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The pain hits home

What will it take for the president’s supporters to leap off the Trump Train?

Pain.

Masochists will ride until it’s completely off the rails, but others will end up under the wheels. Take North Dakota farmers, for instance. According to the Minneapolis Fed, state exports were down 14% in the first four months of 2019, but it’s surely more than that, because exports are tracked from ports and not from North Dakota grain bins. The math is fuzzy.

It’s no easier getting precise agricultural economic data from North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s quarterly Taxable Sales and Purchases Report. Agricultural economic data is listed as — get this — “miscellaneous.” Really.

Agriculture is lumped into a category with forestry and hunting and fishing. Dismal minnow and nightcrawler sales have no doubt dragged down the “miscellaneous sector” 18% from $41 million to $34 million in the first quarter. And lord knows the lumber industry in North Dakota ain’t what it used to be.

Let’s review. In a state where 90% of the land is dedicated to agriculture, involves nearly 30,000 farms, and accounts for $10.9 billion in sales in a decent year, it’s apparently an afterthought at the state tax department. There’s a category for “Arts, Entertainment and Recreation,” which had first quarter sales of $18 million, but no specific category for agriculture, an industry that recorded $4.5 billion in exports in 2017. In 2019, not so much.

I’m not saying negative information is buried deep on the tax department website, but while digging, I found Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Looked like natural causes to me. I also ran into Dora the Explorer. She was with Waldo and Amelia Earhart.

At any rate, our farmers don’t need a government report to know how their miscellaneous industry is faring under the lead weight of the Trump trade war and other pressures like healthcare costs. If you have an IRA or a 401k, the stock market, under fears of a recession, has been as unkind in August as a presidential tweet. Yet, according to the White House, the economy is the super-duper greatest ever, which is why the Fed has to fix it immediately.

Yes, pain is the impetus for change, but it goes beyond economics. In several recent conversations with conservatives, none of which I initiated, the tipping point was the mass shootings in Trump’s toxic environment. One local rancher, a good family man, told me that he’d been proud of America all his life but… but… He couldn’t finish the sentence. He just shook his head. Another, who had voted “against” Hillary, instead of “for” Trump, said grimly that he’d support just about anyone else today.

There aren’t enough liberals in McIntosh County to fill a church pew — that wouldn’t happen anyway, because we’re all godless heathens — so a conservative initiating a conversation with a progressive about politics is rare as steak tartare. Out here, when the fire whistle blows, politics don’t matter.

However, in a county in which Trump garnered 76% of the vote, where Barry Goldwater might today be branded some kind of Pinko, the wind seems to be shifting ever-so-slightly. The pain has taken hold. Defiance has turned to dismay and from dismay to real sadness. And that saddens me.

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