Last week I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself.
I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke.
I was disgusted by these things as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years.
But I also noticed something surprising.
In each of the speeches I watched Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue – one that could even be called left-wing.
Yes Donald Trump talked about trade.
In fact to judge by how much time he spent talking about it trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy.
Not even his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border – the issue that first won him political fame.
He did it again during the debate on 3 March: asked about his political excommunication by Mitt Romney he chose to pivot and talk about … trade.
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made – the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands – the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership the government would ‘start competitive bidding in the drug industry’.
(‘We don’t competitively bid!’ he marveled – another true fact – a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.)
Trump extended the critique to the military-industrial complex – describing how the government is forced to buy lousy but expensive airplanes thanks to the power of industry lobbyists.
Thus did he hint at his curious selling proposition: because he is personally so wealthy – a fact about which he loves to boast – Trump himself is unaffected by business lobbyists and donations.
And because he is free from the corrupting power of modern campaign finance famous deal-maker Trump can make deals on our behalf that are ‘good’ instead of ‘bad’.
The chance that he will actually do so of course is small.
He appears to be a hypocrite on this issue as well as so many other things.
But at least Trump is saying this stuff.
All this surprised me because for all the articles about Trump I had read in recent months I didn’t recall trade coming up very often.
Trump is supposed to be on a one-note crusade for whiteness.
Could it be that all this trade stuff is a key to understanding the Trump phenomenon?
(ed:..please..!..nobody tell paul henry about this – we don’t want to spoil/mar/muddy his wall-to-wall trump bro-mance..do we..?..)