Despite his stunning victory in the Republican primaries, a new conventional wisdom has already settled around Donald Trump’s chances of winning the White House.
He can’t do it, we’re told, because he’s an offensive show-off who has alienated women, the well-educated, and non-white voters.
While not an inaccurate description, as so often, the conventional wisdom is wrong. A series of opinion polls in recent days have seen Trump leading Hillary Clinton – by 45 to 42 per cent in a Fox News poll and by 42 to 37 per cent according to Rasmussen.
National polls in the US need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and the gap is within the margin of error, but confident assertions that Trump will be smashed by Clinton look increasingly flimsy.
Like it or not, a man who wants a “complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration into the US and who thinks China is “raping” America through its trade policy has a real chance of succeeding Barack Obama as the leader of the free world.
If this happens, we’d need to reassess everything – not least the future trajectory of global growth. First, Trump wants to deport 11m undocumented US workers, which the American Action Forum calculates will leave the US economy $1.6 trillion smaller in 20 years than it would otherwise be – more than the current GDP of Texas. So don’t expect the US to remain the motor of the world economy for long under President Trump.
Then there’s his trade policy. Trump argues that tariffs are necessary to protect against Chinese imports, but all they will do is impoverish consumers by pushing up prices and shield unproductive industries from competition, lowering growth in the long term. If he follows through on his provocative pledge to take on the “cheater” countries, Britain would be lucky to escape the ensuing trade war.
And even if he doesn’t, Obama's presidency will come to be seen as the high water-mark of globalisation, with no further pushes to break down trade barriers. Just because he’s a Republican, don’t assume that Trump is the free market candidate.
During this campaign, he has managed to pitch himself as an obnoxious combination of nationalism and leftwing economic populism. And he could well become President.