moreover, even as prices increase more noticeably, they may remain sedate: They are notoriously impossible to mobilize politically.

It is perhaps more puzzling that America’s businesses have not put up a bigger fight, because they have borne the brunt of Trump’s tariffs.

Trump’s neutralization of the American corporate community began when he started the trade war in their name. The tariffs are supposedly in response to mistreatment of American companies by the Chinese authorities. That messaging campaign led some industry groups to praise the Trump administration’s tough treatment of China (though far fewer went so far as to endorse the tariffs).

The pushback has also been muted by the on-again, off-again, rhythm of Trump’s trade war, with near victories announced, and then unannounced, every few months. Whenever a deal seems imminent, hopes are raised that the tariffs are working, in the sense that they could extract meaningful concessions from the Chinese. Pushing Trump to get rid of them, in these moments, seems counterproductive—and the moments keep coming.