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- Want to damage Donald Trump? Boycott peanut butter
- Targeting the humble legume could help defeat Republicans in the US midterm elections
- Just 10 states grow 99 per cent of America's peanuts, and their Republican senators are mostly staunch Trump supporters © FT montage; Getty Images
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- Timothy Cooper JULY 12, 2018 Print this page127
- Although former US president Jimmy Carter was famous for farming peanuts, they have rarely been thought of as an instrument of power.
- But citizens of the EU, Canada and Mexico who wish to retaliate against Donald Trump’s tariffs on their exports should give the humble legume a second look. If you want to weaken the US president, it is time to join together in a common cause and boycott peanut butter.
- By refusing to buy Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan and other brands, global consumers can form an alliance in opposition to Mr Trump’s tariffs and wield an economic power they never knew they had.
- Why peanut butter? It is a matter of geography and political demographics. Just 10 states grow 99 per cent of America’s peanuts: Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Virginia and New Mexico.
- Other than Virginia and New Mexico, these states have one important thing in common: they all voted for Trump in 2016. And today, their Republican-leaning constituents represent a large percentage of the president’s base. Indeed, every Senate Republican from these peanut-growing states — 14 of their 20 senators — supports Mr Trump and his policies, including his biting trade tariffs.
- Trade disputes
- No bourbon party in Kentucky as tariffs drown exports
- So to paraphrase former British prime minister Winston Churchill, “We should defend our nation, our countries, whatever the cost may be . . . We shall fight them with . . . sandwiches.” That’s no joke.
- A global economic boycott of peanut butter could help defeat three Republican senators and re-elect three Democrats from peanut growing states who face the voters in November. A Democratic gain of just two seats would flip control of the Senate, making it possible to block bills and judicial appointments that Democrats oppose.
- Europeans already understand the political dynamics at play here better than most. The EU has retaliated against US steel and aluminium tariffs by imposing duties of its own on US motorcycles, bourbon, and, yes, peanut butter. But US Democrats and the rest of the world should take the campaign one step further. Rather than being content to simply pay more for peanut butter or buy less of it, they should boycott it altogether.
- Canada is the top importer of American peanuts. The EU is second, followed by Mexico. Japan imports huge quantities of US peanuts too. Together they buy 80 per cent of all US peanut exports. A major cutback in purchases would put a serious dent on the economies of southern red states because peanuts are a $3bn annual industry.
- If money is speech, as the US Supreme Court ruled when it struck down limits on campaign donations, then let the Republican senators hear the speech of their unhappy constituents when the global peanut boycott is in full swing.
- Mississippi has two Republicans running to hold their seats. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker are both passionate Trump backers, so a global boycott of Mississippi-grown peanuts could complicate their races — negatively. So, too, for Ted Cruz, who is running for re-election in Texas, which grows plenty of peanuts.
- While all three are leading in the polls presently, no one knows what the potential impact of a peanut butter boycott would be. A Democratic Senate would provide a healthy ballast to right America’s listing ship of state and put pressure on Mr Trump to end his tariffs. This could be our finest hour. We shall never surrender.
- The writer is a novelist and human rights activist
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