Iowa’s getting a lot of attention right now because it’s one of the early voting states. They’ve been hit hard by the trade wars conducted by President Trump as of recently. However, that’s not quite as bad as the 2020 Democratic field not even talking about the trade policy.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, there were more than 600 Teamsters union members gathered from across the country to hear six of the presidential candidates make a case for why they are the best option for American workers.
Former VP Joe Biden pitched as being labor from “belt buckle to shoe sole” while Pete Buttigieg made the promise that he wouldn’t be laughed at by world leaders.
After two hours and five candidates, no one mentioned trade. This is a hot topic for rural Iowa, especially as it has been hit hard by the trade wars.
The only thing close to a discussion of the trade policy came from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was the sixth and final person to speak. He said that he would “stand up” for workers abroad and in the US.
The union members seemed less than impressed. The Democratic primary contenders typically stay silent about the trade policy regardless of the debate platform. If they do talk about it, it is to criticize Trump’s approach in fighting China or using caution about the NAFTA replacement deal.
While the Dems aren’t quick to talk about trade policy during debates, they also aren’t talking about it in their broader messages. Although many of the Democrats have been paying millions of dollars for television ads in Iowa, no one is talking about trade.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has made trade a central aspect of his residential platform. He talks about the fight with China as a successful move against an economy that is crippling. He has also talked heavily about the trade deal with Mexico and Canada that is finally starting to take shape.
Trump acknowledges that he has a confrontational approach, though that approach is also starting to end the war on American workers. He has already announced a preliminary trade deal with Beijing. House Democrats have also agreed to a replacement with the NAFTA, a 25-year-old deal that simply isn’t cutting it any longer.
With the Democratic field being so silent on major trade issues, it is causing a number of Iowa Democrats to worry that they are missing a great opportunity. With Iowa being an early voter state, it would only make sense for the Democrats to talk about trade. Instead, it seems as though Trump is the one winning simply because he is addressing the topic that no one else wants to discuss.
Sean Bagniewski, the chair of the Polk County Democrats identified it as a “missed opportunity.” He said that trade is where politicians can show that they care about “what’s hurting rural voters.” Now, he adds that it’s a little too late since the caucus is less than two months away.
Iowans are one of the first to acknowledge that sales are down and they are struggling to make ends meet as a result of Trump’s actions – tariffs on Chinese goods that resulted in Beijing being retaliatory, particularly on agricultural products such as pork and soybeans.
The mayor of Waterloo, Quentin Hart, expected the Democrats to speak up a little bit more, especially since trade is an essential component to the economy’s health.
Why are the Democrats being so silent about trade? Either they have no solutions or they feel that Trump is already taking care of the problem, not that they would admit it out loud.
Amy Klobuchar, one of the Democrats who was not in attendance, has been considered one of the most trade-savvy lawmakers on Capitol Hill. She talked to an audience of agricultural industry members and farmers stating that farmers were like poker chips according to Donald Trump, yet he never said such a thing. His focus has always been to make sure that the United States is not being taken advantage of – something that past presidents have allowed to happen more often than not.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the only one to have a comprehensive trade plan rolled out, though it looks a lot like what Trump’s agenda is. She, too, believes that big, multinational corporations have “bought and lobbied” their way into America’s trade policy. In other words, she wants to clean out the swamp, something that Donald Trump has sworn to do since the moment he decided to run for office.