Sunday, August 12, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He encouraged a boycott of an American company because it opposed his trade war.

When he's been able to tear himself away from the golf course, Trump has spent most of his extended "working" vacation doing photo ops and fundraising, like his "Bikers for Trump" event yesterday. (That's a bit of poetic license--lots of bikers don't have such high opinions of him.) Yesterday's soirée may have encouraged a tweet today in which he attacked Harley-Davidson for moving some of its production overseas to avoid retaliation against Trump's tariffs.
Harley-Davidson is based in Wisconsin, in Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's political backyard, and their products have been specifically targeted by retaliatory sanctions. In simplest terms, the company has a choice between producing motorcycles intended for foreign markets overseas, or not at all. (Bikes meant for the U.S. market will still be made domestically.) 

Trump uses the presidency as a way of rewarding or punishing Americans based on their personal loyalty to him, so this reaction isn't surprising. It wasn't that long ago that Harley-Davidson, whose executives made a pilgrimage to him at the start of his term, were getting praise from Trump rather than attacks.

Trump's boycott call originated with the so-called "Bikers for Trump," who share with him a general aversion to American-made products. The Trump t-shirts that some of the well-heeled "bikers" wore to Trump's luxury golf course yesterday were made in Haiti. The organizer, Chris Cox, explained it this way:

Why does this matter?

  • Making businesses choose political loyalty to the regime over their own best interests is what authoritarians do.
  • American clothing companies aren't "gouging" people by not trying to compete on price with companies that pay textile workers in the poorest country in the hemisphere about $5 a day, and the President of the United States should know that.
  • The responsibility for jobs lost to Trump's trade war lies with him, not the victims of it.