Howes: There are no coincidences in politics | Michigan Radio
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Howes: There are no coincidences in politics

Dec 14, 2019

Credit Daniel Howes / Detroit News

That’s right – no accidents, just intention.

This was one of the most consequential weeks since Donald Trump became president. Within just a few hours, Democrats announced they’re moving ahead with impeachment articles … and that they’d reached a deal with the Trump administration to replace NAFTA.

Strange bedfellows? Nope. Dizzying politics.

To blunt Republican charges that the Democrats are all-impeachment-all-the-time, Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered closure of longstanding trade disagreements with Team Trump. She wants to give her moderate members cover with constituents who may not support impeachment but do support an end to trade confusion and what it portends for the economy and jobs.

And the president gets a badly needed win to a) rally his base and b) counter stiff impeachment headwinds coming from witness testimony and congressional bloviating.

It’s all a political pressure game … with major implications for business and the economy. The trick is knowing how to increase it, when to release it, and who benefits.

Impeachment is a powerful tool to wield against any president – one that can be blunted by partisan advantage in the Senate (as Trump appears to have) and a strong economy likely to strengthen if the president can deliver the trade and tariff agreements he says he can.

Pay attention to what he’s doing. As impeachment proceedings careen to a vote of the full House, Trump followed his agreement on NAFTA 2.0 with a tweet that moved markets, quote: “Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China,” the president tweeted. “They want it, and so do we!” The Dow spiked 125 points almost immediately … closed up more than 220 that day … and the S&P 500 hit a record high.

There are no coincidences in politics.

Trump’s emerging strategy … er, gut instinct … is to counter the political damage of looming impeachment by playing to his strengths. And those are economic: unemployment is at a 50-year low; stock markets are at record highs; confidence is set to rebound once trade tensions abate … and the pricing anxiety that comes with tariffs is likely to recede.

The president’s betting that pocketbooks trump politics. He figures that easing lingering trade fears … with Mexico and Canada … with China and Japan … with France, Germany and the European Union will bolster his standing in the vitally important industrial heartland.

And he might be right. The CEOs of automakers and their suppliers are breathing a little easier because they get some long-overdue certainty. So are the capitals of the country’s leading trading partners. That’s because Trump’s impeachment predicament has pushed him to the point where his political interest and Big Business’s interest in trade solutions finally have converged.

It was, what, a week ago that Trump wondered aloud whether it might not make sense to wait until after the 2020 election to do a trade deal with China. Yet amid the House Judiciary’s impeachment hearing, headlines started appearing saying the United States and China had reached what one outlet called an “initial trade deal.”

Nope, there are no coincidences in politics.