Rural Americans came to the polls in unheralded, unpredicted numbers and they voted for a non-politician, whether they liked him or not. They voted for change—-they voted for the only candidate who was not a career politician, who offered to change things in DC.
The “Fly-Over” Political Uprising of 2016
In one of the most insightful comments on election night, Chuck Todd of NBC’s Meet the Press pointed out that rural Americans had won this race, the people who feel forgotten—he added in a direct comment to Lester Holt “we’re even guilty of that when we refer to them as ‘fly over’ as we head to the west coast.”
In a shocker that will cause political pollsters to reexamine their techniques and protocols, Donald Trump stumped the world and won the Presidency of the United States—-against all odds and against all predictions from the well known and previously well respected pollsters.
He did it with an outpouring of rural Americans to a percentage unheard of in modern politics. He did itby sweeping the rural areas in the south, the northeast, the vast mid-west, the Missouri Valley, the south west and the Intermountain west. He lost only the areas of the far west and northwest dominated by city votes, the New York-Jersey=Maryland=Virgina east dominated by city votes and Chicago dominated Illinois. He did it in an election that also swept enough republicans into office to allow the Republican party to now hold control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
So, come January, Republicans will control the Executive branch, the legislative branch (Senate and House) and the appointment power to name the Judicial branch for the next four years. If progress for the economy, for interstate commerce, for the rebuilding of a crumbling infrastructure, for international safety is not made, there will be no excuses based on Harry and his obstructionist ways in the Senate or a on a recalcitrant House.
If we do not progress in all the areas to which the republican candidates committed, as well as those to which Trump committed, the blame will fall on republicans. A good part of the republicans in Congress (who did not endorse Trump) may rue the day that rural America finally rose up and spoke its mind.
How did it happen? Rural Americans came to the polls in unheralded, unpredicted numbers and they voted for a non-politician, whether they liked him or not. They voted for change—-they voted for the only candidate who was not a career politician, who offered to change things in DC. Did they vote for Trump as Trump? That remains to be seen, but my deep suspicion is that only a small percentage of them voted for Trump because they accepted Trump as the ideal candidate. They voted for him, I deeply suspect, because he fought with and was rejected by career republicans as well as democrats.
And, why did it happen? That’s a slam dunk easy one: the Executive branch of our governing officials—the bureaucrats—have literally waged war on rural Americans for at least the last 40 years. The timber industry was decimated, causing the loss of thousands of loggers and mill workers jobs and turning thriving logging towns into ghost towns. That loss occurred because the administrations of Jimmy Carter, George Bush the Elder, Bill Clinton, George Bush the Junior and Barack Obama allowed activist organizations to use the Endangered Species Act to end logging in the national forests. Critics will disagree and contend that the law itself led to destruction of that industry. But, that is not true. Activist groups filed lawsuits under the Act, basing their arguments against continued logging on a danger to species such as the “northern spotted owl” in the Northwest and the “Mexican spotted owl” in the Southwest. Rather than contest the actions, requiring the organizations to prove their cases scientifically, objectively and measurably, the Administration’s bureaucrats settled the cases by agreeing to do what the activists wanted. Developed through this period of time was the “Sue and Settle” protocol by which the administrations of republican and democrat party affiliations gave in. And, they “gave in” not to save money and not on the merits of science and evidence but because these administrations were filled with people who shared the goal of shutting down logging. From the time acts like the Endangered Species Act were passed during the Nixon administration the executive branch of government has favored shut down of natural resource production n rural America.
From the standpoint of Americans deprived of jobs, deprived of their traditional way of life, it didn’t really seem to matter whether republican or democrat ran the White House. I remember the enthusiasm of the western state workers when George Bush the elder defeated Jimmy Carter, but it soon became clear there would be no relief. Then enthusiasm galore swept the natural resource rural areas when Clinton was succeeded by Bush the junior. Some of our worst national surrenders occurred during the next eight years.
I remember a small meeting of cattlemen, representatives of Owyhee County, Idaho and members of the Idaho delegation in Boise when I asked Senator Larry Craig how long it would be before we would see some change in the anti-livestock approach of the interior and agriculture departments. This was two years into the first Bush the junior term. Senator Craig said, and I wrote this down to preserve a truism of politics forever: “Fred, it is taking us longer than it should to get our game plan together; we’ve been out of power so long that it is taking longer, but we’re going to get there.” I said “Senator, that is the problem with the republican party, Democrats always act as though they’re in power even when they’re not. They don’t have to create a game plan when they take control; they already have it in place because they’ve been following it even when not in power.”
The 4 year republican hiatus between Carter and Clinton, and the 8 years between Clinton and Obama brought little if any relief, and in some ways things got worse. Carter, Clinton and Obama had aggressive secretaries of ag and interior—-the Bushes had unimpressive, non aggressive, “lets all get along and collaborate” secretaries of ag and interior. In some ways more ground was lost during the Bushes years than during the democrat days. One reason for this was that neither Bush aggressively pushed to roll back losses to rural Americans’ economic base.
