President Donald Trump stepped into office amid a groundswell of populism and economic nationalism met with high expectations.
He also faced fierce resistance from a political and financial establishment in Washington, D.C. and Wall Street that had been knocked back on its heels by an election result they failed to foresee.
The president’s trip to Wisconsin will test the strength of that resistance–including resistance from within Trump’s inner circle–as well as the strength of Trump’s resolve to live up to the expectations of his supporters.
“Today we are not transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people,” Trump announced in his inaugural address.
In recent weeks, however, that transfer of power has become harder to discern. The White House’s attention has been focused on events in Syria and North Korea, while the rejection of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare set off a power struggle within the executive branch. Trump reversed himself on his support for the Export-Import Bank, his evaluation of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and on the question of whether China is a currency manipulator. A coterie of advisers from New York City, including former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, has reportedly taken the helm at the White House.
Trump’s travels to Wisconsin on Tuesday present an opportunity for the president to restore a sense of balance–even a sense of mission–to his administration. According to White House officials, Trump plans to tout his call to “buy American and hire American” during a stop at the headquarters of Snap-on Inc, a Wisconsin-based tool manufacturer. Whether the president can still summon the spirit of his fiery campaign speeches may be key indicator of whether or not the man who came to drain the swamp has been drained himself.
Wisconsin is, in many ways, the perfect place for the president to demonstrate his independence from the financiers and long-time GOP stalwarts who appear to have recently gained so much sway over him. Manufacturing jobs are central to the state’s economy, accounting for 16 percent of the workforce. But the state was hard hit by the Great Recession, losing tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs. And although its unemployment rate is still quite low, manufacturing has yet to recover to pre-recession levels. And manufacturing job creation has stalled, barely rising over the past two years.
In other words, this is a state that is far from being “tired of winning.” It could use quite a few more wins on trade and taxes, wins that could restore the good jobs destroyed during the Great Recession. This will be Trump’s first trip to Wisconsin since taking office.
Snap-on was founded in Wisconsin in 1920. Its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SNA. The company has a market cap of around $9.4 billion, according to data from MarketWatch.
Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide to carry the state. But it is hardly “safe terrain” for the president. He carried the state by a mere 23,000 votes, less than a full percentage point. Already, Wisconsin Democrats have been taking aim at the president, accusing him of being “full of empty promises.”
“We don’t even see the glimmer of an agenda from him,” Martha Laning, chairwoman of the state’s Democratic party, told the Associated Press.
It likely will take more than rhetoric and promises to keep Wisconsin–and by extension, many Americans in areas where the local economy is still suffering from years of misguided or neglectful policies–in the Trump column. Trump will need to unveil concrete pro-jobs policies in Wisconsin if he is going to shine through the muck of the swamp that many fear now clings to his presidency.