As is often the case with Donald Trump, when he speaks, the world seems like it’s upside down.
On Monday, Trump unveiled his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club at Cobo Center in Detroit. Outside, a group of UAW supporters protested Trump’s presence in the Motor City.
Inside, Trump promised to renegotiate -- or toss out -- the North American Free Trade Agreement. He called it “a disaster” for American jobs, and a “job killer.”
Which is pretty much what the UAW and other labor unions screamed about for years before NAFTA was passed in 1994. They said it would drain American jobs and hurt the middle class. But the auto industry and suppliers pushed for it, saying it would make the industry more competitive.
Trump also promised to back out of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that UAW President Dennis Williams argued in a recent letter to the editors of The New York Times will increase the trade deficit by $55 billion and result in 121,000 fewer manufacturing jobs by 2030.
So what’s going on? Inside Cobo, much of the audience clapped loudly when Trump announced cutting taxes, slashing regulations, and backing out of trade deals. Outside, protesters rallied around Trump’s idealism, with a loud chant of “No Trump, no KKK, no facist USA.”
Working-class Republicans have been criticized in the past for voting against their own economic interests, voting instead for candidates who support their conservative ideological beliefs. On the surface, it seems that unionized workers may be doing the same thing, supporting candidates who are in favor of trade deals that result in fewer U.S. jobs because those candidates reflect back their own liberal ideologies.
It was, after all, a Democrat who passed NAFTA in the first place -- Bill Clinton.
Trump has attacked many of the core beliefs of the UAW and other unions -- diversity and equality. His attacks on minorities and women have been well-documented and well-publicized, so we don’t need to repeat them here.
But maybe financial interests are not the driving force behind many voters’ decisions. Maybe it’s not “the economy, stupid,” the famous phrase coined by Bill Clinton’s lead adviser James Carville. Maybe people need more than financial promises to get behind a presidential candidate.
Editor's note: The North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1994. An earlier version of this blog used the incorrect year.