U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) lost his Senate seat to Republican challenger John Thune by about 4,500 votes. The loss by Daschle, as close as it was, will likely become another nail in the coffin of prairie populism. Daschle was Congress' most ardent and powerful proponent of the populist policies advocated by organizations like the National Farmers Union and R-CALF-USA.
Now, word on Capitol Hill is that Daschle aides are furious over the lack of support provided their boss by R-CALF leadership in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 election. While R-CALF never officially endorsed Daschle, the claim is that more could have and should have been done by R-CALF leadership to stump for Daschle's re-election.
But, one has to wonder if Daschle's aides are reading more into R-CALF's clout than it deserves. A better question to ask is if Daschle's defeat is a referendum on the reality that American agriculture will continue to mold itself into the global food economy -- and not stagnate in protectionism and isolation? If R-CALF and the Farmer's Union can't gather enough other political horses needed to corral global food production, will economics prevail over sentimentality as food and farm policy is set over the next few years?
Time will tell, as they say.
Meanwhile, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) is scheduled to leave his post to become the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He'll probably be replaced by first-term senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
It's important to note that Chambliss received support from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) in his close race two years ago. In fact, the NCBA-Political Action Committee (PAC) gave Chambliss a sizable check as he appealed for money to fund an 11th-hour media blitz that turned the tide in his campaign.
Will Chambliss remember who helped bring him to the table? The same can be asked of the Bush Administration. Will it remember that NCBA instructed its PAC to financially support Bush because of the President's fundamental support of cattlemen's issues and the collective interests of the beef industry?
I doubt we'll need to wait long for the answers to those questions.