Editorial: With jokes like this, farmers may rethink Trump

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Sonny Perdue is the U.S. secretary of Agriculture, which makes him a full-time Trump toady. But come to find out, he’s also a part-time comedian.

Perhaps you haven’t heard about his latest gig. According to national reports, Perdue earlier this month was the speaker at a Farmfest event in Minnesota. He had heard concern after concern from farmers worried about how this trade war with China was progressing. With the comedic timing of a broken Rolex, Perdue jumps in with a joke: “What do you call two farmers in a basement?” he reportedly asked. “A whine cellar.”

Farmers laughed so hard they almost spit up their bank notes that they’ve had to swallow for the last year. Wait, no, they didn’t laugh at all. They booed Perdue. They also could have shot back with a joke of their own: What do you call a Trump that loses the farm vote? A one-term president.”

Farmers generally have been reluctant to break ways with President Donald Trump over this trade war, despite the painful consequences of losing out on sales to the world’s most populous country. A recent Journal-World article highlighted the mixed emotions even in Douglas County. Part of the reason for such tepidness is because there does seem to be something inherently correct about getting tough with the Chinese. To put it bluntly, the Chinese government is full of crooks. They steal everything from intellectual property to human freedom.

But farmers ought to understand that having the right idea and executing it are two different things. You can research and plan and come to the correct conclusion that planting beans is the best strategy for the year. But if you plant your bean field in December, it isn’t going to work. That is Trump and trade these days — a circling, swerving tractor driver in a December bean field.

It has been obvious to farmers for a long time that the best way to fight a China trade war is with lots of allies. Trump’s approach has been the exact opposite. He has isolated America from many of its traditional allies. Now, it seems like he doesn’t even understand who he is negotiating with or how the game of politics is played. Unlike Trump, Chinese leader Xi Jinping doesn’t need to win an election. He’s on track to be the Chinese president for life. Realistically, he has far more ability to take political pain than Trump does. Wasn’t it predictable that the Chinese simply would try to run the clock out on the Trump administration? If you are Trump and want to play this type of hardball game, make it the first thing you do in your second term. The Chinese calculation changes when they have to worry about four years of a president with nothing to lose.

Currently, you have to think the Chinese feel like they are dealing with a president who has already lost it. One day he calls Xi an enemy and the next day a great leader and a brilliant man. Look at that Trump. He’s driving his tractor in the hedge row now. He’s all over the place.

Trump has tried to assure us this is just his negotiating style, and it has worked very well for him. Except those times that it didn’t. Let’s not forget that companies he has led have filed for bankruptcy six times.

But let’s also be realistic. Farmers are not likely to move en masse to the Democratic party. The party’s position on many environmental issues and a penchant for greater regulations are pills too difficult for farmers to swallow. The Democrats have been lousy at making any type of meaningful connections with rural America.

It is important to remember, though, that farmers don’t have to connect with Democrats. They just have to disconnect with Trump. If large numbers of farmers simply check any box other than Trump on the ballot, the president won’t win a second term.

Will farmers come to that conclusion? They just might in battleground states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. At the end of the day, farmers are practical people. They don’t plant beans in December, and they may decide party loyalty can be put on hold for a year.

After all, sometimes the smartest thing you can do is leave the tractor in the barn, wait for the rain to end and hope for the sunshine of a new day.

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