If this year’s midterm elections are any clue, the populist surge on which Mr. Trump capitalized two years ago isn’t spreading widely. In fact, when measured by two key indicators of populist and nationalist sentiment—immigration and free trade—it hasn’t spread much at all. For businesses worried that a populist wildfire might, in particular, galvanize broad support for protectionist policies, the picture that has emerged may be something of a relief... Perhaps more surprising, Americans overall actually appear to be growing more likely to see both immigration and free trade as a net plus rather than a net minus for the country.
And in the parts of the country where Mr. Trump’s tough trade rhetoric and his moves to impose tariffs against some foreign trading partners would seem to have the greatest resonance, the old-line industrial states of the Midwest, election trends actually moved against Mr. Trump and the Republicans. Democrats won governor races, Senate races and a majority of the overall vote for House seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, all states Mr. Trump carried just two years ago. There were factors other than trade in the mix, of course. Still, the results suggest there are limits to the political potency of the tough-on-trade message even in the Rust Belt.
Similarly, few candidates in the country embraced Mr. Trump’s tough message on immigration more fervently than did Arizona Senate candidate Martha McSally and Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. Yet both lost their bids for statewide office, Mr. Kobach in a place where Democrats hadn’t won a governor’s race since 2006.
Overall, though, populist sentiments appear to be bumping up against some powerful counterforces: a growing economy that is spreading benefits more widely than would a struggling economy; significant slices of the country where residents think economic globalization is good and perhaps even necessary for them; and a slice of younger Americans who are more comfortable than their elders with the more diverse face of America produced by immigration.
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