From a distance, you would think the latest CNN poll showing that people by 3 to 1 oppose the Obama health care plan would have legislators frantically searching for an exit plan relative to health care. And, even more so when you consider the results of recent elections that unseated Democrats in traditionally strong districts.
But that isn’t the case; D.C. legislators seem more committed than ever to passing a plan, and are seemingly willing to sacrifice political power for the cause. That in and of itself is a monumental event in a town like D.C. where political power has been the end-all for quite some time. It really boils down to foresight; these folks know that the largest expansion of government in most of our lifetimes will forever shift power in their favor, even if it means some short-term discomfort. They also know that if enacted, it will be virtually impossible to repeal.
I think they also understand that their opposition is involved in making a living, working at real jobs and wrestling with real concerns; they’re just not geared for a sustained effort. The activist groups aligned against our industry are operating under a very similar game plan. They understand that over time, the extreme can seem sublime.
I’ve been amazed the last several weeks of the power of word usage. Those supporting health-care reform have used words like moderate, pragmatic, modest and middle of the road to describe the proposed health-care reform. I have read it so often that even I, as someone who has grave concerns about the government taking over 1/6th of our economy, almost find myself thinking that this is some sort of compromise proposal that actually will change very little in our lives.
Whether it be animal welfare, nutritional challenges, environment or climate change, if repeated often enough, the most radical of ideas can become almost mainstream.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offers a striking example. As its own entity, PETA could never mount much of a threat to animal ag. After all, most Americans realize their bubble is considerably off of center. Yet, they somehow make the Humane Society of the United States look like a mainstream organization by comparison (bribing witnesses just isn’t that big of a deal anymore) by widening the extreme edges of the issue.
The question perhaps is rhetorical, but how does a group of citizens compete with a well-funded, single-issue enterprise with significantly greater resources? The answer may go a long ways to defining our industry in the future.