Wisconsinites who went for Trump now find themselves economically disadvantaged despite their support. It’s become an international tale: how some residents of America’s Dairyland foolishly hoped for better from Trump and now find themselves experiencing worse:
Plymouth, Wisconsin, styles itself as “the cheese capital of the world”. The town of 8,445 people, about an hour north of Milwaukee, was once the site of the National Cheese Exchange where cheese commodity prices were set and today about 15% of all US cheese passes through the town.
Now Plymouth residents are worried they will become one of the first big victims of Donald Trump’s escalating trade war. In retaliation for his administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminium, the US’s largest trading partners, Canada, China, the EU and Mexico, have all targeted the cheese industry with regulations and extra duties and this week raised the stakes, adding more duties as the threat of an all-out trade war grows.
But hitting dairy hurts Wisconsin far more than knocking its famous motorbikes. Harley’s revenues were $5.6bn last year and it employs about 5,800 people. The dairy industry contributes $43.4bn to Wisconsin’s economy each year and the state is home to about 8,500 dairy farms, more than any other state.
It’s possible, of course, that some farmers supported Trump wholly apart from their economic self-interest. (Minnesota soybean farmer Michael Petefish, for example, gives the cultural and ethnic game away in another story when he observes “[t]his is multi-generational American families, your base, that you are now squarely putting into financial peril.” Precious, almost: Petefish thinks that he’s somehow entitled to preference for earlier generations whose actions were wholly out of his hands. By his own disordered standards, he should be entitled to far less than those of us whose families have been here twice as long as his family’s five generations. Live by genealogy, perish by genealogy.)
Perhaps the Trump base will hold on forever, satisfied with an ethnic and cultural policy even as their personal circumstances decline, until that inevitable moment when Trumpism, itself, meets ruin.
So be it: people choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. Along the way, however, some Trump supporters now confront the consequences of how little they matter to the man in Trump Tower.