With polls showing Donald Trump well on his way to crushing Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida tomorrow, and possibly winning in Ohio as well, the Post weighs in with a revelation that, in a sane political universe, would deal immense damage to Trump’s candidacy.
But it almost certainly won’t. And that explains a lot about what is really driving Trump’s appeal.
The Post report reveals that Trump, in setting up a new line of clothing named after himself (Trump really has an affection for naming things after himself, doesn’t he?), did not give any concern to whether the product would be made in America. Despite running a candidacy based on criticism of “stupid” free trade deals, he profited off of foreign labor abroad:
Trump signed on with Phillips-Van Heusen, a manufacturer of affordable shirts produced in factories in 85 countries.
The 2004 deal — one of the first of many merchandise-licensing arrangements in which Trump attached his name to products made by foreign workers and sold in the United States — is relevant today as the billionaire businessman wages a populist presidential campaign in which he accuses companies of killing U.S. jobs by moving manufacturing overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and lax workplace regulations.
Documents and interviews reveal the personal role Trump played in negotiating the deal. Participants said they could not recall him expressing a preference that products be made in the United States. “Finding the biggest company with the best practices is what was important to him,” said Jeff Danzer, who was vice president of the company hired by Trump to broker the deal. “Finding a company that made in America was never something that was specified.”
Today, Donald J. Trump Collection shirts — as well as eyeglasses, perfume, cuff links and suits — are made in Bangladesh, China, Honduras and other low-wage countries.
Trump’s GOP rivals and the Super PACs hoping to stop him have previously attacked Trump for other similar revelations, declaring him a hypocrite and a phony who is conning working class voters by pretending to be on their side. But such attacks don’t appear to work. Why not?
The most likely explanation — beyond the most obvious one, which is that information like this is simply not getting through to Republican voters — may be that, in a perverse way, revelations like these actually bolster his message, rather than undercutting it. Trump’s argument is that he has a unique grasp, via direct experience and participation, of all the ways in which our political and economic system is rigged to make it easier for people such as himself to fleece working Americans. This understanding of how the game really works positions him well to fix it. He has been in on the elites’ scam for decades, and now, having made a killing off of it, he’s here to put an end to it.
Trump has made this argument explicitly, again and again and again, in multiple different ways. At the most recent GOP debate, Trump effectively declared that he understood better than any other candidate that politicians are bought and paid for — because he has bought and paid for politicians himself! At the debate, Trump also rebuffed criticism of his reliance on immigrant labor here and foreign labor abroad by arguing that “because nobody knows the system better than me…I’m the one that knows how to change it.” Trump didn’t apologize for these things. Instead, he converted them into evidence that he understands how immigration and global trade rules are enabling people like himself to screw over workers, while his rivals don’t.
Trump recently acknowledged that he’s been milking the system for a very long time, but turned that, too, into an argument for his candidacy. “I’ve always been greedy. I love money, right?” he said. “But you know what? I want to be greedy for our country.”
Still more: When Trump vowed to raise taxes on top earners and hedge funders last fall, he claimed that soaring executive pay is a “total and complete joke,” a scam engineered by the executives themselves. This, again, was based on inside knowledge. “I know these guys,” Trump said of hedge funders. “I know companies very well.”
My strong suspicion is that attacks on Trump’s less-than-pristine ways of acquiring his wealth, which are designed to portray him as a sleazy, greedy profiteer, lead a lot of GOP voters, particularly his supporters, to say: “So Trump is a sleazy, greedy, profiteer? Good — please be sleazy, greedy and profiteering on my behalf.”
Now, as it turns out, Trump’s actual tax plan delivers a huge windfall to top earners. And in many other ways, Trump is scamming his supporters, as well: he’s exaggerating the impact of trade deals on the fortunes of American workers, and absurdly suggesting that his promise of carrying out mass deportations shows that he has the toughness necessary to crush the immigrant threat to their economic interests.
The point, though, is that voters who are prepared to buy into that larger story Trump is telling — about the various ways in which our economic and political systems enable elites, immigrants, and shadowy foreign bureaucrats to screw over struggling Americans — probably won’t see it as a negative that Trump himself profited massively off that system, and won’t see a problem with his argument that this uniquely equips him to blow it up. These are only the latest signs that he “tells it like it is.” For those who are already open to believing that Trump’s tale shows that he has their backs, the final step of accepting that argument really isn’t all that big.
