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How Trump’s trade war could shake a key constituency from the GOP coalition once and for all

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For reasons of culture and political demographics, farmers have been some of the most reliably Republican voting groups in America for years. Indeed, farmers are one of the few groups of voters that have actually increased their support for President Donald Trump since he took office.

But as Never Trump conservative Jennifer Rubin wrote in a new column for the Washington Post on Tuesday, the president’s trade war is testing farmers’ support for the GOP — and if things do not change, it could jeopardize the entire party’s grip on the bloc.

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“You know the setup — a sturdy farmer suffering from Trump-imposed tariffs grits his teeth and says he’s hurting but, by josh, he’s not parting with Trump whom he trusts to do the right thing,” wrote Rubin. “We are to conclude that Trump possesses magical political power, that farmers are too dumb to know what’s good for them or both.”

“Well, it turns out Trump has no magic, and farmers know exactly what the president is doing to them,” wrote Rubin. “MSNBC on Monday interviewed Bob Kuylen, vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, who explained that his wheat farm, which depends on overseas markets, has lost $400,000 because of the administration’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and subsequent trade wars. During another interview, Christopher Gibbs, a soybean and corn farmer in Ohio, ridiculed Trump’s farm bailouts — which he called ‘hush money’ intended to ‘sedate farmers’ — and made clear that taxpayers are paying for this, not China. He, too, is losing money.”

All around the country, farmers are losing money from the trade war, which has decimated one of the few sectors where the U.S. already reliably produces a trade surplus. Many states, including some critical to Trump’s re-election like Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia, are seeing a wave of farm bankruptcies. The administration has resorted to a Depression-era law to bail out farmers — and even then, most of those bailouts are going to a handful of big, wealthy farms, while family farms and farmers of color are left with nothing.

As Rubin wrote, this could not just endanger Trump’s career, but the career of all the Republican lawmakers from rural states who are sitting idly by and doing nothing to protect their constituents.

“For Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and other states whose farm economies are seeing record bankruptcies, the villain is not merely the president,” wrote Rubin. “Their Republican representatives and senators could take tariff authority back from Trump. They could also publicly object to Trump’s use of farmers as fodder in his senseless, unwinnable trade war with China. Instead, they do nothing.” She pointed specifically to Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Tom Cotton (R-AR).

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“Instead of visiting those West Virginia diners to find Trump voters still enamored of the president, the media should head out to Nebraska, Ohio and other hard-hit farm states to find out what Trump is doing to their farms and the economies in rural America,” concluded Rubin. “They might find that farmers’ patience has worn thin.”


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