Rural America is culturally different from metropolitan America in many ways. Rural America is often called the void between the coasts that gets ignored as fly-over country. Trump spoke to rural America and they responded by filling venues for Trump rallies with some of his most avid supporters. They were thrilled by his political success and Trump loves his supporters every bit as much or more as he hates his detractors. From my perspective, I do not think that most Americans living on the metropolitan coasts give much thought to the heartland one way or the other. They are not pro or con and are unaware of what is important to the heartland.
On the other hand, many of those living in the heartland appear to resent those living on the coasts as elitists and liberals with different values. I think the differences are exaggerated. They are also exploited for political gain. I think much of this could be worked out with long serious conversation but the social media doesn’t have that platform available.
In the past month I have traveled to both New York City and Washington DC for events. It was noted that immigrants and ethnic minorities dominate the service jobs. We stayed at an Embassy Suites in DC and during breakfast I noted that all of the service people – food service, housekeeping, the front desk and doormen were all ethic/racial minorities serving almost totally white guests. The color scheme was a lot like a plantation must have looked like.
Certainly, there are many racial minorities who have advanced economically but the service industry is still dominantly staffed with minorities and immigrants. Every taxi cab or Uber driver that we had was an immigrant minority. We queried all of them about how they came to the U.S. and became drivers. One had come from India 35 years ago. He came across the Mexican border back when “it was a walk in the park.” He became legal with Ronald Reagan’s amnesty and had brought much of his family to the U.S. through chain migration. His kids were in college.
Another was a woman who had come from Iran. She had lived in Iran with her husband who was American and left when their two boys came up for military conscription by the Iranian government. She had naturalized. Another came from Somali with a visa many years ago and was naturalized. Others came from Haiti and Pakistan. They were all immigrants, spoke English, who had assimilated as well as any immigrants before them ever had done. They were all pleasant friendly people. Even the one wearing a turban.
They were driving cabs because that was their entry level job that was open to them but their next generation was doing something else. Immigrants are willing to clean rooms, wash dishes and work in packing plants so that their next generation doesn’t have to. They are family oriented. They avidly peruse education. These entry jobs have always been done by immigrants. They just used to be Italians, Irish, and Poles. This new wave of immigrants is non-European. That is the primary difference from the last set of immigrants who have climbed the economic latter. Most immigrants did not speak English when they came to America and this set is no different. They learn.
America was built by immigrants. The thing that many in the heartland do not appreciate is that this system works pretty well. It built this country into what it is. These immigrants are hard-working industrious people who are just as proud to be here as anyone else.
The ag sector has historically provided immigrants with entry level jobs. Everything from dumping grain at elevators during harvest, to taking care of livestock to picking fruit and vegetables, the food supply system in this country would collapse without this work force. I know of no replacement for it unless Americans want to pay double or triple for food. That would be foolish. Baby Boomers entering retirement need health care and immigrants staff the retirement homes.
The ag sector now has many more entry level jobs available that next generation Americans have no interest in. U.S. GDP cannot grow without these workers. When you get to know them, the illusions are dispelled and slurs become inappropriate. By and large they are good, exceptionally hard-working people who because they are looking over their shoulder, adhere to ethics and laws better than Americans, who think themselves entitled, do. Immigrants have always been denigrated by politicians who profit politically from wedge issues. Our President has done this. It works…to a point until it doesn’t.
His latest exercise, a “wag the dog” distraction embellishing the threat of the caravan of refugees from central America walking toward the U.S., was seen through by most Americans. His attempt to convert fear into political power failed. Those on the coasts look at Iowa’s re-election of Congressman Steve King and wonder what kind of people would elect someone like King who consistently makes comments interpreted as racist? It is a complicated yet simple answer. They are good people who will not vote for Democrats.
The irony is that they are getting along on the coasts which are a melting pot where there has been little problem with assimilation so they do not understand the animosity in the heartland toward refugees and immigrants. The even bigger irony is that King gets his largest electoral margin in the highest Ag representative counties in his district that employs the largest immigrant Hispanic populations. They respect each other, live in a harmonious manner in the most productive ag economy in the state. Frankly, if we would have voted Steve King out of office most of our problem with immigrants would go away.
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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