(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)


One core assumption driving Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is this: Voters will see even the seamier details of Trump’s business past as a positive, because even if he got rich by milking the corrupt system, Trump is now here to put his inside knowledge of the corrupt system to work on behalf of America — on your behalf. Trump has repeatedly said this himself in various forms.

Today the New York Times published some new quotes and details from Trump’s business past that will severely test this premise — particularly given Trump’s new emphasis on trade and globalization, in which he’s accusing Hillary Clinton of selling out American workers.

The Times reports that Trump’s trade speech, in which he declared that he’ll “protect” and “fight” for “the American worker,” is at odds with his history:

Such declarations are at odds with Mr. Trump’s long history as a businessman, in which he has been heavily — and proudly — reliant on foreign labor in the name of putting profits, rather than America, first. From cheap neckties to television sets, Mr. Trump has benefited from some of the trade practices he now scorns.

Click the link for the details on Trump’s businesses, but I wanted to highlight one quote in particular that the Times unearthed:

Mr. Trump usually makes the case that foreign labor is necessary to keep production costs down, but in an interview with David Letterman in 2012 he also offered a humanitarian argument for outsourcing. Teased for selling dress shirts that were made in Bangladesh, Mr. Trump expressed pride that he was creating jobs around the world.

“That’s good, we employ people in Bangladesh,” Mr. Trump said. “They have to work, too.”

Trump was joking — sort of, at least — but if you watch the video unearthed by the Times, you’ll see that this is a very potent clip. Note the part where Letterman points out that Trump’s ties are made in China, and Trump responds with an extended smirk. It’s not hard to envision this stuff in a forthcoming Democratic ad.

This suggests once again that there is no reason to assume that the big debate over globalization and trade will necessarily play to Trump’s advantage. Democrats will be able to point out that Trump repeatedly profited off of foreign labor in ways that he himself now claims sells out American workers. Remember, Trump’s big speech excoriates not just politicians who crafted free trade deals, but also business elites who profited off of them. As Trump put it: “Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.”

Now there’s video of Trump joking about this. Obviously, this sort of bravado about his own business past seemingly helped Trump in the GOP primary, including among the blue collar whites who supported him. And as noted above, Trump is wearing this as a badge of honor, as if his inside knowledge of the rigged global economic system equips him to reform it. The persuasive power of this argument should not be cavalierly dismissed. Hillary Clinton is likely vulnerable on globalization and on perceptions that she belongs to an elite that has let down American workers. What’s more, it may prove harder to persuade general election swing voters, particularly blue collar whites, that Trump isn’t genuinely on workers’ side than, say, it was to persuade them to believe the same about Mitt Romney, who had a patrician, aloof manner and did not speak to workers’ economic anxieties the way Trump is attempting to do.

But if Romney was vulnerable to getting painted as a heartless plutocrat and walking symbol of the cruelties of globalization and outsourcing, Trump is vulnerable to getting painted as a flim flam man who is selling American workers a scam. Trump is basically selling a two part scam, i.e., crude protectionism and nativism. Remember, the promise that mass deportations will make the American workforce great again is a crucial part of his nationalist economic message to blue collar whites. And it’s worth emphasizing that the particulars of this scam — even if it does well among those working class voters — is likely to further alienate other voter groups that could help decide the general election, such as college educated whites and minorities.

As Ron Brownstein notes today, that basic divide is already looking like it may prove decisive in the national popular vote and electoral college map:

In modern polling tracing back to 1952, no Democratic presidential candidate has ever carried most of those college-educated whites. Yet the last five national surveys have shown Clinton leading Trump with them….as the GOP is tugged more toward the resistance to immigration (and diversity more broadly) of its culturally conservative blue-collar wing, more college-educated voters will defect, perhaps lastingly….

