If Congressional Republicans weren’t already despondent about the beating they’re likely to take in this year’s midterm elections, another variable has now been added to the equation that could wind up costing them votes in usually reliable GOP areas of the country: A trade war with China.
While the GOP will be trumpeting the passage of their massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans on the campaign trail, tensions between the U.S. and China on the issue of international trade could hamper their efforts to claim the economy is booming with President Donald Trump at the helm.
Recently, the conservative Tax Foundation released an analysis which estimated that at least a quarter of the benefits from the tax cut could be lost if new tariffs are imposed on China by the administration and the Chinese retaliate.
Even the usually tight-lipped Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told a group of farmers and business leaders in his home state last week that Trump’s talk of tariffs and trade wars makes him “nervous.”
Nebraska GOP Senator Ben Sasse was less diplomatic when asked for his opinion on the economic saber rattling from the president:
“If he’s even half-serious, this is nuts. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.”
The harshest criticism of Trump’s threats to China are coming from Republicans who represent states that rely on exporting their agricultural products. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts warned:
“These are real people, real families. You don’t use them as a playing card.”
Roberts’ comments were echoed by another member of the Agriculture Committee, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), who says he told the White House:
“Changes to our trade policy need to result in better deals for the U.S., but also avoid retaliatory tariffs on our agriculture exports.”
But if the president does indeed impose tariffs on China, the Chinese will push back with their own tariffs, most of which will indeed fall on American agricultural products. And that could make voters in reliably red states decide to take their economic frustrations out on Republicans at the ballot box.
So while the GOP is already sweating their losses in November, they could wind up getting hit with a blue tsunami even more devastating than what they’re already expecting if Trump decides his own ego is more important than the political fortunes of the party he supposedly leads.
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