President Donald Trump faces tough challenges over the next two years if he is aiming for re-election in 2020. These include uniting a divided country and strengthening the support of the white, rural US citizens who elected him to the White House.
Following the 6 November midterm elections, the votes of rural citizens opposing those of the large urban population were represented geographically by blue and red markings on maps. Analyses of these show that the president maintains his hold on rural areas in the conservative south of the United States.
Some of his candidates also won in the Midwest, the country’s industrial heartland, the same region that gave Trump the presidency in 2016. However, the Democrats made gains there and kept their majority of the popular vote.
Over two years, the president has maintained the image that led to his victory in 2016. However, a look at the situation shows that the mass support of one part of the country, the mainly rural, white and conservative part, could crack.
In addition, it must be remembered that the other half of the population came out in force to vote against him, including independent white sectors of the suburban population that, at some point, were won over by, and voted for, Trump in 2016.
The significant drop in industrial employment from the year 2000 affected rural areas and created shortages and instability that aided Trump’s success, as he promised to return businesses and jobs that had moved overseas back to the USA.
Supposing that this became a reality, many agro-industrial businesses and employers would want to deliver their products into the marketplace. This is, to a certain degree, negatively impacted by restrictive White House policies that go against the free trade that characterises traditional Republican ideas.
According to statistics and analyses, the industrial economy of the rural USA has continued its downward spiral this century; the 2001 economic recession marked the start of a huge reduction in industrial employment. The accession of China to the World Trade Organisation in 2001 (guaranteeing normal and permanent trade relations with the United States) led to the mass relocation of industry overseas, resulting in a loss of jobs.
The industrial sector suffered another major blow when the economy collapsed in 2008. During the 2000s, the United States lost 5.9 million industrial jobs, which represents a decrease of 33.8%, according to a 2017 article by Keith Orejel.
The low turnout of rural voters in 2012 reflected a general disillusionment with a political elite who did not want, or were unable, to deal with rural economic struggles. According to studies, this is something that Trump took advantage of.
This feeling of abandonment meant that people in rural areas of the United States were more open to informal candidates and less conventional political rhetoric such as the rhetoric used by Trump in his presidential campaign.
What happened in 2012 meant that white people in rural areas of the USA were receptive to Trump’s message four years later, a message that he still maintains.
Trump’s consistent message about the loss of industrial employment, “disastrous” trade policies and “paralysing” regulations clearly struck a chord amongst the white, rural population, who were raised in a time were pro-business policies were more common, states Orejel.
However, since Trump took office, the property tycoon has not achieved the majority of his national priorities, apart from the dismantling of environmental regulations and the repression of immigrants, the main workforce on farms.
Analyses published by news outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, amongst others, confirm the decline of Trump’s popularity and signal that this decline could continue if the head of state and his party can’t fulfil their principle campaign promises in rural areas, including the introduction of legislation to modernise rural infrastructure.
The failure to significantly improve the rural economy would almost certainly cause huge disillusionment amongst a group that was, until now, considered to be Trump’s most solid support base.
If the recent fluctuation of the rural electorate is any indicator, many voters will abandon Trump if they do not see their material situation improve.
The continuity of Trump’s success in the countryside is far from certain, even more so considering that there are sectors that view political interests that lack the necessary pragmatism to drive free trade as a threat to their economies.
These sectors include large groups of voters in southern states, the Midwest and largely agricultural areas that overwhelmingly vote red, such as in Minnesota, Arkansas and Kansas, and that are worried about brakes imposed on goods trade with other countries.
Cuba and the rural vote in the United States
Recently, US newspaper The Hill published an opinion piece written by representatives Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) and Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), in which they state that US farmers need the Cuban market.
The representatives note that “farmers across the country are worried. Net farm income this year has hit a 12-year low and is expected to drop nearly 20 percent overall”, something that a president who has been warned against disillusioning his supporters should be aware of.
The fall in internal demand, greater production costs and competition from foreign producers are already having a negative impact on our farmers. Retaliatory tariffs on agricultural exports by China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Turkey are an additional weight for our producers, state the authors.
They give a veiled warning that “[US] American farmers are tough patriots, but they need strong export revenues to stay in business”.
The establishment of new export points for US farmers and allied industries has become an imperative, and they emphasise that Cuba should be part of this solution.
The trio of representatives of agricultural states address the huge losses suffered by industries, including the soybean, livestock faming and pork industries, as a result of retaliatory policies against China.
They add that US agriculture’s positive reaction to the new North American trade agreement is proof of the urgent need of agro-industrial industries in the United States.
However, they emphasise that Cuba, offering an important opportunity for growth only 90 miles away and a short container journey from US ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast, requires a different solution. Cuba is one of the few foreign markets where the potential for US agricultural growth is quantifiable and achievable.
In support of this arrangement, they point out that the majority of the island’s imports come from Vietnam, China, the EU and other distant countries where transport tariffs are many times higher than ours.
Referring to “our outdated financing rules on U.S. farm sales to Cuba”, the US politicians call “to position [US] American farmers as the No.1 agricultural supplier to Cuba”.
Expanded access for US agriculture to Cuba and other new points of sale are a question of economic health, if not survival, for the rural regions of the US, they state. This is something that Trump should embrace, so as not to disillusion his most faithful supporters. (PL)
(Translated by Zosia Niedermaier-Reed – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay