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On Monday, when U.S. President Donald Trump held his second annual Made in America Product Showcase at the White House, there was no contradicting his assertion that American manufacturing has been on a roll. The United States has added more than 350,000 factory jobs since Mr. Trump’s election, with all the indirect economic spinoffs that implies.

The mini-boom – at 8 per cent, manufacturing’s share of the U.S. economy is still only half what it was 20 years ago – has provided Mr. Trump with precious cover as he accelerates a global trade war that may soon include a 25-per-cent tariff on foreign autos that would hit Canada hardest.

Most “experts” – a class of people deeply distrusted by Mr. Trump’s base – expect a trade war will eventually bring the economies of the United States and its trading partners to a crashing halt. But for now, working-class voters in the United States appear to solidly back Mr. Trump’s actions, providing him with an incentive to keep on venting.

“During the campaign, they all said: ‘Oh, you’re never going to add manufacturing jobs. That’s obsolete,’” Mr. Trump said at Monday’s event, which featured an F-35 fighter jet parked on the South Lawn. “I said: ‘It’s obsolete? To make things is obsolete?’ I guess they were wrong.”

To be sure, evidence of the downside of Mr. Trump’s trade war is emerging by the day. Iowa soybean farmers have seen prices slump since China slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products. (The Trump administration announced a US$12-billion agricultural aid package on Tuesday to help farmers through the trade war.) And some U.S. factories have seen input prices spike since Mr. Trump imposed 25-per-cent and 10-per-cent tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, respectively.

But even among workers in U.S. industries most threatened by a trade war, support for the President’s actions remains solid. His message that the United States “has been taken advantage of for too long” resonates on the factory floor. That’s why all the expert opinion, pressure from Congress or pleas from U.S. business groups will not persuade Mr. Trump to back down.

Nor, apparently, will fact-checking by those who seek to call Mr. Trump to account. On Monday, Mr. Trump again repeated his claim that U.S. Steel Corp. “is opening up six plants,” even though it is not true. But those who harp on the President’s distortions of the truth miss the point. They may think they’re waging the good war in tweeting out the President’s “lies.” But while Mr. Trump rarely gets the details right, his supporters believe he is broadly correct.

U.S. Steel is, in fact, adding hundreds of jobs to its work force. On Thursday, Mr. Trump is expected to tour one of the company’s facilities in Granite City, Ill., where it recently restarted blast furnaces that were closed in 2015. U.S. Steel chief executive officer David Burritt, who has been singing Mr. Trump’s praises, has said he expects to add 800 jobs at the plant this year.

U.S. public opinion overall is still largely pro-trade. But favourable attitudes toward existing trade agreements have been declining. And Republican voters seem willing to trust the President’s instincts on this issue. As a Pew Research Center poll taken in early July, a month after tariffs hit Canadian and European steel, showed, fully 73 per cent of Republican voters said Mr. Trump’s trade actions will be “good for the U.S.” Among Democratic voters, who tend to oppose Mr. Trump across the board, fully 77 per cent said the tariffs would be “bad” for the United States.

So, while Republicans in Congress continue (for now) to champion trade agreements, it appears Mr. Trump’s election has transformed voter attitudes on the trade file. The Democratic Party, whose base once consisted of factory workers in Rust Belt states and social conservatives in the South, is now the party of the educated classes that favours free trade and globalization.

While this shift began a while ago – then-president Bill Clinton’s signature of the North American free-trade agreement and support for China’s entry into the World Trade Organization started it – the partisan role reversal on trade is perhaps the defining characteristic of the Trump era, explaining his success in 2016 in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. While organized labour still backs Democrats, white working-class voters line up behind Mr. Trump.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC news poll on Monday pegged Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 45 per cent, the highest level of his presidency. The survey, completed in part after Mr. Trump’s meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, shows that Mr. Trump’s base is intact and as solidly behind him as it was in 2016. Which is why, this trade war may just be starting.

As he tweeted on Tuesday, this President honestly seems to believe: “Tariffs are the greatest!”

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