Understanding Trump's base when it comes to tariffs (and everything else)

The president's most fervent supporters are former Tea Partiers

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The No. 1 product caught up in the US-Mexico trade war?

Last Thursday evening, the president announced that Americans would pay a tax, slated to increase on a rolling basis over the next few months, on the one thing that matters most to me in this world: tacos. All goods coming in from Mexico will face a 5% tariff starting June 10, which could rise as high as 25% later this summer.

Mr President, a taco tax? Is nothing sacred?!?

Reports are that the White House put a bit more consideration into the policy than they do for many Trump’s other Twitter-debut proposals, which is even scarier; did they not think about the price of Dos Equis?? All those poor avocados. ¡Quiero quinientos carne guisada tacos por favor, y a un precio razonable!

You: Trump’s Mexico tariffs will make Texas go blue

Me, an intellectual: Trump’s Mexico tariffs will exacerbate his problem with millennials, given that the price of avocados will increase

On a more serious note: The tariff could amount to a nearly $90bn annual tax increase for US consumers. They will increase the domestic prices of things like machinery and auto parts, which will disturb industry supply chains and likely only serve to hurt the president’s supporters, and his interests, in the Midwest. High approval numbers there (which he currently doesn’t have) will be crucial to his re-election next year.

I had something else on my mind when I heard the news Friday morning: a recent study from Pew Research Center that shows that Trump’s most stalwart supporters are former members of the Tea Party. The researchers present evidence that Tea Partiers were some of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters during the 2016 primary campaign, which is fascinating, though should come as a shock to few of you:

Those supporters they have stayed just as loyal (in fact, their aggregate feeling toward Trump is remarkably stable):

These data are important for framing our understanding of what constrains the president’s actions. If you don’t buy that Trump listens to the criticisms from his Democratic opponents—which seems about 99% right to me—then you must think he is constrained only by Republicans. Fox News types likely do a lot of the heavy lifting here. During the government shutdown early this year, for example, we saw that Trump was willing to compromise on the border wall until Tucker Carlson et. al. came out against Congress’s plans (which were largely bipartisan).

Backlash (or a lack thereof) to Trump’s tariffs on Mexican goods could work much in the same way. If his core supporters are the Fox News-ers/Tea Partiers that held up a microphone to much of the anti-trade, anti-”globalism” movement on the right, we should probably expect them to stick.

I’ll be keeping these numbers in mind when I think to myself about how Trump is getting away with x, y, and z in the future.

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