Steve Cunningham

President Donald Trump recently tweeted the question, in reply to protests of his recent immigration policy: “Where was all the outrage from Democrats and the opposition party (the media) when our jobs were fleeing our country?”

Mr. Trump appears to imply that the Left and the protesters associated with the Left, who are right now preoccupied with the refugee and immigration issue, did not stand up against globalization for many years. Indeed, not since the late 1990s and early 2000s has the Left stood up to globalization.

 There was of course the famous Battle of Seattle, where protesters demonstrated against China entering the WTO. There were few protests taking place after 2004, and hardly any in the U.S. after that date. The 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, for instance, drew only 100-200 people.

The anti-globalization movement was thereby supplanted in 2010 by the Occupy Movement, which had its target as Wall Street and the “excesses of finance,” rather than China and globalization.

This movement, according to globalization expert Naomi Klein, did not have to “hector” for a list of demands and didn’t have a “list of soundbite-ready demands and media-ready spokespeople” to put forward their position.

It appears though that this movement lost focus on the role of trade agreements and how countries like China came to dominate internationally, because as Peter Katel explains, after the September 11 attacks, “left-liberal activists, those not transformed into hawks by the attacks, threw themselves into anti-Iraq War organizing, as well as civil liberties work and opposition to the George W. Bush administration.” 

As well, in early 2015 before the Republican primaries had even begun, President Barack Obama dismissed anti-globalization efforts as “anti-global engagement” that is a “big mistake.”

Enter Donald Trump. He has pledged to “use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities” and to “instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO.”

This is a policy that those against globalization can support, and in fact, did support in the 1990s and early 2000s. Trump is doing more than simply appropriating the rhetoric of the anti-globalization movement; while Obama was doing less than adopting a reform approach to anti-globalization when he dismissed complicity with unfair trade practises as ”anti-global engagement

The bottom line is that the Democrats abandoned the industrial working person, while President Trump has not.