“It’s easy!” Donald Trump declared of winning trade wars in a tweet at the outset of March. With the benefit of the 280 characters Twitter has now afforded him, Trump proceeded to school the nation on how global trade works: “When we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore—we win big.”
These are the musing of an imbecile, as many farmers in the Midwest and plains states found out this week. In fact, for Minnesota corn and soybean farmer Bill Gordon, the only thing that was “easy” was tracking how big he lost as Trump “hit back” at China, which accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. soybean exports.
Corn has not been profitable, Gordon said; soybeans were his “shining star.” But the 40-cent price drop Wednesday effectively wiped out his gains, and he’ll face a break-even season if they don’t recover.
“The administration needs to understand that the livelihoods of 300,000 soybean farmers are important,” said Gordon, who also voted for Trump.
The administration is showing no such comprehension level. The gains that Trump “effectively wiped out” this week were repeatedly dismissed as small potatoes by Trump and his White House this week.
“We may have a little bit of short-term pain but we’re certainly going to have long-term success,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday when asked if Trump was concerned about Americans losing money because of his saber rattling.
The areas that have been rocked most this week by Trump’s rigorously uninformed impulses also largely cast their vote for those impulses in 2016. According to the Washington Post, soybean-producing counties favored Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 12-point margin. And eight of the top 10 soybean producing states voted for Trump, according to the USDA.
Some Trump voters, like Ohio farmer Bret Davis, were more charitable than others, even if they disagreed with Trump’s strategy.
“The way he’s going about this is not the way I would’ve done it,” Davis said. “My way would’ve been talking about it first, rather than just [imposing tariffs]. But Mr. Trump’s way to deal with anything is to throw a diversion into a room and then sit down and talk about it.
“It’s worked with some things,” Davis added.
But others, such as Iowa farmer Dave Walton had a warning for Trump.
“Right now, soybean growers in Iowa and across the nation are encouraging the administration to engage positively with China,” Walton said.
And if that doesn’t happen, he added: “Iowa leads the nation in many things. The presidential election is one of them.”
The American Soybean Association, which directed 84% of its several hundred thousand dollars in political giving toward Republicans in 2016, issued a scathing statement on Wednesday, even before Trump poked China once more to finish out the week.
“We have been warning the administration and members of Congress that this would happen since the prospect for tariffs was raised,” ASA President andIowa farmer John Heisdorffersaid, adding that the organization had never even received a response from the administration about a request to meet with Trump and strategize on the trade deficit.
One has to wonder if they’re surprised now. Trump lied his way through the entire 2016 campaign. He was notoriously under-briefed on every single issue of national importance. He didn’t understand the fundamentals of government, the markets, foreign policy, national security, immigration, healthcare, education. Whatever the topic, he was clueless, spouting whatever came to mind and sending fact checkers into a frenzy. He also didn’t care much for advisers and continually uttered things like “I alone can fix it” and “my primary consultant is myself” because, he assured us, he had a “good instinct” for things and “a very good brain.”
And yet many of those farmers voted for this guy, the billionaire who they somehow imagined understood their pain. He was supposedly a straight shooter despite his incessant lying, a shrewd businessman though he routinely defrauded his contractors and lenders, and a fighter in spite of being born into more money than the majority of Americans will ever see in their lifetimes.
He carried all of those liabilities into office with him and then began marveling at how complex the job of governing was. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he declared on his way to losing his first major legislative battle—repealing Obamacare.
But that admission was seemingly quaint compared to what’s happening now. This week, Trump moved to mobilize the National Guard to the nation’s border over an immigration crisis he birthed in his brain and foisted upon the nation. He made an impromptu announcement that we would be pulling American troops entirely out of Syria, only to renege on the initiative the following day (who knows what his next militaristic whim will be—we actually have troops overseas whose fate is in the hands of this erratic boob). And as people in farm country watched their “worst fears” come to fruition, he and his aides insisted that the escalating tensions with China were no biggie and all would end well. The entire week was a demonstration in policy built around a willfully uninformed egocentric fraud responding to whatever fantastical delusions were infecting his brain at any given moment.
And Trump voters in the heartland are finally getting a taste of how harrowing it can be when your life, your family, and your livelihood become inadvertent trespassers in Trump’s fantasyland. Sure, he’s vilified immigrants and targeted their families based on his imaginary world. And yes, he’s deemed neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people” as they marched for just causes in his sick estimation. But it’s different when you and yours become the interlopers who cross over Trump’s illusory line.
Ignorance just isn’t as virtuous when you’re caught in its crosshairs. However Trump’s trade folly with China ends, let’s hope these Trump voters never forget what it’s like to be the victim of policy informed by unvarnished ignorance.