* TRUMP CRUSHING RUBIO IN FLORIDA: A new NBC/WSJ/Marist poll shows Donald Trump way ahead of Marco Rubio in his home state: Trump has 43 percent, Marco Rubio has 22 percent, and Ted Cruz has 21 percent. A new CBS News poll of Florida gives Trump 44 percent, to 24 percent for Cruz, and 21 percent for Rubio.
It still seems very unlikely that Rubio will place third in Florida, given that the polling averages place him comfortably in second. But if that did happen, what a way to go out that would be.
* KASICH LEADS IN OHIO: The new NBC polling shows John Kasich with 39 percent in his home state of Ohio, Trump with 33 percent, Cruz with 19 percent, and Rubio down at six percent. The new CBS polling also shows Kasich and Trump tied at 33 percent, with Cruz at 27 percent and Rubio again down at six percent. Not only is Rubio way behind in Florida, he’s also apparently sitting in single digits in Ohio.
The polling averages put Kasich up barely more than one point. Kasich pulling out a win in Ohio is important to any hopes of stopping Trump from winning an outright majority of the delegates, and with it the nomination, particularly if he runs away with Florida.
* HILLARY UP IN OHIO AND FLORIDA: The new CBS polling shows Clinton leading Sanders by 62-34 in Florida, and by 52-43 in Ohio new NBC polling also shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders 58-38 in Ohio; 61-34 in Florida; and 51-45 in Illinois. From NBC:
The size of Clinton’s lead in all three states directly correlates to her advantage with African-American Democratic voters — 57 points in Florida (77 percent to 20 percent), 48 points in Ohio (72 percent to 24 percent) and 39 points in Illinois (67 percent to 28 percent).
If Clinton wins both, this will underscore again how important the African American vote was to withstanding the Sanders challenge. But the polling may be wrong — as in Michigan — and Sanders may have a real shot at upsets, particularly in Ohio, another Rust Belt state.
* MORE POLLING CONFIRMS TRUMP’S LEAD IN FLORIDA: A new Quinnipiac poll also finds Trump way, way up over Rubio in Florida (46-22) and tied with Kasich in Ohio (38-38). It also shows Clinton way, way up over Sanders in Florida (60-34) and locked in a tight contest in Ohio (51-46).
* INSIDE KASICH’S LONG-SHOT BID FOR NOMINATION: Reuters reports that Kasich and his advisers see a long-shot chance at winning the nomination, if they can deny Trump a majority of delegates and force a contested convention:
Kasich supporters are betting that an Ohio win will give his candidacy its first real momentum, attracting donors and endorsements. From there, he could score more victories in upcoming primaries in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Wisconsin, Connecticut and California, states where Kasich polls favorably….if he can succeed in blocking Trump from getting a majority, Kasich can make a case to convention delegates that he is more electable than Trump or Ted Cruz.
Eliminating Rubio is critical, since Rubio would likely otherwise be the establishment favorite at a contested convention. So a Florida loss is pivotal to making this all happen.
* PROGRESSIVES HAVE SOUL SEARCHING TO DO, TOO: E.J. Dionne writes that the ideological ferment giving rise to Trumpism should lead Dems and liberals to examine whether the left, too, needs to respond to the economic travails of the moment more adequately:
The strength of Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton from the left, like the radicalization of American conservatism, is a symptom of the decay of a moderate brand of progressivism that rose in the 1990s…Those who believe in gradual, steady progress need to provide plausible responses to a world both less secure and less orderly than it was in the 1990s. Otherwise, the alternatives, as Trump is showing us, will be both irrational and grim.
* AND THE GOP ESTABLISHMENT HELPED CREATE TRUMP: Paul Krugman marvels at the establishment Republicans who are shocked, shocked that Trump’s demagoguery works, after spending years using more subtle demagoguery to distract the GOP base from the true nature of their policy agenda:
The underlying assumption behind the establishment strategy was that voters could be fooled again and again: persuaded to vote Republican out of rage against Those People, then ignored after the election while the party pursued its true, plutocrat-friendly priorities. Now comes Mr. Trump, turning the dog whistles into fully audible shouting, and telling the base that it can have the bait without the switch. And the establishment is being destroyed by the monster it created.
Another way to put all of this: Maybe Trump is proving to be better at misleading GOP base voters than GOP establishment figures are. Better step up your game, guys!