Political strategist Pat Caddell tells Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon about what he describes as the “stunning” emergency of “economic nationalism” that’s the driving force behind both the Republican primary race, and the Bernie Sanders insurgency against Hillary Clinton.
As Caddell puts it, the American people have concluded they’re getting “screwed” by trade deals, immigration policy, and other areas where their interests are not considered a priority by their own political and business leaders. He contended this backlash against the elites was the reason so many highly-touted candidates have flamed out of the GOP primary, which is on the verge of boiling down to a two-man race between the two leading anti-Establishment candidates, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz.
Caddell said the critique of free trade from Trump – and to a lesser extent, his final remaining competitors – was the kind of break from party orthodoxy that could only happen during an election dominated by “outsider forces” and “insurgents.”
“Trump is the more populist outsider, the insurgent,” said Caddell. “Ted Cruz has been the more ideological insurgent.”
He attributed Trump’s greater success thus far to the primary electorate leaning toward populism, but saluted Cruz for “drawing his differences quite well” with Trump during Thursday’s encounter – a vitally important task for Cruz, as the once-crowded GOP primary moves into a two-candidate head-to-head finale.
However, he chalked up the win for Trump based on the trade issue, which Caddell described as a “stunner” when he recently polled voters on the issues important to them. He said that poll showed “Republicans, and independents following Republicans, even more than Democrats are anti-free-trade… or, I should say, they have had it with trade deals, just as they’ve had it with the Washington establishment.”
“What’s happening is, the economic anxiety – the tremendous alienation that exists, and the concerns about national security, and particularly China – are all fueling this nexus issue, which is all being expressed in concrete terms over these trade deals,” he explained, noting the issue scored especially strong in Michigan and Mississippi exit polls.
Caddell further argued this “nexus issue” was the reason so many analysts were taken by surprise when Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democrat primary. He faulted the hasty and superficial nature of many other media polls for failing to detect these powerful shifts of opinion in voters on both sides of the party divide.
“It’s everywhere, in every constituency,” Caddell said of voter alienation from the Beltway establishment. “But remember, just this last August, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, when Barack Obama was on his rear – having had the rug pulled out from under him by Democrats, and on the verge of a major defeat, in advance of the Iran deal – who came riding to his rescue but McConnell and Boehner – as I assume after they got the phone call from the Chamber of Commerce – and managed to finagle whatever way they did it, to resurrect TPA, the authority… and to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, if you’re looking at it politically.”
Caddell said the “overwhelming sentiment” among Republican and Democrat voters alike is running against backroom deals, especially the kind voters fear will be coming their way as Republicans cave to Obama during his final lame-duck year.
He cited one particular question from his poll, which found 72 percent agreement with the proposition that “the same people who have been rigging the rules in politics have been rigging the rules for their own benefit.”
Caddell said Senator Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich were “panicked” as they realized they’re on the wrong side of the trade issue from this huge contingent of alienated Republican voters.
“You had Rubio, who said his foreign policy had three legs to the stool, and the third one was TPP. You had Kasich, who has been a big supporter of free trade… and I believe, I haven’t gone back and looked, but I think he was in Congress in ’93, and if so, I bet you he voted for NAFTA. How much you wanna bet? Somebody ought to look that one up. That’s the real point this morning, that could change the election in Ohio,” Caddell asserted. “If he did, as I suspect, voted for NAFTA, he could get killed on this now.”
As a matter of fact, yes, John Kasich was a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It has come up during the primary campaign in the past, most notably during a July interview between Kasich and Chuck Todd of NBC News, when Kasich weakly admitted, “I think we have, in some ways, been saps.”
Caddell may take some satisfaction from knowing that Kasich has been trying a little damage control on free trade since the summer, but if he’s right about the Ohio endgame, it won’t be good enough to save Kasich from the forces of economic nationalism.
Caddell said Ted Cruz has been on “both sides” of the recent trade authority dispute, a position Cruz clarified during the Thursday night debate by saying he was in favor of the authority process, but against the trade agreement that emerged. Caddell thought Trump has done a far better job of tacking into the wind of the Republican base voters’ disenchantment with trade agreements, saying he “struck there” first, at a time when the issue was still largely regarded as “ancillary” by Republican strategists.
He argued that the press has fundamentally misunderstood the Trump phenomenon all along, because they think Trump’s personality and celebrity shifted GOP voters’ positions on issues like free trade and immigration, when in truth Trump was tapping into a “free-floating anxiety” about economics, and sense of “political alienation,” which had been building in those voters for years.
“The ‘independent variable’ is the American people who are driving the election, and Donald Trump is the dependent variable,” Caddell declared. “He has been the vehicle closest, for many, many Republicans – despite all of the other problems – substantively, on the issue, and it is economic nationalism.”
He advised other Republican candidates not to shy away from this “economic nationalism” concept, as fully 75 percent of their voters are behind it, and it’s also a major component of Bernie Sanders’ success on the Democrat side.
“Wall Street will freak out. All of the quote ‘better people’ who’ve been sitting in their ivory towers, economists, saying, ‘oh, free trade is good for you,’ whatever… well, the American people have figured out that they’ve been screwed,” Caddell said, noting high levels of support for supposedly unthinkable measures like tariffs, especially when applied to countries that abuse trade agreements, or treat their workers poorly.
“I am telling you, we’re in a new paradigm. This is a revolutionary moment,” he said, describing it as a “historical moment of evolution in our political process” whose outcome could not yet be predicted… especially by politicians and poll-addicted pundits who have misunderstood the Trump-Sanders moment thus far.
Many of those pundits assumed Trump’s appeal would fizzle, comparing it to themes from earlier failed campaigns, as far back as Pat Buchanan’s run in 1992. If Caddell’s analysis is correct, what these other analysts missed was that many streams of discontent flowed into the river of “economic nationalism,” creating a unified focus for a huge number of Republican voters – and an impressive number of Democrats – who feel the incestuous political and Big Business elite no longer serve their interests. Indeed, a good deal of Washington culture is actively hostile toward them.
These voters feel like internationalist orthodoxy was given a chance to succeed… and they are profoundly disappointed in the results. They haven’t just lost confidence in the elite. They don’t even think they can command its respect, or even get its attention. In Donald Trump, they see a champion who will not easily be ignored.
You can listen to the full interview with Pat Caddell below:
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