In the document, Democrats promise they will rectify “the damage President Trump’s reckless [trade] policies have done to American farmers.” But they’ll do so “by working with our allies to stand up to China.” Working with allies is fine, but this language accepts Trump’s terms of debate. For years, American farmers have benefited immensely from exporting to China. Trump disrupted that relationship by launching a ruinous trade war. Surely what’s needed now isn’t for Democrats to “stand up” to China but to cooperate with it to rebuild the economic ties on which so many American exporters depend. But when it comes to the economic relationship between Washington and Beijing, Democrats evidently deem the word “cooperate” to be too soft.
The Democrats’ response to the Trump administration’s crackdown on Chinese and Chinese American students and academics—many of whom have been barred from the U.S. or forced from their jobs in ways that evoke the McCarthy era—is similarly backhanded. To its credit, the platform acknowledges that “the openness of our society” is a source of “American strength.” But it then concludes the paragraph by declaring that “undermining those strengths … would be a gift to the Chinese Communist Party.” Even when arguing for preserving America’s openness to Chinese immigrants, students, and researchers, the manifesto justifies that openness in the language of confrontation. The document says a “Cold War” with China would be a “trap,” but, time and again, Democrats fall into that trap in their language.