Whew. That’s done. Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial gobbled up less precious time than I imagined.
Next up: What will President Biden and congressional Democrats accomplish during the remaining weeks of the new administration’s honeymoon? With the media obsessively focused on COVID-19, will the worsening climate emergency garner the time and attention needed to give us a fighting chance to lessen the worst impacts barreling toward us like a fossil-fueled freight train?
As part of our “52 Conversations with Iowa Trump Voters” initiative, on this week’s program, I talk with my former colleague, Representative Steve Sukup (R-Dougherty), about climate change, the impeachment trial, and more. Below, are snippets from our conversations over the past two weeks. I hope you’ll listen to the podcast or catch the program on one of the radio stations that broadcast The Fallon Forum.
Also this week, my guests and I discuss a hunger strike against environmental injustice on the south side of Chicago, the debate over what is and isn’t “milk,” a global study showing how far to the right America’s Republican Party has moved, and why portion size matters in the fight against obesity and food waste.
ED: Welcome to the program, Steve. What’s your take on the climate crisis?
STEVE: I think it’s real. I’m not necessarily convinced it’s all human-made at this point, but we definitely play a major part in it. We need to minimize our carbon footprint, that’s the first thing.
ED: What percentage is humanity’s contribution?
STEVE: Oh, 50 percent, 60 percent, something like that.
ED: Is your business, Sukup Manufacturing, taking any action in light of climate change?
STEVE: Yes. Last year we put in a solar field that now generates ten percent of our energy. We actually made the racking system for it. Whether it’s solar, wind, or ethanol, everything needs to be part of the equation to stop the increase of greenhouse gas emissions. Right now, we have to flatten the carbon curve.
ED: What were your reasons for supporting Trump?
STEVE: Trump spoke his mind, and that was refreshing. Many of us were looking for consistency in terms of rules, regulations, and taxes, instead of wild swings back and forth.
ED: But Trump rolled back around 100 rules and regulations protecting our environment. How, for example, did his rollback of Obama’s Clean Power Plan or opening up the Arctic for drilling assure consistency and protect the planet?
STEVE: I’ve generally been supportive of drilling and having access to that oil. Regarding coal plants, I don’t have a great grasp on that.
ED: A lot of the Trump voters I talk with appreciate his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and his rewrite of NAFTA. What’s your take on international trade treaties?
STEVE: I’m ok with Trump’s rewrite of NAFTA. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have been helpful, and I’m sorry it didn’t go through. For our business, the steel tariffs have drastically increased our costs. TPP would be helpful to the agricultural sector, and I hope Biden will address it.
ED: Trump often came under fire for inflammatory statements about certain demographics. Did that bother you?
STEVE: Some of his off-handed comments were a little too close to the nerve for me. I didn’t like his negative comments on Haiti. That one I took personally, since I’ve been to Haiti.
ED: Were there any Democrats running in 2020 you could have supported?
STEVE: Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard were two that I would have given some consideration, especially in the VP spot. Either would have been better than Kamala Harris.
ED: Do you feel the 2020 presidential election was stolen?
STEVE: No, but I do believe we need to tighten up voting requirements. Voter verification needs to be consistent. I question when certain political parties send out ballots to every known person. I think people need to request the ballot. But no, I don’t believe this election was stolen.
ED: Were you troubled by the riot at the US Capitol on January 6?
STEVE: Absolutely. It was appalling. It was fueled by the President and a few others. Those folks were planning to take matters into their own hands long before, but there was definitely some fuel added to it.
ED: Some Trump supporters blame Antifa and BLM for helping to incite the riot. Do you agree?
STEVE: No. It was just folks who were out to do destruction.
ED: Given what Mitch McConnell said about Trump’s culpability in the riot, one would have expected him to vote to convict. He didn’t. How would you have voted?
STEVE: I would have voted to acquit.
ED: If Trump were to run again in 2024, would you support him?
STEVE: I would check out the field.
ED: Plenty of Republican leaders are distancing themselves from Trump. Do you see that trend accelerating?
STEVE: I think everybody has moved past it now. I don’t think it will accelerate.
ED: There seems to be a deepened interest in using violence to address one’s political discontent, with a lot of concern about the Proud Boys. Are you concerned that some people will feel emboldened and continue to use violence?
STEVE: I certainly think they were emboldened for that six-to-eight-week time period. For the rest of us on the Republican side, it’s a warning, and we don’t want them to be a part of our political process going forward. Hopefully everyone on both sides got a pretty good taste that violence is not the direction we want to go.
(18:38) Chicago residents on hunger strike against environmental injustice;
(31:07) When is milk not milk?, with Emily Yeiser Stepp, National Milk Producers Federation;
(43:59) Tracking the global rise of political authoritarianism, with Jeffrey Weiss;
(58:39) Portion size matters, with Kathy Byrnes, Birds & Bees Urban Farm.
Watch our conversation with Kathy Byrnes on The Fallon Forum Facebook Page.
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