America First was the basis of President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, from economics to foreign policy. The premise of this idea harkens back to the old days of the Republican Party that believed the government should concentrate on issues at home instead of focusing on the internal strife of foreign countries. A key plank of the philosophy is the Made in America creed, returning to the times of men and women heading to the neighborhood factory and producing everything the nation and the rest of the world needed. This is how the real estate billionaire mogul won in 2016, and tapping into this concept again could help him win re-election. But his opponent, Joe Biden, is stealing the thunder by echoing a similar “Buy American” strategy to appeal to the union, working-class vote. The 2020 election may come down, not to reproductive rights for the transgender community or denuclearizing North Korea, but who is the more prominent advocate for a factory worker in Ohio or Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden is “Buying American”
The former vice president unveiled a new proposal that attempts to bolster U.S. manufacturing and technology companies by using the federal government’s regulatory and spending powers in new ways. Biden calls for a $400 billion increase in the government buying American-made goods and services over four years. Although this might violate the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement, his team said he would alter existing WTO arrangements.
The presumptive Democratic Party nominee also wants an additional $300 billion to be spent on research and development on technology, including electric vehicles and 5G cellular networks.
“This will be the largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure and (research and development) since World War II,” senior campaign adviser Jake Sullivan told the Associated Press. But the campaign did not identify how Washington would pay for new spending, leading to speculation that his White House would add the bill it to an already exploding budget deficit.
According to an outline released from the Biden campaign, his administration would tighten “Buy American” laws that would allegedly benefit U.S. businesses since companies utilize loopholes currently on the books to circumvent regulations. The plan further pledges to enhance workers’ collective bargaining rights, invite unions to the table at future trade negotiations, and repeal tax breaks for U.S. corporations that ship jobs overseas.
This is in addition to the “unity task force” between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that is far more progressive than his campaign was during the primaries. The 110-page platform recommends a federal jobs program to put Americans to work on infrastructure and to give every child in the country a government-funded savings account. Biden will not be finished there as he intends to unveil two new endeavors for the environment and a so-called caring economy.
Will this be enough to win back middle-class voters in critical swing states? Could a somewhat modified revision of the president’s America First efforts be enough to appeal to folks who are deeply struggling due to the Coronavirus pandemic?
Before Biden’s announcement, he had been gaining in the polls in the crucial battleground states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, holding a lead of at least eight points. It should be must-see television to monitor how he performs heading into the Democratic National Convention with his “Buy American” scheme and string of other public policy proposals.
Beijing Biden or Sleepy Joe – The GOP’s Response
President Trump and the Republicans will likely allude to Biden’s record and past statements as enough for American voters not to trust him on the economy. Several things could force Biden to be on the defensive in the coming weeks and during the presidential debates. The GOP could cite his 40-year career in Washington as one that did not do much for American workers. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and advocated for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When he was vice president, Biden could not help repatriate jobs, failed to act on China, and did not address the systemic inequalities he keeps talking about in his basement.
Perhaps the Trump campaign will accuse Biden of plagiarism since both men share the same America First sentiment. The difference, however, will be the mainstream media’s coverage of the initiative.
Is America First Racist?
In January 2017, The Washington Post’s Dana Frank opined that the president’s “Buy American and hire American” is deeply embedded in racism. The University of California history professor wrote:
“Trump’s program might sound appealing. But the Buy American exhortation follows a long history of similar campaigns steeped in racism, especially against Asians and Asian Americans, that have had real, destructive consequences. It’s not that the Buy American call is racist in itself — there’s nothing wrong with seeking to reinvest our dollars back in good local jobs. The problem lies in the way in which it frames the issues.”
In October 2018, Vox interviewed Sarah Churchwell, the author of Behold, America, to discuss how America First is racist. She told the left-leaning website that the thoughts behind the history of America First are anti-immigrant and pro-white. This, she said, became “a rallying cry for nativists and racists.”
“So America First did have very strong resonances with ideals like ‘Make America Great Again,’ which was a phrase that they nearly echoed as well. The idea then, as now, was that the true version of America is the America that looks like me, the American fantasy I imagine existed before it was diluted with other races and other people.”
For the sake of media consistency, these publications should soon publish opinion pieces that also describe Biden’s “Buy American” strategy as racist.
The Future of Made in America
For the last three years, President Trump has enacted policies to resuscitate the nation’s manufacturing base. The president signed an executive order that requires federal agencies to purchase products using more American components, and his trade negotiators were able to include more U.S.-friendly provisions in the USMCA and U.S.-China agreements. With companies removing their operations from China gradually, more businesses could choose to return to the United States in the years to come and replant their roots. After the 2020 election, could either man build on these gains and keep the momentum going? For that type of political analysis, it is better to leave it to Liberty Nation’s Political Columnist Joe Schaeffer.
Read more from Andrew Moran.