Jeff Flake is a principled person, as he is happy to tell you, and in his new book, Conscience of a Conservative, he tells that you more than enough. He is correct on the numerous failings of our current president and the need to resist them, but both on this and in his insistence in maintaining conservative principles, he seems not to notice the now-obvious fact that it is due to the holding of one of those principles — unrestricted free trade, with no conditions whatever — that Trump is in the White House today.
Flake seems not to have read Charles Murray's Coming Apart, which said we are becoming two nations, unequal and separate; not to have read Salena Zito, whose reports from the Rust Belt showed its desolation; not to have heard of the books that came out about what became of one-factory towns when those plants had gone under; not to have read or heard about the Wall Street Journal's report of less than a year ago of the impact of the China trade deal on a furniture-making city in North Carolina, where in the next ten years unemployment would rise from 2 percent in 2000 to above 15 percent in 2010, and manufacturing jobs fall from 79,000 in 2000 to 38,000 in 2014.
Perhaps he would have understood it when "in the 2000s, congressional districts where competition from China imports was rapidly increasing became more politically polarized [and] 'ideologically strident' candidates replaced moderates," when in the Republican presidential primaries last year Trump won 89 of the 100 counties most deeply affected by Chinese competition, why in Hickory Trump got 44 percent of the vote in the primary against eleven competitors, and in a study taken after the presidential election was over, four economists showed a direct correlation between the impact of China trade on the economy of various areas, and the gains made by Trump in the election over Republicans who had run for president before.
On Nov. 22, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study made by four economists that found a correlation in many key districts between the harm done to the local economy by imports from China and the gains that Trump had when compared to votes garnered by prior Republican candidates. "The studies estimate that Chinese competition was responsible for 2.4 million plus jobs lost in the U.S. between 1999 and 2011. During that time, total U.S. employment rose 2.1 million ... the economists found that if the China imports had been half as steep between 2002 and 2014, Mrs. Clinton would have won the election because the local backlash against trade wouldn't have been so severe."
In the original piece in the Wall Street Journal, the authors make it clear they are not against trade, and that NAFTA and other agreements had been beneficial, but that there had been things about China that had been pernicious, that had been overlooked at the time. "Japan's import wave ... challenged a limited group of advanced manufacturing industries. ... China's low-cost imports swept the entire U.S."
"If we encouraged China to trade, we needed domestic policies in place that would minimize the impact that would follow," they quote an economist. "He calls the lack of such policies 'A catastrophic mistake.'"
Flake shows no signs he sees mistakes anywhere, and he seems to share the belief of columnist George Will that the people displaced are collateral damage, part of the "creative destruction" that powers all things. But those destroyed by it have a way they can speak, which is called an election, and which in November gave Flake so much pain.
There may be such a thing as being too principled, which Flake might be finding out.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."