Since 1992, Democrats have run better in older and heavily white working-class Rustbelt swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa than younger and diverse Sunbelt swing states including Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada….But many signs suggest that alignment may start to invert this year. With its big Hispanic population, Florida could be better terrain for Clinton than largely blue-collar Ohio or even Pennsylvania.

And so, Trump’s Fortress America approach to trade and globalization may prove a failure not just because of his own business past. It may actually exacerbate demographic trends that look poised to work against him, by helping Clinton to over-perform among college educated whites nationally and by alienating minorities in ways that puts must-win states like Florida out of reach.


* ANOTHER POLL SHOWS CLINTON WIDENING LEAD: A new Fox News poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 44-38 nationwide, up from a three point lead in May. Note:

Since May, Trump has lost ground with Republicans (-8 points), whites without degrees (-10 points), and men (-9 points).

Perhaps Trump’s plan to ride a wave of white working class anger into the White House is hitting turbulence. This poll is in sync with the polling averages, which put Clinton up 46-39.

* AMERICANS REJECT MUSLIM BAN: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Americans oppose banning Muslims from entering the U.S. by 52-40, and believe by 55-28 that Islam is a peaceful religion.

Not surprisingly, Republicans support the Muslim ban by 73-22, and say Islam encourages violence by 45-38. It’s such a mystery that Republicans are about to nominate Trump, isn’t it?

* AMERICANS AGREE WITH HILLARY ON ISLAM AND TERROR: The new Quinnipiac poll also finds that Americans agree with Clinton by 51-43 that making inflammatory anti-Muslim remarks is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Republicans disagree with this by 72-21.

* TRUMP CAMPAIGN IS M.I.A. IN PENNSYLVANIA: Pundits say Trump has a chance at winning the White House via the blue collar whites in Pennsylvania. But Politico reports:

Local party leaders in some of the state’s most pivotal counties say there’s been almost no outreach from his campaign so far and there’s scant evidence of any Trump-driven ground organization. What infrastructure is in place lags behind the Democratic coordinated campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton….local officials report little interaction with the Trump campaign.

Don’t worry, Trump’s Pennsylvania operation will be huge and tremendous, you’ll see.

* MITCH McCONNELL’S CLEVER TRUMP GAME: In a new interview, the Senate Majority Leader pretends to distance himself from Trump:

“Trump clearly needs to change, in my opinion, to win the general election,” McConnell said…“My hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land,” the majority leader said. When pressed about whether Trump was now “credible” as a presidential candidate, he said: “He’s getting closer.”

Don’t get played by this. It’s just an effort to put distance between Trump and McConnell’s vulnerable Senate GOP incumbents. In reality, McConnell backs Trump all the way.

 * TRUMP’S LATEST DISSEMBLING ON TRADE, DEBUNKED: Trump likes to say that China will enter the “back door” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Michelle Lee looks into the claim, and finds that Trump is full of it:

It’s still not clear what Trump is referring to when he talks about a “back door” into TPP that China allegedly will use. We consulted a wide range of experts who support and oppose the trade accord, but they said there is no formal “back door” into the deal; rather, any non-TPP countries looking to enter would need to go through a formal accession process.

Our weak elites are selling out to China. That’s a great story, and no amount of facts can change that.

* AND IS BERNIE SQUANDERING HIS LEVERAGE? Bernie Sanders still hasn’t endorsed Clinton, because he sees this as a way to get more changes to the platform. E.J. Dionne contrasts his approach with that of Elizabeth Warren:

Warren, the other leading politician revered by the Democratic left, has made a different choice: She’s embracing Clinton fully. Warren campaigned on her behalf this week with enthusiasm, even glee, and seems to have a special gift for getting under Trump’s skin….Sanders is staying on its outskirts…The risk is that he will lose his moment….Sanders has to decide if accelerating his plans to endorse Clinton is now the best way to maximize progressive influence.

Indeed, even some top Sanders supporters are now prodding him to endorse, and more likely will do the same. It’s unclear whether holding off even accomplishes Sanders’s own goal.