China wants Trump to knuckle under on trade, and so does Heidi Heitkamp

The Shirky Principle, named for technology writer Clay Shirky, holds that institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

We could adapt the saying for politics by arguing politicians do not want to solve problems which are politically advantageous to them.

It is through that lens we should see Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s carping about the Trump administration’s handling of trade issues.

Senator Heitkamp agrees China’s past trade practices are a problem in need of a solution, yet she has consistently opposed Trump’s approach to that problem without offering a real alternative.

Instead we get a lot of vague talk about new trade deals and working with international partners, all things which have previously failed to overcome China’s reticence to fair dealing.

Heitkamp and her various allies have also attacked President Trump, and by extension her opponent this cycle Congressman Kevin Cramer, for the deleterious impact tariffs have had on agriculture.

Specifically Heitkamp has even poo-pooed the recent aid package Trump announced to help farmers ride out the economic turbulence stemming from his decision to take the fight to China.

This despite Trump’s farmer bailout being pretty much what Heitkamp’s political mentor, former Senator Kent Conrad, called for in comments to the New York Times back in April.

Heitkamp’s most laughably crass use of the trade issue as a political opportunity came when she appeared on CNBC and tried to justify her vote against the Trump tax cuts by suggesting they were meaningless in the context of the trade war.

At this point I think it’s fair to question where Heitkamp’s priorities lay.

Is she agitating against Trump’s approach to this issue because it is what’s best for our state and our nation?

Or is this about what’s best for getting herself re-elected to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s partisan caucus in the Senate?

The latter of those two options is easier to believe given lack of alternatives to trade issues coming from Heitkamp.

As a Democrat Heitkamp has a lot to gain from stoking anxiety and fear over trade as a sort of wedge issue between Trump and Cramer and a generally very Republican constituency.

Which, of course, is exactly what China wants.

It’s no accident China, in responding to Trump’s tariffs, instituted tariffs of their own which disproportionately impact agriculture.

The Chinese would like Trump to knuckle under on trade and to that end they’ve targeted rural America, home to Trump’s base, for economic pain.

They hope said pain will create political pressure on Trump which will work to their favor.

Helping them mount political pressure is Senator Heitkamp and groups aligned with the Democratic party like the North Dakota Farmer’s Union.

Trump set out to solve a real problem with trade which has been widely acknowledged by Republicans and Democrats alike. Those criticizing Trump’s approach should be ready with alternatives.

Heitkamp isn’t, making her objections just more partisan posturing from a politician behind in the polls and desperate for re-election.