RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Vote for Less Worst and Hope for the Best

In the last couple of months, we’ve all gotten a barrage of e-mails and robot phone calls asking if we’ll work for the election of this politician or that one — the governor? The senator? The prez? No. No. And No. And I’m so sorry...

It’s not that we don’t want to see these folks elected, but we don’t want our hearts broken. We’ve been disappointed too many times. It takes more than hopeful conviction to knock on doors, hand out flyers at the farmers’ market or nudge our co-workers into supporting someone. Commitment like that takes love, true love. And, after the last heartbreaks, it’s too soon to love again. Our politicians have made too many broken promises, and had too many tawdry affairs with the low lifes with the big corporate hair.

For family farmers, one heartbreak came in the rejection of rules for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, part of the USDA. New GIPSA rules would have required corporations with giant, polluting CAFOs and feedlots, like Smithfield and Cargill, known as packers, to make their contracts available to regulators and it would have banned preferential contracts between packers and producers.

That would have given the little guy, who might be thought of as the middle class farmer, a chance. These rules, which should have been written ninety years ago when the Packers and Stockyards Act was passed, would have acted to rein in the corporations that dominate the livestock markets. The administration got our hopes up, bringing a road show of USDA listeners to sites across the nation so that farmers could testify on how hard it is for independents to compete with the near-monopolies that sell directly to the other near-monopolies like Walmart in the grocery business.

There have been other heartbreaks — the approval of GMO alfalfa after record numbers of comments against it — can you blame us for feeling like we’ve been led on?

For small investors, heartbreak comes with another rule-making snafu, the Dodd-Frank Act. Key parts of the act, which we hoped could prevent another financial meltdown by making parts of the system more transparent, are being held up by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The “say on pay” provision would restrict executive pay and make it easy for stockholders to see and restrict the outrageous pay scale for CEOs.

Those rules are being held up as corporations whine that it’s too hard to make executive pay transparent and comparative to the average wage earner’s. For environmentalists, heartbreak has come in many forms from the EPA. Every time that agency reviews an environmental travesty, the corporations win. America needs jobs, they say, and nobody has proved that (pick one) agricultural pesticides cause human cancer OR carbon emissions cause global warming OR mountain top removal is bad for the waterways. The administrations, federal, state and local, benefit when these same corporations form PACs and advertise in their own self-interest.

Just when you think the real Prince Charming has come along, the disappointments and denials start and so does the blame game. In politics, the executive branch blames Congress and Congress blames them back. When they agree, it’s when they say that nobody can really control policy, and it’s clear to voters that there’s trouble in the checks-and-balances when the corporate crooks have taken over all the parts.

All that we the people can do is get over it, and create alternatives that serve our communities better. Local markets for products created by independent producers and fair-trade items when we have to buy things from far away. And, for heaven’s sake, use less stuff.

In the next election, it looks like, we’ll be voting the way we have most of our lives. That means we’ll be casting our ballots against the worst of them instead of in favor of the best. We remember the sweet, heady days of 2008, the cars honking on the road, the champagne bottles popping, and remind each other that we were once in love and it can happen again.

The current heartthrobs can restore our faith quickly by acting in our best middle-class interests instead of in favor of the big corporations. We’re at a tipping point, and we’re just waiting for the right smile from the right Casanova.

The current administrations in our states, local and especially federal governments, could woo us back to a better economic and moral place.

Margot McMillen farms and teaches English in Missouri. Email See

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2012

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