Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton notoriously lost the state of Iowa to then-Republican nominee Trump by a 9% margin, with 31 of 99 counties switching from blue in 2012 to red in 2016. Facing rural communities that are feeling the brunt of Trump’s trade war with China, Democratic candidates were not given an easy way out and received pushback from vocal and blunt skeptics.
Sputnik News Analyst Bob Schlehuber ventured to the internationally-acclaimed fair to speak with the Democratic presidential candidates and Iowa voters to get a sense of how Democrats can secure the state and examine the pulse of the community.
It’s a given that the topic of farming and the agricultural community had to be discussed by candidates in attendance, considering China’s recent suspension of purchasing US agricultural products in response to Trump’s introduction of 10% tariffs on some $300 billion worth of Chinese goods.
“I also believe that Iowa farmers understand how badly this president has betrayed them,” Former HUD Secretary and candidate Julián Castro explained. “China [has] now basically stopped buying agricultural products from the United States. The farmers here - soybean farmers and other farmers - have lost contracts that may never come back.”
Not only that, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, a tenth of recipients received more than half of the available $8.4 billion of aid intended to help farmers in amid the US-China trade war. The gross misappropriation of relief funds was even called out by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who late last month stressed the need for a hard payment caps to prevent such outcomes in the future.
While agriculture is a given, Kim Hattrup from Wichita, Kansas, told Schlehuber that if Democrats want to win over white, rural voters, they need to stop talking about “free healthcare for everybody in the world that can manage to get here” and “reparations for people that’ve been dead for 150 years.”
Speaking on the latter to Schlehuber, author and candidate Marianne Williamson made the argument that the acknowledgment and distribution of reparations for the enslavement of black people “does not take away from any of the other economic policies” she has laid out and is actually an “economic stimulus” for the entire nation in the end.
“What’s not an economic stimulus, but is outright theft in my book, is the $2 trillion tax cut that was promised as a stimulus and gave 83 cents over every dollar to the richest among us,” she added.
Jay Arnell, a Pleasantville, Iowa, resident and Iowa Farmers Union member, raised another argument counter to Hattrup’s, saying that many farmers belonging to rural, lower-income communities are in fact worried about healthcare - particularly in the case of medical facilities leaving the area and the uncertainty of medical insurance coverage.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) was confronted by a young Trump supporter who pressed her on Russiagate and the Mueller investigation findings. Rather than focus on the sitting president, Gabbard emphasized the duties of elected officials and the reality of the problems the nation must address.
“Congress is continuing to exercise its oversight responsibility. What I think Congress also needs to be able to do is actually focus on passing legislation that meets a lot of the challenges that I was talking about here today, because, as I travel to different communities across [the] country, that’s what they’re most concerned about,” Gabbard told the teen. “Most people are asking, ‘What happens to our healthcare?’”