Fall of Another Venerable Magazine: The Economist Veers Hard Left

The cover of the October 29 issue of The Economist displayed its endorsement in the U.S. presidential race: "Why it has to be Biden" under the image of a tattered American flag flying from the White House.  The magazine is based in London, and most people would consider it a conservative publication due to its focus on capitalism and pragmatic policy.  It sought to use this reputation to dissuade voters from supporting President Donald Trump's re-election based on his policies of tax incentives and deregulation, which unleashed the nation's creative energies to accelerate growth and job creation.  It claimed, "The tax cuts were regressive. Some of the deregulation was harmful, especially to the environment."

Its main complaints, however, were not about policy.  It borrowed wholesale assertions on other topics from the left.  It was an astounding (and disturbing) act for a bastion of classical liberalism to echo the chants of socialists in some common hatred of the capitalist titan who currently sits in the White House.

The endorsement starts by claiming, "After almost four years of his [Trump's] leadership, politics is even angrier than it was and partisanship even less constrained," whereas Joe Biden "is a good man who would restore steadiness and civility ... to begin the long, difficult task of putting a fractured country back together again."  It is thus President Trump who is to blame for the tattered flag, and not the mobs in the streets throwing firebombs.  The Democratic Party was already drifting left under President Barack Obama, but the election of Trump sent it running full speed into the fever swamp.  Talk of "transforming" America became talk of "revolution."  The party out of office is always going to promote "division" to some extent since "unity" works to the advantage of the party in power.  However, when a party embraces the ideology of class warfare, then civil war becomes central to its identity.  The idea of working with the "enemy" even on issues of common interest goes out the window.

I worked in Washington for 20 years trying to build bipartisan coalitions on two key issues: trade reform and infrastructure investment.  Though I was a Republican staffer on two House committees, these were issues mainly supported by Democrats.  I spent most of my time trying to convince my fellow Republicans.  Trade was the main effort, with a coalition of labor Democrats and national security Republicans pushing to renew America's industrial base and technological leadership in the face of the Great Power threat from Communist China.  Trump was the kind of Republican we needed to unify the parties in a national effort against a rising foreign challenge.  But suddenly, the very Dems who had been active in pushing this (even to the point of opposing their own President Clinton on trade during his terms) turned hostile to working across the aisle.  The same was true on infrastructure, where the president extended his hand to Democratic congressional leaders only to have it batted away.  The chance to really get needed work done for the benefit of the country, work leaders of both parties knew was good for the country, was blocked by the Democrats.  Partisanship was the higher priority.

The fact that President Trump was a different kind of Republican made them fear and loathe him.  Perhaps it was naïve, but I backed Trump in the primaries precisely because he was different.  Without all the baggage of the GOP establishment, he could accomplish more by building new coalitions.  The Dems, however, liked the old GOP leaders.  They had their number.  As leaders of a narrow "party of big business," they could never make the inroads into the Democratic working-class base as Trump did to break the "blue wall" of Midwestern states that gave him the victory in 2016.

It was the socially blind "country club" GOP, not the Democrats, who destroyed Kevin Phillips's map of the Republican Majority.  They had allowed the industrial states to be savaged by "free trade" at the behest of transnational corporations who outsourced "expensive" American jobs to cheap foreign labor in China.  They had also listened to the Chamber of Commerce to allow open borders so cheap (illegal) labor could undermine American jobs even at home.  Thus, California, a key to the Republican map, turned blue.  Trump's policies on trade and immigration would give the GOP a chance to rebuild, so he had to be stopped.  One of the reasons The Economist likes Biden is that he would "allow more immigration." 

The Economist charges President Trump with a "a pattern of stoking racial tension."  This feeds into the left-wing justification for the rioting and looting as being "provoked" by a racist White House leading a racist society.  Yet where is the proof of this charge?  Starting with his inaugural address and repeated countless times sense, President Trump has stated, "It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag."  He is first and foremost a nationalist, a label he has embraced.  In the United States, with its history of filling a continent with people from all over the world, you cannot be a racist if you love your country.  And in policy, President Trump delighted in the fact that faster economic growth had its strongest positive effects on minority groups.  For blacks and Hispanics, unemployment dropped to new lows, and incomes rose.

The Democrats had to play the race card, making it their trump suit.  The message is to forget the gains in their personal lives.  It doesn't matter what President Trump's policies are; he cannot be supported because he is a "racist" — repeat: "racist." 

So why would The Economist repeat these left-wing blasphemies?  Are mob violence, racial hate-mongering, and a socialist party platform to be rewarded with total power?  One would think that when faced with such radical movements, all who are not themselves hip-deep in the fever swamp would stand together in defense of order and sanity.  Yet The Economist is all in for the Democrats, arguing, "Ordinarily, voters might be advised to constrain the left by ensuring that the Senate remained in Republican hands.  Not this time."  It actually thinks a Democratic Senate would be a force for moderation!  As if Chuck Schumer's record (or is it Bernie Sanders's") of keeping his party in lockstep had not been noticed.

One must look behind the curtain to understand what is really motiving The Economist, or at least its editor, Zanny Minton Beddoes.  She is an elite liberal globalist with degrees from Oxford and Harvard.  She worked for the International Monetary Fund and with Jeffrey Sachs.  She proudly recounts how The Economist was founded in 1843 to "fight" for "free trade."  She has been a champion of the euro and opposed Brexit.  What really drives her hatred of President Trump is his "trade war" with China.  She acknowledges that Chinese president Xi Jinping has made China even more authoritarian than before.  She admits that the hope that integrating China into the world economy would lead to democracy and cooperation has not come to pass (though she still hopes it might).  Yet these facts do not matter to her.  Just as her magazine endorsed appeasement in the 1930s, thinking it was possible to do business with Hitler despite the nature of Nazism, she thinks it is impossible not to do business with Xi despite the nature of his regime.  As she told fellow globalist Ian Bremmer in an interview just two months ago, "We will lose a huge amount if we undo the trade links and efficiency that has come from an integrated world economy."  She argues that the supply chains created with China cannot be decoupled, as President Trump wants, without damage to the transnational corporations who are her real concern.  She still wants "the world's two largest economies to work hand-in-glove" and to calm negative feelings about China she even downplays Beijing's guilt in spawning the COVID-19 pandemic.  She knows that Biden is an appeaser who has already promised to remove the tariffs President Trump levied on Chinese goods.

Her use of left-wing arguments in the endorsement of Biden should have put off readers, but her true motive for opposing President Trump should actually rally voters to the GOP.  Twenty sixteen reminded the party that its constituency is the people of the United States, unified by common interests and values.  The views of Beddoes and her ilk truly are foreign to a genuine, broad American conservatism.

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national security issues.  He is a former Republican staff member on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Image: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.