The November election results came in just as the prognosticators had predicted. The Democrats were projected to take control of the House with a 30- to 35-seat margin, and ended up at 33. Control of the Senate was expected to be a toss-up, and the Democrats won by a one-seat margin. Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT), a former Democrat who ran and won re-election as an Independent, is expected to caucus with the Democrats, which gives Democrats control of the Senate.
The overwhelming election issue, according to exit polls, was related to scandals and corruption; 70% of voters cited it as a major issue, and that 70% overwhelmingly voted Democrat at the polls. The second big issue was the war in Iraq, cited by 60% of voters, most of whom also favored the Democrats.
So what does this all mean for cattle producers?
First, it's important to remember the Democratic majorities are extremely small. Pundits are making the point that the majority of the new Democrats elected ran as conservative-Democrats.
But it's not the size of the majority or the makeup of the majority that's important. What's important is the tremendous political power that majority status conveys; the change in leadership from an ideological standpoint can't be overstated.
While voters may have elected such candidates as Heath Shuler in North Carolina, an ultra-conservative Democrat, they essentially elected Nancy Pelosi to the position of House speaker. Every committee chair and committee agenda will change (see p. 58).
From an ag perspective, the first concern is how the 110th Congress will write the next farm bill. In addition, if Democrats hold true to form, there's likely to be more pressure to legislate markets and grow taxes.
While our nation remains deeply divided ideologically, ideology isn't what drove the recent shift in political power. Republicans were largely fired by scandals, ethical failings and corruption concerns. A secondary reason was a general discontent over the direction of U.S. foreign policy, especially as it relates to Iraq.
Nevertheless, history tells us that what we can expect with narrow majorities and a lame-duck President — is essentially nothing. By and large, the next two years will bring only positioning for the big prize in 2008 — Democrats need larger majorities and the White House; Republicans want to resurge in the Congress and retain the chief executive's slot.
If Democrats can carry their momentum forward to 2008, that's when we'll see the quantum changes and the huge differences in ideology emerge.
Troy Marshall is a contributing editor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, a free weekly electronic newsletter by BEEF magazine. To sign up, visit www.beef-mag.com.