By Brooke Appleton
This year’s election results are still trickling in as of this writing, but there is one thing that is certain: while there will be some changes in Washington, for the most part, we’re going to see more of the same in the new Congress.
Republicans will most likely take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, but, like the current Democratically controlled House, it will be by slim margins. With victories in Nevada and Arizona, Democrats will continue to control the Senate. A run-off scheduled in the Georgia Senate race will determine whether the vice president’s vote will be needed to determine party control.
Everyone in Washington is still sifting through the data to determine what drove voting patterns this year. The results run counter to political wisdom and historical patterns, all of which show that the president’s party typically loses seats by large margins. This is particularly true during economic downturns and when basic staples, like groceries and gas prices are soaring, as they are now.
Yet, while prices are high, the nation’s economic picture is complicated by the fact that employment rates remain steady. There is also evidence that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision may have impacted voter enthusiasm among Democrats.
Strong and weak candidacies also shaped election outcomes. A strong showing by gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin in New York – an unusual occurrence for a state-wide Republican politician in the Empire State – lifted the sails of Upstate Republican candidates, flipping some blue districts red, including the seat of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. This is juxtaposed with the Pennsylvania Sente race where the carpetbag label placed on celebrity Mehmet Oz may have hindered his chances of beating John Fetterman, despite his health concerns.
Thankfully, all but one of the candidates CornPAC invested in won their seats, positioning us well as we head into the 118th session of Congress. Over the coming months, my staff and I will be working to build relationships with the new members of Congress, particularly those who will sit on committees of interest.
We will be addressing many issues important to corn growers over the next year, from securing support for the Next Generation Fuels Act to passing the Farm Bill to dealing with the fallout from the drought on the Mississippi River. We will spend the next month analyzing the election results, studying the new members of the House and Senate and using that information to develop a strategy for advancing the agenda of corn growers.
In this town, relationships and bridge building are important. As former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp noted at an event I moderated over the summer, “You’ve got to build the relationships with people who care about food stamps. You’ve got to build the relationships with people who care about conservation. You’ve got to actually have that conversation. You can’t expect to basically get a farm bill through, by just being who you are in production agriculture.”
I think often about Sen. Heitkamp’s advice. While they’re very different people, I think she and Hank Williams Jr. have their finger on the pulse of the country right now.
In fact, Williams’ lyrics from “A Country Boy Can Survive” have been playing in my head lately.
“The preacher man says it’s the end of time, and the Mississippi River is a goin’ dry. Interest rates up and the stock market’s down, and you only get mugged if you go downtown.”
Here’s to unusual times. Here’s to American elections. Here’s to a new Congress!
Appleton is the vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.