One of the worst habits among the D.C. commentariat is the tendency to treat President Trump’s lies as if they possess magical qualities. We are constantly told that Trump’s lying “works,” a claim that rests on the idea that no matter what Trump says, his supporters will believe him.
It’s true that Trump supporters generally accept what he tells them. But the reverence accorded to Trump’s powers of deception sometimes seems to imply they have an almost paranormal quality. And this takes things way too far.
Case in point: American farmers. There are indications that they are now getting genuinely angry over Trump’s efforts to gaslight them so shamelessly over the impact of his trade war with China.
The New York Times has a good report that fleshes out the damage that farmers are sustaining right now — and their reaction to it. China’s retaliatory tariffs are closing off the biggest export market in the world — leading to a massive drop in exports of soybeans, pork, wheat and other agricultural products.
The administration has rolled out billions and billions of dollars in aid to farmers. But farm loan delinquencies and bankruptcies are rising, and the ripple effects are spreading, with one major manufacturer of agricultural equipment cutting its profit outlook this month.
And Trump’s trade war is only escalating: Trump has increased tariffs on Chinese products yet again, and China slapped new tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. exports. As the Times puts it, “farmers are beginning to panic.”
What seems notable is that farmers’ representatives are growing angry about what Trump is telling them about all this. Trump frequently makes such claims as “farmers are starting to do great again.”
That’s a lie. But don’t take my word for it. The New York Times reports that the head of a major farm group forcefully challenged that claim at a recent gathering with Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue:
“We’re not starting to do great again,” Brian Thalmann, the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, told Mr. Perdue at the event. “Things are going downhill and downhill quickly.”
This anger has been echoed by rank-and-file farmers, too. Even worse, Perdue tried to make a joke about farmers’ travails, but it backfired:
“What do you call two farmers in a basement?” Mr. Perdue asked near the end of a testy hourlong town-hall-style event. “A whine cellar.”
A cascade of boos ricocheted around the room.
Let’s stipulate up front that there is likely zero chance that farmers — or rural voters — break with Trump in 2020. Still, this illustrates the limits on Trump’s lying powers: If they stick with Trump, it isn’t because he mesmerized them into ignoring reality; it’s that they still see other reasons for sticking with him. Those are likely rooted in partisanship more than anything else; farmers are overwhelmingly Republican voters.