A Change in Strategy or Tactics?
By Mark Edelman and Barry Flinchbaugh
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
ME. A change of
tactics in the policy arena may just be in time for the holiday season. Looks
like a bi-partisan farm bill is about to get done in January 2014 and a
bi-partisan two-year budget deal was announced last week for consideration and
passed the House. Given the last 3 years of confrontation, this was not a
BF. House Speaker John Boehner did finally send a signal of change with his remarks this past week. The Republican establishment is beginning to pushback against the “right-wingnuts.” Speaker Boehner renewed his denunciation of groups that try to defeat GOP incumbents whom they consider too willing to compromise with Democrats. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently took steps to help moderate Republicans in party primaries. Boehner's high-profile remarks will fan the flames. Only time will tell which side will be successful as we won't know the outcomes until 2014 votes are counted.
ME. Cheering Boehner on were main stream Republicans who watched for 3 years as right-wing groups exercised dominant clout in the party and political process. Right-wing “Tea Partier” nominees may have helped Republicans win control of the House in 2010, but they also helped Republicans lose Senate races seen as winnable, keeping a Democratic majority in the Senate. Former Indiana Senator, Richard Lugar, is a case in point. He was a respected Senator and Ag Committee Member for years. Lugar lost the primary, but was replaced by a Democrat who won the seat in the general election.
BF. A new word
in the political lexicon refers to being “primaried.” Being “primaried”
refers to the right-wing strategy of identifying candidates, financing them,
and helping manage their primary campaigns against incumbent Republicans who
are seen as too willing to compromise with Democrats. For 2014, current
House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas from Oklahoma and
current Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran, both have worked hard
this year to get a comprehensive bi-partisan farm bill passed in this Congress,
but they are now facing “right-wingnut” primary challenges.
ME. Neither party was ecstatic over the budget compromise that was
announced this week by Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin,
and Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat. Maybe that means it
was a real compromise. Ryan's comments were telling, "To really do
what we (Republicans) think needs to be done, we are going to have to win some
elections and in the meantime let's try and make this divided government work.
I think our constituents are expecting a little more from
us. They're expecting us to not keep shutting the government down,
they're expecting us to pay the bills," Ryan said.
ME. With respect to past right-wing efforts to shut down the government and default on the federal debt, Boehner reportedly said one Tea Party spokesperson told him that they thought they would try the strategy even though they didn't think it would work. Such actions can snowball in the global economy and send shivers through business networks, financial markets, and global commerce. "I just think that they've lost all credibility," Boehner added.
BF. Countervailing interest group support will be required for moderates to succeed long-term. Traditionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has done little in Republican primaries, but reportedly they helped defeat a right-wing extremist candidate in a special Alabama House primary last month. It will take more than the Chamber. In addition to business leaders, perhaps farm, banking, and agribusiness interests will need to join the fray to the extent that they see the future leadership of U.S. agricultural policy at stake.
* Edelman is a professor of economics at Iowa State University and Flinchbaugh is an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.