RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean Surrender

So, as I understand it, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And most of my pals have gone through most of them.

Bargaining is the most interesting and, for the candidates the most lucrative. To pay for recounts in a few states that have no chance of changing the outcome, parties have raised millions and spent much, but apparently not all of it. More power to them if it will make better competitors in the future!

As for me, I whipped pretty rapidly through the stages and into depression and have moved on. And it’s darn irritating that the rest of you can’t come along more quickly. In the last month, every meeting I’ve gone to has featured at least one rant by someone who can’t make it to the safe shores of acceptance. They pace around, back and forth, head hanging down like my horse when he doesn’t want to go across the creek. “I just don’t know what we’ll do,” they say. Again, like my horse would say if he could talk.

Finally, after a sharp kick or a swat with a skinny tree branch, he faces the water and steps right in. He’s gotten to acceptance. And acceptance means that we can make progress.

After all, we have to learn to live with this guy who’s innocent as a pony when it comes to policy. Our future commander-in-chief even seems to have populist instincts with some of the stuff he says and backslider instincts on the rest. Already his bumbling outbursts have reportedly killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and killing the TPP has been on our agenda for a couple of years now.

How did the TPP die? If, in fact, TPP is dead, as reported by the Wall Street Journal just a few days after the election. According to WSJ, Obama stopped pushing it … but why?

Maybe some of our lawmakers, reeling from the unexpected Trump win, decided to listen to us for a change? Maybe both Ds and Rs were shocked enough to finally take rural people and the rust belt seriously? If so, that means that we need to move through grief to acceptance and stay in the game!

The TPP win doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t worry about the Affordable Care Act — or Medicaid, Medicare, rural hospitals and rural doctors. And it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight for public schools and fight against privatizing every darn government service like they’ve privatized the prisons and parts of the military. “Etermal Vigilance is the price of Liberty,” as Thomas Jefferson said.

The thing is that if citizens aren’t involved in democracy, and I mean BEYOND voting, we never get what we want. It’s ridiculous to think that Wal-Mart Hillary would do better for the rural community than Wall Street Trump.

The night after the election, on my radio program on KOPN 89.5 FM, we tried to get some perspective on the political situation. So I read a bunch of quotes from politicians about agriculture. These were Missouri-centric politicians: McCaskill (D), Blunt (R), Leutkemeyer (R), Hartzler (R), Greitens (R). And, oh yeah, Trump. I had one or two quotes from each one.

We asked people to call in if they knew which politico had uttered the words. One fellow called in and ID’d the Trump quote correctly… the quote had to do with John Deere being a great company, so that was agriculture on Wall Street, very Trump, right?

My co-host, Rhett, did a pretty good job of guessing the rest of them: Our governor-elect Greitens admitted to cluelessness about agriculture, McCaskill (with St. Louis in her district) defended atrazine (a Monsanto profit-getter — Monsanto is a St. Louis company), Blunt and Hartzler talked about how many mouths we have to feed, another Monsanto slogan, pretty predictable.

But Leutkemeyer had actually done something and worked across the aisle to pass a bill to provide more rural housing guarantees, esp. for homeless veterans. Now the question is … who’s the progressive?

Strange but true, Leutkemeyer was also the only one that agreed to meet with me last year when I was in D.C. fighting the TPP. The others let me meet with an aide or two, but Leutkemeyer sat down and we talked for an hour. At the end of the conversation, he agreed that there were definite problems with TPP, but I felt he leaned toward approval.

I digress. TPP now is dead. According to the Wall Street Journal. And the next trade deals will be better. According to Donald Trump.

But here’s the deal. Nothing will be better unless you weigh in. Move through your grief and write your rascally Congressman and visit your faraway state capitol. Tell them what you want.

I’m betting that one of your favorite non-profits has a lobby day next session. One lobby day or another, or all of them ... Be there!!

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, January 1-15, 2017

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