Warning: this column is not about President Donald Trump’s personality. There’s been enough ink spilled — or breath wasted — on that. It’s going to be about his policies.
When Donald Trump first started running for president, I didn’t quite understand his appeal.
As a conservative, I didn’t see how he fit into the traditional mold. I wasn’t adamantly opposed to his policies like some were, but I didn’t see how they were high priority.
He had several policy ideas and plans for America, but there were two big ones that stood out.
First of all, the obvious one: the big wall along the Mexican border and tightening on illegal immigration. I thought that we should have secure borders, but I didn’t see how this should be at the top of the priority list.
Secondly, better trade deals. He was initially branded as being a protectionist. As a conservative, I always considered tariffs as taxes. After all, that is what they are: taxes on imports. Taxes slow business and progress, so I didn’t quite understand how a Republican could like them. I was personally in favor of NAFTA, even though I sympathized with rural, displaced workers who felt that their jobs were eliminated and sent to other countries. My perspective is that free trade makes the world more efficient and allows our goods and services to be cheaper, therefore increasing the purchasing power of the consumers. More purchasing power means everyone — the poor, rich, and middle class — can spend more money, which in the end means more jobs everywhere.
To be fair, Trump said he was for free trade but that he wanted good trade deals.
These two policies — stricter enforcement on illegal immigration and better trade deals — could be summed up in two words: “America First.”
“I believe in always putting the interests of the American citizens first. Always,” he writes in Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America. “There aren’t second or third places. That level of commitment has been what has been missing for so long in our foreign policy, in our trade policy, and in our immigration policy.”
Although much has been written about Trump, there’s been very little actual substantive discussion on his policies. And when the media discusses his policies, they often label him a racist or xenophobe. Critics have tried to characterize Trump as a fascist and use the word “nationalist” negatively to make him sound like a dictator.
But let’s contrast Trump’s vision with what open border enthusiasts wanted about four years ago. Some 2016 articles imagined a utopian world in which we don’t have borders. They told us to imagine the wonderful world in which people could come and go as they pleased. They could come shop here, attend a play or game, bless us with their own skills and business, then return home. Or they could just stay here. Either way was fine. No need for tariffs on goods that came and went, and no need for customs enforcement.
“The economic case that open borders would dramatically improve the well-being of the world is rock solid,” wrote Dylan Matthews in a 2014 Vox article.
It all sounded so wonderful.
It all sounded so … anti-Trump.
Fast forward to 2020, and we have a major crisis. Earlier this spring a virus threatened to shut down countries and grind commerce, travel, and social life to a halt. On Jan. 31, Trump chose to restrict travel from China, where Covid-19 had originated. Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, called the decision “xenophobic,” but later backed away from those claims.
Before the United States was infected by Covid-19, Italy had been the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak in the Western world. The cosmopolitan Northern city Milan specifically had been hammered by the Coronavirus. Milan has a large population of Chinese, and there had very possibly been more travel to and from China from the Northern Italian city. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), Milan holds the second highest percentage of Chinese residents in Italy.
The point is not to beat up on China. It would be understandable today if some countries wanted to restrict travel from the United States, since we have had about 8 million cases of the Coronavirus.
The point is that viruses spread faster when there are no international travel restrictions. Italy was probably first infected by the virus from international travel. In fact, every country in the world except for China was first infected by Covid-19 due to international travel or commerce.
This is not to say that travel is bad. In fact, travel has enabled much good in the world. Businesses have hired people in underdeveloped countries thanks to travel. Family members have been able to visit relatives due to travel. Christians have been able to spread the good news of Christ and the Bible thanks to travel.
But travel can have its negatives also.
And here is where Trump’s original proposals are proving to be exactly what we needed all along.
We want immigration, but its needs to be limited. We want trade, but even that needs to be safeguarded.
Covid-19 should have taught us the wisdom of Trump’s plan and the dangerous opposing viewpoint of having a nation without borders or restrictions along its borders. Imagine if we had open borders and no way to restrict them when the Coronavirus broke out.
Covid-19 wasn’t the only vindication for Trump. In the last few years, Americans have been learning about the dangers of trading and doing business with China. It’s understandable that we like cheaper products, and it has been wonderful that millions of people in China have a higher quality of life and jobs because we purchase their products.
But here are a few dangers of trading with China:
-We have become over-reliant on the products we purchase from China. According to The Washington Times, “China is among the top providers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) — the basic components for antibiotics and other prescription drugs consumed by Americans.”
-We are as concerned as ever that China is stealing our intellectual property.
-China has been persecuting Christians and Muslims, showing a complete disdain for individual rights and religious liberty.
-China has become more of an authoritarian country.
-China seems to have plans to grow its economy and its military and overtake the United States as the No. 1 superpower in the world.
-The quality of China’s products is proving to be even poorer than we realized. American companies are beginning to realize that it’s not actually cheaper to manufacture something overseas if you then have to pay for transportation and to fix the product when it lands in the U.S. Therefore, American manufacturing jobs are growing again.
Also, Trump was right on trade. Free trade is good, but tariffs can be a good tool when negotiating. Trump explains in his book “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America” that as a businessman, he realizes that the stronger negotiating partner has more power. As the leader of the free world, he carries more sway when negotiating with any other country.
And our trade deals have forgotten some of our workers. Journalist and author Beth Macy writes about some of the workers in “Factory Man,” a story of a furniture manufacturer in the rural South that grows to prominence only to be dismantled due to trade with China. Macy writes and explains that many displaced factory workers never found work again after losing their jobs overseas or to Mexico.
Proponents of NAFTA and free trade in general can argue that the ends justify the means and that more Americans will benefit than lose out on trade agreements. This may be true, but Trump wanted to take these policies to a new level, tweak them, and help employees such as those laid off from furniture manufacturers.
In conclusion, both immigration and trade are good ideas. As President Ronald Reagan once described America as: “In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”
Some open border proponents may argue everyone should be able to come in the country without restrictions. But that’s not what Reagan was saying. Yes, we should be kind and hospitable. But we should also lock our doors and be prudent.
Much of the dialogue about immigration is really about changing the electorate. Democrats realize that first-time voters from our Southern neighbors vote for them (unless they escape from countries such as communist Cuba). They also realize that some illegal immigrants probably vote, especially in Western states that don’t require E-Verify for employees and where illegal immigrants can take refuge in sanctuary cities.
President Trump also explains in his book “Great Again” that he still welcomes immigrants, but he wants them to come in the right way and wants to keep America safe.
His words sound very similar to those of Ronald Reagan when Trump describes the wall he envisioned along the Mexico border.
Trump says he believes in having a wall, but also in having a “great big door” to welcome immigrants.
Let’s keep the door there to allows us to prosper and welcome friends. Let’s keep a wall there to prevent our enemies and viruses from entering.