The elections came in just as the prognosticators had predicted. So what does it mean for cattle producers? First, it's important to remember the majorities are extremely small. And while the majority of the new Democrats ran as extremely conservative Democrats, it's not the size of the majority or the makeup of the majority that's important; it's the majority status that conveys tremendous political power. While the voters may have elected candidates like Heath Shuler, an ultra-conservative Democrat, they essentially elected Nancy Pelosi to the position of Speaker of the House, etc.
Every committee chair and every committee agenda will change. What's ironic is the election was dominated by foreign-policy issues, an area that's largely a presidential role. Certainly, Congress controls the purse strings, but reality says it has very little control in this area.
The extension of the tax cuts and the repeal of the Death Tax are now officially dead, at least for a couple of years. Trade issues, the environment and even a revisiting of the Endangered Species Act will take a momentous shift.
In terms of bigger-picture items like the 2007 farm bill, there isn't expected to be a radical shift overall. But the issues that appeal to smaller subsets, such as packer concentration and captive-supply issues, will likely find a more receptive audience.
History tells us what we can expect with a divided government of narrow majorities, and a lame-duck President without tremendous popularity -- essentially nothing. After both sides respond with their noble rhetoric about working together to achieve something, positioning for the 2008 election year will begin almost immediately.
President Bush has only vetoed one bill in the last six years, which isn't surprising given a Republican-controlled Congress. But we can expect the cap on the veto pen to come off early and often, as both sides posture for 2008.
If Democrats carry their momentum forward in 2008, that's when we'll see the quantum changes and the huge differences in ideology emerge. To see much more than a small change in the minimum wage over the next couple of years will be dramatic. Sadly that's the best- case scenario for both sides, in what promises to be the most momentous election of our time in 2008.