The election is over — it’s time to govern. It’s also time for those of us who will be the governed to make certain our voices continue to be heard —or heard for the first time.
It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that the surprise — shock — election of now President-elect Donald Trump was accomplished in large part by unprecedented support from rural America. As final returns from state after state, even the usual bastions of insurmountable Democrat support, began to show the inevitable outcome of the most divisive, vitriolic, and crass campaign I have ever witnessed, the division could not have been more obvious. Urban areas went almost exclusively to Hillary Clinton, while Donald Trump cleaned up in the countryside.
Those of us who spend a lot of time in farm country have heard the pleas of farmers, ranchers, and small business owners for decades. We’ve seen main streets with shuttered storefronts, equipment dealer lots devoid of machinery, and we’ve witnessed the exodus of young people looking for opportunities elsewhere.
The dissatisfaction with government status quo was festering, and no one — from either party — seemed to give more than lip service to the pain. We’ve complained for years that farm country held too little sway in legislative affairs, that agriculture and rural business was of too little consequence to attract the attention of elected officials — save for the few representing districts with heavy reliance on crops and livestock.
WE GOT SWAY
Well, we’ve got sway now.
And we need to use it.
We’ve heard a lot of promises from President-elect Trump, but so far few details on how those promises will be kept. We understand that, even with a Republican Congress, checking off everything promised on the campaign list will be not just hard, but impossible. Fulfilling promises comes with a price tag and Congress is not likely to offer a blank check, even to their new standard bearer.
We need to rail against promises that should be scrapped — dismantling trade deals for instance. Before the last ballots had been counted farm organizations were imploring Congress to act now on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a deal Trump vowed to back away from during the campaign.
This election had a decidedly isolationist tone to it. Following that path — away from trade, away from security pacts — would be a colossal mistake. Holding trade partners to their obligations under trade agreements should be a priority, but turning too far inward will be counterproductive.
Agriculture needs — must have — foreign markets in order to thrive. U.S. consumers need the ability to purchase goods made in China, Mexico, Pakistan, and other countries. Our most promising customers will be the growing middle classes in developing countries who will demand better nutrition. We need to fill that demand. It’s good for business.
This election has brought out the worst in American politics. Rumor, falsehoods, character assassinations, and absence of civility replaced measured discussions of policy, leaving the electorate with little notion of how the winner would govern. We still have questions — more questions than answers.
In the coming weeks, months, and for at least the next two years — before the next election circus begins — we have to demand answers. We have to hold elected officials accountable. We have to expect our democracy to work. We have to heal — and we have to learn to compromise. We have to say
“enough” when bad legislation threatens to deprive even one of us his or her constitutional rights.
We the people have to govern those we have elected.