Guest post from Porter McNeil, a Democratic communications consultant. He was the Illinois Communications Director for the Kerry-Edwards’ Presidential Campaign and helped on Tom Vilsack’s first gubernatorial campaign as a staffer for (David) Axelrod & Associates. He is a regular Democratic analyst on WHBF-TV (CBS) in the Quad Cities.
An American president tells us not to support John Deere — What?! The same president, who’s telling farmers to be patriots for the sake of a China trade war with no plan or allies, is now likely to blame for John Deere’s plans to scale back 20% of production at major plants.
When John Deere sneezes, the economies of the Heartland catch a cold. This trade war, which is meant to stick it to China, may also end up sticking it to small and medium-sized communities and their workers.
No one disputes that America needs a new approach to trade with China, but the President’s tariff tantrum has created a political opening large enough for — let’s say — a John Deere combine to drive through.
Winning campaigns stay on offense. Democrats can go on offense by showing up in the small towns with a message of economic growth for the heartland. They can do what they didn’t do in the 2016 presidential campaign: show up in the Heartland.
This issue is a layup. When was the last time you heard an American president advising Americans not to support John Deere, Caterpillar and Ford?
Trump boasts about his large tax cut, which was a boon to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. For working class Americans, his tariffs — a tax — will cancel out any small relief received.
John Austin and Catherine Novelli write in The Hill that “politicians interested in appealing to Midwestern voters should be aware of the large number of Midwesterners who appreciate the benefits of a fair, open (and stable) trading regime.” The headline of their article says it: “Trade wars are not the way to Midwestern voters’ hearts.”
In 2018, Democrats rebuilt their so-called “blue wall” in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania with congressional pick ups. Democrats showed strong signs of life in the gubernatorial races, winning in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
But their close loss in Iowa’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign was partly due to under-performing in the Eastern Iowa counties along the Mississippi River. This trade issue runs through Eastern Iowa — John Deere country — and is key to winning Iowa. That region, as has been noted by Iowa Starting Line, represents a blueprint for Democrats. If they can win there, they can win similar areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — all key to winning 270 electoral votes in 2020.
Having an American President hurt John Deere and the communities along the Mississippi River is right out of the Twilight Zone. But the real Twilight Zone will be if Democrats fail to develop a compelling economic message that resonates with those very voters that helped propel Trump to the White House in 2016.
If the Democrats want to harvest the votes in John Deere country, they had better plant the seeds now.
by Porter McNeil