House GOP / Flickr Rep Steve King...
House GOP / Flickr

This is great news.  Check out this story in Mother Jones wherein reporter Brian Barth, after spending several days on the campaign trail with dem candidate J.D. Scholten, makes a very compelling case for Dem victory over the racist republican Steve King.  This could be one of the, if not the most, satisfying democratic victories this fall.

The report starts with what at first appears to be a very disheartening campaign stop when-

The hopeful smiles over coffee mugs faded, though, as a tall man sporting sunglasses and construction boots strode up to the Democrats’ table. “Why shouldn’t we vote for King?” barked Linus Solberg, a local farmer and agrichemical dealer. “What’s your background?” he jabbed. “What does your father do? What do you know about agriculture?”

For a first time candidate like Scholten that could be the beginning of nails being driven into his political coffin, however —

Scholten gulped. But he’d been honing his pitch for hostile audiences. After all, the 4th District would not be won without persuading thousands upon thousands of conservatives—many of them farmers—to abandon King. Farm policy offered an opening.

“I come from five generations of Iowa farmers,” he began, and proceeded to give a detailed critique of the farm bill. (Republicans recently failed to pass it in the House; the Senate intends to introduce a new version any day now.) Solberg took off his shades and sat down, listening.

The article goes on into an analysis of how farmers in Kings rural congressional district could swing this election.

Farmers may turn out to be a key constituency on that journey. Even in a state like Iowa, farm operators comprise just 4 percent of the population, but they are the symbolic core of a wider agricultural industry encompassing everything from John Deere dealers to ethanol plants, on which one-third of the Iowa economy, and one in five of the state’s jobs, rest.

A recent analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that, because farmers are so heavily concentrated in districts Trump won, they could easily swing elections if motivated to do so: The number of farm operators in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—swing states that went to Trump—far exceeds his margin of victory.

As the midterm election season heats up, that motivation could come from the severe economic anxiety many farmers find themselves facing. The forces of supply and demand have not been working in their favor lately: The prices earned for corn, soy, and wheat have hovered at or below the cost of production in recent years, the product of a global grain glut. Farmer income is down 50 percent nationally since 2013; in Iowa, it has plummeted 74 percent.

And some local polling data says —

poll by the Des Moines Register in December 2017 found that 34 percent of Iowa voters planned to vote for a Republican in the midterms, and 40 percent for a Democrat. The numbers were reversed in the 4th District, the state’s most conservative, where 39 percent said they would vote for a Republican, compared to 36 percent who would back a Democrat. But the 3 percent margin is still much closer than Democrats have ever come to beating King.

Plus, 14 percent of 4th District residents were undecided—the group Scholten hopes to persuade. Iowa had more counties that flipped from Obama to Trump than any other state, five of them in the 4th District, so his optimism about flipping them back again is not unfounded. “We regularly receive donations from registered Republicans,” Scholten told me.

Meanwhile, what has King accomplished for this constituency over his congressional career?  Nothing.

King did sign a letter in mid-April to Trump urging him to pursue trade negotiations in a way that would “avoid retaliation.” He also introduced a bill in January that would have prevented states from enacting agriculture laws that are more stringent than those at the federal level—which critics viewed as a tool to silence local opposition to Big Ag. But Scholten is quick to remind farmers that King has never passed a piece of agricultural legislation, or much else: “He’s gotten one bill through in 16 years, which was to rename a post office.”

Will farmers pivot toward someone playing to their economic interests, even if it means going against their values?

King’s inability to attract legislative support has earned him the title of least effective member of Congress from InsideGov. But his anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, and pro-gun rights agenda has kept him popular with conservative voters nonetheless.

And about that question, “Will farmers pivot toward someone playing to their economic interests, even if it means going against their values?”   Remember from the top of this post when ““Why shouldn’t we vote for King?” barked Linus Solberg, a local farmer and agrichemical dealer. “What’s your background?” he jabbed. “What does your father do? What do you know about agriculture?”” happened?  It ended very well.

Back at Kirby’s Cafe, Scholten and Solberg began debating crop insurance, which kicks in when pests or floods wipe out the harvest or market prices fall. The Democratic hopeful and conservative voter seemed to edge closer: They both agreed the 60 percent subsidy the federal government provides for crop insurance premiums should not be available to farmers above a certain income level—more than two-thirds of crop insurance goes to the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers under the current system.

“It’s taxpayers who are paying for that!” shouted Solberg.

Flashing his bipartisan bona fides, Scholten replied: “[Iowa Republican] Senator Grassley is a big advocate for changing that and I totally agree with him.”

“Somebody has to do something about it,” Solberg snorted. “You have to have balls when you go in there and fight for stuff like that.” Apparently Scholten passed the test: The aging farmer handed him a check as he walked out the door.

There’s lots more in the article to give us true hope that this will be the year that King is replaced by a democrat and it should be read in its entirety.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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