In 1989 I was facing an unplanned career change. As a child I had focused on becoming a pilot and I never thought of doing anything else. After eight years of following my plan I was faced with having to choose another career path. I could go on flying but not in my intended path or I could get into business for myself. I also started to become very politically attuned at about the same time. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was in many minds and being debated ad nauseam in three countries. The loudest opponent was Ross Perot. Ross Perot and Donald Trump have many things in common, and like Perot, Trump is using the presidential elections for his own personal gratification.

The “giant sucking sound” is the phrase that will forever memorialize the 1992 US presidential elections for me. Like, “make America great again” it was a phrase full of political rhetoric aimed against Mexicans for political purposes. Perot’s political platform, like Trump’s was devoid of specificity and instead relied on scandalous misdirection to hoodwink supporters on the popular notion that US voters want high prices on consumer goods in order to sustain high wages in a capitalist system. Perot’s political rhetoric centered on the notion that NAFTA would result in a “giant sucking sound” of jobs heading to Mexico.

Perot, like Donald Trump benefited from the populist resentment towards career politicians that were perceived to be part of the political establishment. Perot’s populist supporters established “United We Stand America” under populist themes that, like today, blamed immigrants for the country’s problems. The United We Stand movement morphed into the Reform Party and the Independence Party.

In the run-up to the 1992 presidential elections, Ross Perot sometimes polled better than George Bush and Bill Clinton, the established party candidates. In the end, Ross Perot received about 19% of the popular vote and no electoral college votes. Obviously he did not become president.

On January 1, 1994, NAFTA went into effect. Bill Clinton, the Democrat signed the law that decreed NAFTA for the United States. It was George Bush, the Republican, who pushed forth the free trade agreement that became NAFTA. By 1996, over half of the US citizens (57%) polled supported NAFTA. The support had increased from 34% prior to NAFTA taking affect. US citizens had finally understood that their fear of NAFTA was wrong. Under the Reform Party, Perot received less than eight percent of the popular vote in the 1996 presidential elections.

After his second presidential attempt, Ross Perot refused to involve himself in political commentary for the most part. During the 2000 presidential elections, Pat Buchanan publicly opined that Ross Perot’s unwillingness to continue his political rhetoric about foreign jobs and specifically guest worker visas was because Perot’s company had become reliant on foreign workers.

Ross Perot’s political aspirations and rhetoric were fueled by his money and the news media’s willingness to give him free media coverage. This is much like Donald Trump has benefited from during this election cycle. Much like the 1992 presidential elections, the news media basked in the populist attention garnered by the improbable candidate allowing both Trump and Perot to keep specific solutions to the problems they articulate off the public discussion. The news media has allowed both candidates to make headline busting statements founded on outright lies or factually incorrect information.

The problem with populist candidates like Ross Perot and Donald Trump is that they prey on the fears of the people by distorting the record and misrepresenting the facts by fearmongering. Like Ross supporters, Donald Trump supporters have blinders blinding them to the facts by focusing on the fears that Trump paints for them.

The problem is not the fears or the political rhetoric but the hypocrisy. Ross Perot trumpeted the “sucking sound” of foreign workers but in the end he benefits from them. Likewise, Donald Trump espouses the fears of immigrants in the United States but marries them anyway. Trump doesn’t have a problem with immigrants, rather he trumpets up fears of a changing cultural landscape and economic uncertainty by targeting certain immigrants as the cause of the fear.

In the end, whether he is elected or not, Donald Trump will be like Ross Perot, full of rhetoric and no real answers to the actual problems facing the nation. Like all hypocrites and like Perot, Donald Trump will keep making money off of the backs of those he despises, Mexicans for the most part, while pretending he has the solutions to the populist fears.

The “giant sucking sound” isn’t about jobs, it has always been about the willingness to succumb to fearmongering by hypocrites.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

5 replies on “Giant Sucking Sound and Donald Trump”

  1. Sorry Martin not buying the propaganda on NAFTA it helped gut the American middle class. Also Martin I can show you studies that show NAFTA help increase income inequality and that is just one of the big issues with NAFTA. Yep let’s not let facts get in the way of a good tail.

  2. Martin, Trump doesn’t have a problem with immigrants. He married one. He has a problem with illegal aliens and poorly screened refugees coming from countries where ISIS has access to passport printing equipment. Good fears to have. For years the open borders crowd has tried to desensitize us to the difference between illegal aliens and legal immigrants. Trump is changing that conversation and it is a good thing.

  3. NAFTA sure gutted El Paso’s industrial tax base that moved across the river for dollar-an-hour workers. Also, NAFTA signaled the Democrat’s turn toward their current voter base of blacks, urbanites and limousine liberals. Clinton threw the traditional Dem constituency – blue collar whites – under the bus where they have been waiting for Trump for 20 years.

  4. anyone remember the farah plants, the levi plants, the wrangler plants ? how about all the pre-wash plants. paul foster built a mall where farah was with taxpayer money. now what would you rather have ? A mall or a plant the employs hundreds of workers ? free trade helped mexico in that it broke up the monopoly over their with permits. permits had been grandfathered for years and all of our twin plants went over there. it hurt el paso in the long run.

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