The Corner

Politics & Policy

Globalization and Its Victims

President Donald Trump talks to reporters in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2019. (Jim Young/REUTERS)

James Antle takes a thoughtful look at President Trump’s nationalism in The American Conservative. He concludes that nationalism is a potentially valuable element in our politics but that Trump’s version needs significant modification: Both points on which I concur.

But while I have defended nationalism, I have also cautioned against overestimating its political power. Antle may be making that mistake when he writes:

A political coalition that includes all Americans who are uncomfortable with the current pace of change and perceive themselves to be losing out from globalization has the potential to reach a larger constituency than Democratic liberalism does today or than the mainstream conservative movement has since Ronald Reagan handed over the keys to the Oval Office to George H.W. Bush.

I wonder how many Americans consider themselves to be losing out from globalization. We can easily get the impression from some of our political debates — including some of the debates on this very site — that the answer is a very large fraction of them.

I haven’t found data that specifically answers the question, but Eleanor O’Neil, a colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, rounded up some numbers that bear on it.

In 2016, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that 65 percent of Americans thought “that globalization, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world, is mostly good . . . for the United States.”

Last year, a Pew poll found that 30 percent of Americans felt that increased outsourcing had hurt their jobs or careers; 22 percent felt the same about immigrant workers, and 20 percent about imports. A Pew poll from 2017 found that 44 percent of people thought free-trade agreements had definitely or probably helped their families’s “financial situation,” while 37 percent thought they had definitely or probably hurt them.

Gallup, in 2017, found that 28 percent of people thought immigration had reduced “job opportunities for you and your family.”

The overall picture I get is that there are many millions of people in our country who think globalization or aspects of it have been bad for them. But they are very much a minority of the country.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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