RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Presidential Race is Just the Top of the Card

Thank you, Hillary, Donald, Jill and Gary! Your campaigns have succeeded where all the civics classes, poli sci lectures and how-a-bill-becomes-a-law charts failed: You have engaged hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans in the fun of political theater. As long as we didn’t take it too seriously—like believing that the future of our planet, our children’s lives, our rights and our community values are at stake — it’s been a great season!

A few Americans, indeed, missed the best part. Early voting, a possibility in most states through the absentee voting system or (in 36 states) early-voting schemes, meant that some folks cast their ballots as early as Sept. 29 (Illinois) or dates determined by local governments (California and North Dakota). If you voted that early, you might have put your ballot in the box before the last Donald or Hillary scandals hit the news.

With our 10 electoral votes, Missouri has been projected in the Trump camp for all the lead-up. And, stranger still are the down-ballot races. We have two identical-twins-separated-at-birth running for governor, one as D and one as R. The D candidate, Chris Koster, started his political career as a Republican. But, seeing how weak the D camp is, he packed up his elephant collection and bought a bunch of plastic donkeys for his shelves. Now he’s a Democrat, but endorsed by the Farm Bureau and NRA who, as they say in the ads, have never endorsed a D.

These endorsements caused a lot of trouble and confusion to my Republican neighbors, who always vote with the Farm Bureau recommendation. “What are we going to do?” wailed the husband of my egg lady when I went to pick up the month’s four dozen. The FB endorsement of a Democrat, Koster-the-imposter, had set him to worrying. “We have to go back,” he said, meaning to the Reagan era, I guess. And he asked, “What’s next?” In these crazy times, he worried, anything could happen. Will the NRA endorse a Muslim? Or, worse, an atheist?

You might think that progressive populists are in a pickle and of course you’d be right, but we’ve never been able to count on, really count on, either party to stand by us through thick and thin. So, after 2016, the worst legislative session in recent memory if you count the number of times that corporate-backed industrial bills were passed to run over local control, property rights and social justice issues, we’re getting organized. But many of us have given up on party lines. It’s easier to just call the bad policies by their names and let the best of our elected officials decide if they have backbones.

For the first time in many years, progressive Missouri groups have started meeting waayyy before the beginning of the next legislative session to talk about policy and strategy for 2017. Compared to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) we’re behind the curve. ALEC’s agenda has been set for years and it’s all about handing power to Wall Street and the elites. They’re consistent about taking responsibility away from business to provide social goods like health insurance, good schools and even good roads. Progressive Populists think that industry should pay its fair share, so we counter by talking about values and community.

Our people-before-corporations groups are meeting statewide to discuss how we can progress with environmental and social issues. Our meetings are often about how to educate the newly elected in city, state and county governments, and to help them see the real costs of putting the future into the hands of industry. As industrial equipment gets bigger, for example, their transportation puts more wear and tear on roads and bridges, endangering ordinary drivers. Why should industry be exempt from paying its fair share?

If your state, like mine, has been heeding the siren call of industry, you might have a law that allows foreign corporations to take over land in your neighborhood. Missouri has more small farms than any other state except Texas, and despite that fact there was a handing over of land to foreign corporations back in 2014 that hasn’t stopped yet. When Smithfield was sold to a Chinese company, the sale transferred thousands of acres of Missouri land to Chinese ownership.

Missouri’s general assembly begins its four-month session in January when our 34-member Senate and 163-member House will begin meeting. Bills will be pre-filed beginning Dec. 1, and that’s when the newly born progressive populist coalitions will begin to see how much work there is ahead of us. Here’s hoping that the lessons of the long Donald-Hillary-Jill-Gary campaign has generated citizens who are engaged and ready to fight, because the future of our planet, our children’s lives, our rights and our community values ARE at stake, whether we believe it or not.

Margot Ford McMillen farms near Fulton, Mo., and co-hosts Farm and Fiddle on sustainable ag issues on KOPN 89.5 FM in Columbia, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2016

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