Wisconsin Voters Reject Paul Ryan on Trade

Paul Ryan Laughing AP

In a stunning rebuke of the trade policies of Wisconsin’s most famous lawmaker and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a mere one in three Wisconsin Republicans sided with Ryan’s trade vision in a question that put the most positive possible spin on Ryan’s view.

Tuesday’s exit polling question asked Wisconsin voters simply, “How do foreign trade deals affect U.S. jobs?” Voters were given the options: foreign trade deals “take away jobs,” “create more jobs,” or “does not affect jobs.”

If the question had not been posed as a generic hypothetical, but instead went after a more concrete determination of voters’ thoughts on our current international trade deals, the exit polls presumably would have produced an even more striking result.

Even still, the Wisconsin exit polls showed that 54% of GOP primary voters said foreign trade deals take away U.S. jobs, and only 33% of GOP primary voters say foreign trade creates jobs. Similarly, 45% of Democratic primary voters say foreign trade deals take away U.S. jobs as opposed to 38% of Democrats who say they create jobs.

As CNN reported, “Democratic and Republican voters who went to the polls in Wisconsin Tuesday saw trade with other countries as a drain, with more on both sides saying it takes away more jobs than it creates.”

However, while Wisconsin voters expressed skepticism about the benefits of foreign trade, Paul Ryan has been one of Congress’ most aggressive champions of ideological “free trade”.
Ryan worked as President Obama’s “partner” in pushing to fast track Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In an op-ed he co-authored with Sen. Ted Cruz in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan described the TPP as an “historic” agreement that “would mean greater access to a billion customers for American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers.”

Interestingly, the Wisconsin exit polling data shows that Republican primary voters are more skeptical of international trade deals than are Democrat primary voters.

These findings perhaps underscore the growing divide between the policy views of Republican voters, who are skeptical of so-called “free trade,” versus Party donors, lawmakers, and professional Republican pundits who champion trade globalism.

For instance, National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson has seemed insistent that trade globalism is a staple of mainstream Republicanism. A November press release promoting Williamson’s anti-Trump book writes that Trump is not a conservative, in part, because Trump “has a long history of taking views opposed to those of mainstream conservatives and Republicans” such as being “against free trade.” The press release pushing Williamson’s book reads: “THESIS… [Trump] has connected with an under-appreciated strain of right-wing populists, ranging from anti-NAFTA activists to outright white nationalists.”

In a more recent anti-Trump column, Williamson said that white working-class American communities deserve to die: “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die,” Williamson wrote. “Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.”


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