Troy Marshall

October 13, 2016

6 Min Read
What can the beef industry learn from this election cycle?

It is hard to find anyone but the true diehards who are excited about voting in this year’s election. The Trump tapes and the latest leaks from WikiLeaks just confirm everyone’s worst impressions of the candidates.

The reality is that whether or not anyone is truly comfortable with the choice, somebody will be the next president and that term will last four years. While the candidates don’t engender a lot of enthusiasm, the stakes are incredibly high. For example, the country’s direction for the next 20-30 years will be greatly affected by such things as Supreme Court appointments.

This isn’t a classical liberal vs. conservative election fiscally, socially or any other issue you pick. Yet, whether it be taxes, trade, borders, foreign policy, health care, energy or the economy, the differences are stark.  Yet most of the media coverage has been directed toward the candidates and their glaring ethical, moral, and temperament faults.

Trump and the GOP party

Every election is called the most important of our time, but this one is truly unique in that it is not just the huge policy differences that add to the stakes, but the fact that this election more so than any in the past will shape the future of politics in our country for decades.

If the Republican Party does not win this election (and it appears unlikely at this point that they will), there will be serious questions about its viability as a major party going forward. This isn’t simply an unpleasant aberration where the primaries and parties failed to produce acceptable candidates. It isn’t hyperbole to say that if the Republican Party proves incapable of defeating Hillary Clinton, they are incapable of winning a presidential election.

The Democratic Party has created a coalition designed to ensure victory, so a defeat in their case would be seen as simply nominating a candidate with failings too great to overcome. Even with a narrow victory, the Republican Party would have to face the unpleasant reality that their election success was based upon the Democrats advancing the most deeply flawed candidate in recent history. Neither party is likely to provide the other this type of slam dunk opponent again.

The difference is that the Republican Party has no margin for error.

Sound familiar? How the beef industry is similar

In this regard, the beef industry is similar to the Republican Party. We, like they, are outnumbered and will be outspent by the opposition. Additional similarities: The media coverage and institutional dynamics are aligned against them and their core constituency is too small, so it must be persuasive enough to convince the undecideds to their side. The Republican Party has been dying the death of a thousand cuts with changing demographics and a changing society that is moving away from the core values that the country once held.

Sound familiar? Academia, mainstream media coverage, and the relentless attacks from a multitude of groups on a myriad of fronts have left us on the defensive and in decline.

In the past, beef controlled the center of the plate despite its cost disadvantages. The Republican Party, on the other hand, was always the minority party, but the country used to be right leaning, making it possible to be a true counterbalance to the Democrats in a two party system.

Today, those in the beef industry and the Republican Party both find themselves engaged in a battle for survival and relevance. The Republican Party can accept its new role as loyal opposition, and the beef industry can accept that it will be a fraction of what it once was.

Both groups, if they are to regain their power in their marketplace, are confronted with the need to reinvent themselves and alter the way they have traditionally gone about business.


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That means the status quo is not acceptable, but the most resistance to change is coming from the traditional components of these entities. The fringes are calling for radical change, but for them, the changing environment in which they exist is seen as the problem, and they are calling for the party or industry to return to the time of its previous glory. It is easy to understand this sentiment, but what worked in the past simply is not sufficient for today.

The next steps for both the GOP and beef

Whether it be electoral politics in the U.S. or the business structure and marketplace of the beef industry, there is no way to force a return to the world we knew in the 1950s or even 1980s. The toothpaste is out of the tube and both entities must figure out how to be competitive while holding on to the tradition and core values that both hold dear.

The new reality has been difficult for both, and there has been a tendency to turn inward and fight each other, bringing up images of the often-repeated phrase of having a circular firing squad. The Democrats and the major media have been almost giddy in spurring on the Republican destruction from within. In the same manner, groups like HSUS have joined with groups from within our industry, finding it easier to tear the industry down from within than it is to bring it down from the outside. 

The predicted election results, the plummeting market in the face of historically strong fundamentals; these ought to increase focus and unity of purpose, but it appears that both the Republican Party and the beef industry will have to suffer even more losses before participants in either rally enough to effect change. If both don’t address the internal struggles quickly, they may find themselves facing insurmountable obstacles from outside.

I’m a member of both. I am a free-market, free-enterprise, pro-capitalist, limited government, pro-constitution individual who ascribes to the Judeo-Christian ethos and values that our country was founded on. I believe that the beef industry has the highest quality product in the world, and believe the people in this industry are the greatest in the world and that our values and traditions are worth fighting for.

I also realize that those views are now minority positions and that to advance them will require a new structure, a new commitment and a new vision. I’m an optimist, but I have more faith in the beef industry’s future success than the Republican Party’s. I think we have to guard against throwing the baby out with the bath water, but if both continue to spend as much time fighting each other as they do their opposition, both will continue to lose ground.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of and the Penton Agriculture Group.


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