The “war on rural America” was not aimed just at timber—ranchers were targeted by attempts to end livestock grazing in the western federally managed land states, miners were targeted in the same area. And, the war was not focused just on the federally managed western states. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Corps of Engineers and US Fish and Wildlife used their power over “wetlands” and water to strangle traditional farming in the south, southwest and Midwest. Trade policies and agreements sold out the markets that once had provided healthy profits for farmers. Unquestioning of Global warming concepts and policies to implement the concept hit traditional farming practices hard and often. The gluttonous demands of the cities and their burgeoning populations for tax dollars left the rural infrastructure to crumble—from schools through highways and bridges.
Rural towns depended traditionally on two basic employment elements: farming and support services tied to farming needs, and food production factory workers. Trade policies, and NAFTA in particular, swept away production jobs, leaving communities with deserted factory buildings and no economic support. Long before I got involved in defending landowners and water rights I argued against NAFTA. On the morning after its ratification, I was driving from Nampa, Idaho to Sun Valley to speak to an Idaho counties meeting. The news from San Francisco’s KGO that morning reported that Del Monte had announced closure of two southern California canning factories. Del Monte said it was moving its operation to new facilities in Mexico to take advantage of the benefits of NAFTA.
Ahh yes, and just twenty four hours earlier, members of the United States Senate, republican and democrat, had contended that NAFTA would not harm the U.S. economy but benefit it. NAFTA has not boosted, but has booted the rural economy of this nation—booted it right into foreign countries.
Trump saw and sees this and says it out loud so people can hear him. He also said he would change it; and within 24 hours the Mexican Prime Minister announced that her nation had no objection to “modernizing” NAFTA but would actively resist rescission. Of course, because NAFTA benefits Mexico, not the United States.
Whether Trump will, or can, do what he said he would do is not even the question. To rural voters, Trump’s challenge to Black voters, rings just as true for them: “what have you got to lose?” Better to rural voters to vote for a man who at least voices their concerns than for someone who ignores their concerns? Quite obviously they thought so.
When Chuck Todd said he believed that rural Americans were tired of feeling as though their concerns were unimportant he was so right. He told Lester Holt, rural Americans got tired of being the “fly over” people and came out to the polls in droves because they had the chance to vote for someone who was not a professional politician, someone who at least talked as though he understood their plight.
Years ago, I helped Owyhee County Idaho ranchers and citizens prepare to testify against Clinton’s Bruce Babbitt Rangeland Reform Regulations that would have removed livestock grazing from the rangelands of the west and the grasslands of the mid-west. Bill Lowry, now 95 and still fighting from Jordan Valley, Oregon, testified in a manner that brought absolute silence in a large, drafty, noisy hearing room in Boise. He testified that he had been in the first wave of foot soldiers to wade onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. He said, in a strong voice obviously now emotional, that“when I waded to that beach to fight for my country, watching my comrades fall around me, it never would have occurred to me that one day I would stand facing representatives of my own government who were trying to take my land away from me.”
At the College of Idaho in 1956 Dr. Leslie Brock of the History Department said that there were three main reasons why the United States would always remain self independent and invulnerable to attack from outside. First, we produced our own food supply, we did not have to depend on food produced by other nations to feed our troops and ourselves. Second, we had the industrial complex that could overnight turn from making automobiles and washing machines to making war materials as had been done the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. And, third, our nation was geographically so broad that no foreign power could penetrate to the mid-continent and gain footholds within our borders.
As history goes, he was right. Today, we do not have that same industrial capacity because we have become reliant on foreign factories for production. We do not produce all our own food because trade policies and bitter restrictions on production by our own citizens favor importing of food products. And, the NAFTA Superhighway, of which the Trans Texas Corridor was to be the first leg, provides a quarter mile wide throughway for transportation of products or people without benefit of United States Custom inspections. The Trans Texas Corridor commenced at a Chinese city built on the coast of Mexico and was planned through the heart of agricultural Texas with no U.S. customs to inspect the loads of Mexican trucks that need not meet any of the restrictive standards imposed on our domestic trucking companies. Fortunately, with the aid of the “coordination” process, four small towns in Texas defeated the EPA, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway and Transportation Department and the Corridor was withdrawn.
With the “fly over” uprising, America’s rural citizens said “enough is enough”. Now, it is up to those of us who have the legal tools to help accomplish what the voters started: the “fly over” reforms that can return authority to local governments, that can put our rural economic interests first instead of last, that can return our economic independence and that can Bring Back the America that we once knew—Bring Back the pride of rural Americans. We must commit, and I know the Stand and Fight Club will commit, that we will not let the “fly over” rural voters down.
Follow the work of the Stand and Fight Club as we spread the word about the “coordination” process by which all federal regulatory agencies are obligated to make their policies and regulations consistent with local policies protecting local citizens. I will do all in my power to make sure that the “fly over” voters did not come out in vain.