The latest round of primaries sends one message loud and clear – people are not happy with the establishment and status quo.

The most ideologically driven president and congressional leadership of our time have created a similarly driven ideological movement on the other side. If the political analysts are right, perhaps this deep divide will actually create the most desirable result of all – a stalemate in Washington, D.C., where neither side has the power to advance their agenda – only the power to hinder the other’s.

Make no mistake that the recent reforms enacted in the health care and financial industries will affect our country and its economy for generations. These two major restructurings, along with education and energy, may be attracting the bulk of national attention right now, but the potential effects of the reforms being proposed by USDA are easily more dramatic in their nature than any of these other proposals. Who would have thought that the nationalization of health care and the de facto nationalization of the financial sector would be trumped by the government usurping the roles of both judge and jury in the cattle marketing segment.

The middle road is now nothing more than a demilitarized zone that separates the two sides but isn’t an area safe to inhabit. The trouble is that those most likely to be punished are those who have existed in that middle ground.

To those who have followed my postings regularly, this observation may sound strange coming from me, as I absolutely believe in certain principles and values and hold that they should not be up for negotiation or compromise. If asked to choose between the market deciding outcomes, or the government deciding outcomes, I will almost always choose the market. Yet, there are areas of gray for me.

Politics is all about balance; the pendulum – with Obama, Pelosi and Reed – swung farther left than America ever had. Thus, the resurgence of the movements on the right isn’t surprising.

I prefer a polarizing stalemate to what we’ve been doing, though. I’d even support some major reversals in the power of government, but I’m not so naïve to believe that reducing the size of government is a viable option. I think of it like a football defense defending against Peyton Manning; you don’t set out with the goal of shutting him down, you just hope to slow him down and keep him from beating you single-handedly.

The question our industry and this country must answer is which values and positions are simply non-negotiable, and which issues will be better served by compromise? If we continue to see the partisan divide increase, then the best-case scenario may be stalemate. Stalemates, however, are a difficult balance, as any disturbance eventually results in a violent swing to the left or the right.

A business that changes its strategic vision and focus every six months is doomed for failure; I question whether the fate of our industry or country will be much better under a similar scenario.
-- Troy Marshall