Imagine the outrage that would have erupted in the Midwest if the previous administration had even contemplated imposing tariffs on China, sparking a retaliatory response aimed at U.S. agriculture.

Surely, the GOP-led outcry would have been swift and angry, with our elected officials in Washington taking a stand for Midwest farmers.

And yet, as President Donald Trump tries to goad China into a trade war, it’s largely been crickets from the heartland.

The president is continuing a protectionist rant that he began on the campaign trail. It should come as no surprise to Congress that he’s intent on blowing up Republican orthodoxy on free trade and foreign investments.

Nor should it be news that China has not taken kindly to Trump’s plans to tax steel and aluminum imports. That announcement was followed this week with his plan to ramp up levies on about 1,300 other products, including aircraft parts, batteries, electronic touchscreens and medical devices imported from China.

On Wednesday, China struck back hard. It announced plans to hit American soybeans, cars, chemicals and more products with tariffs. All will face 25 percent levies, affecting about $50 billion worth of goods.

This should have spurred unequivocal condemnation from the Kansas and Missouri congressional delegations.

But Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri told a Star reporter that Trump’s “end goal is good,” a nod to the need to rein in China on intellectual property theft and counterfeit goods. …

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, was less hopeful and more visibly frustrated by the president’s words. He sounded somewhat resigned to defeat, appearing unconvinced that Trump will listen.

Kansas exports to China supported 13,700 American jobs in 2015. And Missouri’s supported 17,200 U.S. jobs, according to the US-China Business Council. In 2016, $1.8 billion in goods were exported to China from Missouri and $1.3 billion from Kansas.

Do these legislators believe that rural voters are so beholden to Trump that they do not grasp when the president is proposing measures that will harm their interests?

Perhaps these members of Congress are content to let the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other trade associations fight these battles.

Never mind that these representatives and senators were elected to do just that. Their constituents in Kansas and Missouri deserve better.

— The Kansas City Star