The wisest thing cattlemen have ever done is hire professional lobbyists to help them play the political game. That’s because cattlemen tend to see the world as pragmatic ideologues. We pretty much let people do what they may, unless they cross a line; then we go from pragmatic to hard-nosed in a flash.
We saw that pragmatism vs. politics interplay come to life the last several weeks, which has been a glorious time for us political junkies. Elections, partisan battles, scandals, and the like have all surfaced, lending a unique atmosphere to the pre-holiday preparations.
At the center of the country’s political disparity is the Tea Party, which seems to have become the enemy of both parties. Despite the ever-so-frequent references to the Tea Party, it appears that it doesn’t really exist, at least not in terms we have come to associate with political parties. Instead it is a faction of largely fiscal conservatives within the Republican Party. Regardless, both sides are attributing any defeat to their influence.
The Tea Party and cattlemen have a lot in common. I’m not talking ideology, but rather that we have shown a propensity to cut our noses off to despite our faces.
Sadly, it appears the cattle industry is following the same trends we see in the national political environment. It can no longer be two good people with different views of what is best debating the merits of their opinions. Instead, the attitude is you are either with us or against us and there is no compromise.
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As a result, instead of fixing mandatory county-of-origin labeling (mCOOL), we passed a law that neither side like, but neither side is willing to fix. Differences in opinion are morphing into non-negotiable, never-ending battles that are used to gain or maintain political power. Instead of debating and finding solutions, we are creating causes and movements that actually count on not finding a resolution.
I love the story I heard about two ranchers in South Dakota who had been lifelong friends. They ended up on opposite sides of the mCOOL debate and went from friends to enemies. The wives thought it was ridiculous and created a plan to work on their men. Both started out by mentioning the fact that mCOOL, regardless of how it was decided or implemented, wasn’t expected to have a big impact on their operations. In fact, it was so insignificant in the big picture that it was ludicrous to spend any time worrying about it.
Both wives got the same response from their husbands; both knew that mCOOL wouldn’t make a big impact on their lives, but both men said it was important because they never would have known their lifetime neighbor and friend was a “SOB” if it wasn’t for mCOOL. The wives still socialize, the kids play ball and rodeo together, but the two ranchers to this day are no longer friends. From that standpoint, they are probably the two biggest losers I know in the whole debate.
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