South Dakota's all-GOP congressional trio is a little late to the party, but it seems to have finally dawned on them that the Trump administration, which they've unswervingly supported up to now, may just be one of the worst things that ever happened to South Dakota.
Both Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds joined with Rep. Kristi Noem in recent days to express some misgivings about the game of tariff-chicken that Trump is playing with China. After listening for months to candidate and then President Trump relentlessly reeling off his contempt for trade deals that have been profoundly beneficial to South Dakota's farmers for decades, our congressional reps uniformly say they are "concerned" that their leader actually followed through on his contempt for our trading relationship with China. Given the possible consequences, "concern" seems a little soft by way of reaction. I'd prefer "outrage," but that's just me.
Right now the president is consumed with his need to redress grievances that seem to be of his own making. Our trade with China in recent decades has been a bonanza for American farmers, considering that a third of the soybeans grown in the United States are sold to China to the tune of $12 billion a year. We also sold China a little over $1 billion of pork last year. South Dakota's share of that $13 billion total amounts to about $1 billion, pretty good money coming in to a state with a little over 800,000 residents.
As both soybeans and pork are on a list of goods that China says it will tariff by 25 percent, you can see why farm organizations are aghast at the prospect, so much so that they have gotten the ears of our state's federal reps about the imminent economic dangers posed by this trade showdown.
Why these elected officials couldn't see this coming and start speaking out forcefully before now is probably a function of their political fealty to a president who is either unaware or doesn't care about what happens to South Dakota's economy.
Meantime, why aren't these so-called Republicans sounding off against a president who has long since jettisoned his party's historic commitment to free trade? The right-wing rabble-rousing Ann Coulter is so disgusted with Trump that she just called him "a shallow, lazy ignoramous" and counts herself "a Former Trumper."
Even the reliably Republican billionaire Koch brothers have broken with Trump over this, using a spokesman from their Americans for Prosperity organization to say that "tariffs and protectionism are bad ideas that tax American consumers and hurt American industries when countries retaliate."
South Dakota could use a voice in Congress as strong as that of Nebraska's Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who didn't mince his words. Sasse isn't merely "concerned," he's furious, saying Trump's plan "will light American agriculture on fire ... this is the dumbest possible way to do this."
We could use a fighter like that for South Dakota. You can't get through to President Trump via nuance.