Have North Dakota Democrats Overplayed Their Hand Politicizing Trump’s Trade Fight With China?


UND's and Omaha's in Saturday's NCHC playoff game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A few weeks ago when the Chinese regime and the Trump administration were trading trade threats it was pretty clear that Democrats saw an opening.

North Dakota is Trump country, and nowhere in the state is that more true than in the rural, farming communities. So when the farmers felt some unease about Trump starting a trade war – an understandable feeling given how much of our state’s agricultural production gets exported – the Democrats stepped in to fan the flames of anxiety.

It’s good politics. If liberal politicians like Senator Heidi Heitkamp, and U.S. House candidate Mac Schneider, want to win in North Dakota they have to tip-toe around Trump. The potential for a trade war gave them an opportunity to be critical of the President – painting him as reckless in a way that could hit rural Trump voters squarely in their wallets – in a way that would resonate in a red state.

Schneider called Trump’s trade actions “brash.” In the Minot Daily News today Heitkamp accuses Trump of putting farmers at risk of taking “a huge financial hit.”

The Democrats are so invested in this tack they’ve been attacking dissenters on social media. Witness Heitkamp for Senate Press Secretary Sean Higgins, and campaign Communications Director Julia Krieger, taking to Twitter to attack Bismarck-based commodities trader Eugene Graner for suggesting (on my radio show and in a letter to the editor) that some of the hysteria over Trump’s trade fight was based more on politics than market realities.

Graner must be wrong, they argue, because nearly a decade ago he gave some money to Republicans:

That’s quite the argument for two people who work for a Senator who postures herself as someone who eschews partisan politics, but I digress.

My point is, Democrats have invested themselves heavily in the idea that Trump is mishandling trade to the detriment of rural voters.

So what, then, happens if things work out? That might already be happening. “China Loosens Foreign Auto Rules, in Potential Peace Offering to Trump,” a headline in the New York Times states today.

If the end result of Trump’s bullying of China on trade is bringing that country to the table to negotiate trade deals that are better for America that’s not just a win for the American economy but a win politically for Republicans.

And a big, big loss for Democrats like Heitkamp and Schneider who bet big on Trump losing.