Three years ago tomorrow, Donald Trump came to Delaware County, and he made a promise to the people of Ohio. In a speech at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on Oct. 20, 2016, Trump pledged to “protect the economic interest of the American worker and the national interest of the United States” by creating an “American Desk” to handle trade issues.
Trump never took action on his “American Desk” idea — instead he conducts trade policy by Tweet, enraging our allies and making nice with tyrants. He routinely Tweets out rosy status updates on negotiations, and then like clockwork, the countries on the other side of the table say nope, Trump’s wrong, there is no deal.
Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Trump’s little P.R. stunts may work on reality TV, but when it comes to high-stakes negotiations between major nations, they end up undermining our credibility at the bargaining table and around the world.
Some of you may think, so what, at least Trump is getting tough on China and Mexico. Except, he isn’t.
The head of the AFL-CIO is urging the House not to rush into voting for Trump’s NAFTA 2.0, because he’s worried Mexico won’t be able to hold up its end of the bargain and enforce protections for American workers. And as Trump has talked tough and waged his trade war with China, the people who are feeling the pain are American farmers and consumers.
Agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry, and we rank sixth in the nation for the amount of soybeans grown here. Before Trump’s trade war, Ohio’s farmers sold nearly half a billion dollars worth of soybeans to China annually. As exports to China crashed, soybean prices have plummeted, and farmers are struggling to make ends meet.
With about 280 soybean farms, Delaware County is one of the places being most hurt. A soybean farmer from Delaware said, “The tariffs haven’t worked, and it’s completely crushed our market.”
The Trump administration has been a disaster for the entire farm industry. Income for American farmers has dropped by $11.8 billion. That doesn’t just hurt farmers; it hurts all of rural America, as farm owners cut back on spending in their communities.
American consumers are also the victims of Trump’s trade war. Tariffs on Chinese goods have already cost the average American family $600, and by the end of the year that could go up to $1,000. That’s essentially a tax hike of hundreds of dollars on every American household, and there’s still no deal to help American workers.
Trump’s broken promises are turning off voters all across Ohio, but one of the places that’s most dramatically shifting away from the president is Delaware County. In 2012, Sherrod Brown won 38.5% of the vote in Delaware County, but six years later he improved by nearly nine percentage points, notching 47.4% of the vote here.
Trump came back to Delaware County to rally his base for the 2018 special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. Even though Trump went all in to support Troy Balderson in a district that the president had won by more than 11 percentage points, the 2018 special election went down to the wire, with Danny O’Connor coming up short by less than 2,000 votes. That’s a 10-point swing in two years.
So, while Delaware County may have been Trump country in 2016 — and will likely be so again in 2020, albeit by a far smaller margin — Trump’s broken promises to farmers and workers are making some think twice about backing the president again.
Maybe it seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but Trump’s “American Desk” broken promise is a symbol of this truth — we are still waiting for Trump to stand up for American workers. It’s been one broken promise after another from Donald Trump, and Ohio workers are paying the price.
David Pepper is chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.