Primary season begins to shape politics of 2014 elections and beyond

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Given our country’s economic woes, assaults on agriculture and business by the EPA, Interior and BLM, serious scandals at the IRS and Veteran’s Affairs, and a frightening world military situation, it’s no wonder this election year is already getting lots of attention from farmers and ranchers.

There could be no more explicit and painful reminder of the importance of elections than the big government agendas rampant in Washington and the difficulty in even investigating serious scandals. The party that wins the Senate this fall gets the committee chairmanships, more members on each committee and sets the agenda. There is no better example of complete control than Sen. Harry Reid's rule over the Senate. Imagine our situation with no countering Republican House. Imagine no one investigating the IRS.  

Early primary results could be interpreted as evidence that voters are finally paying more attention. That is because, at least on the Republican side, sometimes the conservative Tea Party challenger has won and sometimes the established incumbent has prevailed. Predictions from Democrats and Republicans that the Tea Party, as a movement, was dead have proven premature. There is no question that so-called Tea Party, conservative voters have both elected some candidates and pulled overall party positions to the right.

A Tea Party candidate apparently came within a whisker of unseating Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, a 36-year incumbent. Sen. Cochran failed to win the primary outright, which resulted in the recent runoff. I say apparently because there are going to be investigations and maybe legal challenges. Cochran only won by courting black Mississippi Democrats in their districts,  by accusing the Tea Party Republican candidate of intending to "prevent blacks from voting," take away their government payments and end support to black colleges. Apparently, in a race decided by 8,000 votes out of more than 350,000, many votes may have been cast by Democratic voters who voted Democratic in the primary and illegally swapped to Republican in the runoff. Mind you, this was an establishment Republican drumming up votes by accusing the Tea Party of wanting to take away Democratic votes.

As the line blurs between both party establishments, voters are frustrated, especially Americans who produce goods and services.

Nothing has received more attention than the first-ever primary defeat of a sitting House Majority Leader. The perception of Eric Cantor's positions on immigration as leaning towards comprehensive "reform" was a key factor. But voter frustration with national Republican leadership many see as unwilling or unable to stop more government and more spending was important. And Cantor had antagonized party ground game leaders at the Virginia grassroots. 

The Republican leadership mostly shrugged off the Cantor result. But the leadership election after the fall midterms could set new party directions.

As an interesting barometer of ranchers' and feeders' interest in politics -- or maybe love/hate relationship -- the question I get asked the most is political: who will the Republicans run against Hillary or whomever’s name is on the Democratic ticket in 2016?  It's too early to tell whom but there are things to consider. The Republicans have an unusually large field of potential candidates.  Success of serious conservatives or Tea Party candidates in winning elections and boldly influencing debates in Congress has widened the field and encouraged voters to be bolder.

Perhaps the most illuminating saga has been Wisconsin. Few more battle-tested governors have emerged than Wisconsin's Scott Walker. In a historically liberal stronghold, Gov. Walker has taken on a strong Democratic machine and a Rust Belt, job-stripped economy and turned the economy and government budget around, while fighting and beating furious private and government unions.

Few accuse the Democratic apparatus of being politically inept. So it's always instructive to see who they view as preferred opponents -- or not.

Not only has the national Democrat apparatus spent millions trying to beat Gov. Walker, labor's national organizations have done the same. Most folks recall the startling footage of teachers and other public employees rampaging through the state capitol. In addition, Gov. Walker's opponents hauled out all the legal strategies they could muster, trying to block Gov. Walker or manufacture media problems for him, including a furious but losing recall effort.

The latest revelation of desperate tactics involved two instances of state and federal prosecutors filing lawsuits alleging that he was involved in improper fundraising. The suits were so thin judges in both cases refused to allow prosecutors to pursue the cases. No indictments were ever filed. Yet the New York Times published a headline implying there were really substantial charges that had advanced against the governor. It is a measure of the left's fear of Gov. Walker.

While both the media and frustrated Republicans have concentrated on the rifts within the Republican party, some interesting recent developments have come among two families at the top of the Democratic pecking order.

A new book about the Clintons and Obamas, "Blood Feud" by Ed Klein, a former Newsweek editor, confirms that Hillary and Barack Obama had an agreement that Bill Clinton would support Obama in 2012 (e.g. his speech at the Democratic convention), and the Clintons could run the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Obama would endorse Hillary's 2016 run. Klein said Obama has reneged. State party chairmen tell him Obama is instead looking for a "mini-me,” a dark horse to brush Hillary aside and continue his legacy. Bill Clinton, without control of the DNC's power and money, is putting together a parallel organization of campaign operatives.

Someone said success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. Our current political climate is contrary to that thinking, as many citizens/voters have lost patience with both parties' poor showing over the last dozen years. Neither party's congressional conference gets high marks, and President Obama's ratings continue to plummet as his administration's scandals pile up and his foreign policy proves a minefield.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said recently if Speaker Boehner doesn't take action on immigration, "...the President will borrow the power that is need to solve the problems of immigration ("Dems: Boehner `Invites' Obama's Executive Action By Failing to Bring Immigration to the Floor," breitbart.com, 06/26/14).  

For agriculture, some trends are emerging. The Democrats seem unlikely to break away from their penchant for presidential candidates favoring bigger government, more regulation and more barriers to private sector economic growth.

The Republicans have at least two governors as potential candidates (Gov. Bobby Jindahl from Louisiana and Gov. Walker from Wisconsin). Governors have actually run a government as an executive and tend to look for realistic solutions to problems affecting citizens. Most of the rest of the Republican possibilities, assuming Gov. Chris Christy and former governor Jeb Bush continue their trend of failing to excite voter interest, are principled conservatives to whom higher taxes, more government regulation, more government debt and spending are anathema. Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz could only help agriculture's economic and regulatory outlook. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is a dark horse candidate that fits the mold. This fall's election, should the Republicans take the Senate, would give the Senate presidential hopefuls a platform to prove their mettle or see their chances fade.


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Janet Martin    
NC  |  July, 14, 2014 at 09:22 AM

As one who usually voted Democrat in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, my biggest disappointment is with abandonment of ethics in that party during the last several decades. And now, with the fiasco in Mississippi, it looks as though the Republicans--at least in that state--have also embraced corruption, not to mention that the Bush administration was as power hungry and spendthrift as most Democrats. The very saddest thing is that supporting and voting for independent and libertarian candidates will end up empowering the now extremely disciplined and corrupt Democratic Party--what is a thoughtful independent to do???


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