The Times Are a Changin’

Published on: 14:52PM Nov 05, 2008

The biggest crises always produce the biggest changes, especially politically. Such was the case with the presidential election yesterday.


Although Barack Obama was widely expected to win, the margin of his victory was remarkable.  States that hadn’t voted for a Democrat since LBJ’s 1964 landslide (when Obama was literally still in diapers), like my Virginia, turned blue.  Upper Midwest states that were thought to be at least competitive, including Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, were lopsided.  Nevada and New Mexico, places where you’d think an Arizonan would run strong, were also easy wins.  And so it went all last night.


I’m not going to do any more parsing of the meaning of the election, other than to again reiterate the obvious:  when the margin of victory is this big, the degree of change from the status quo is likely to also be big.  The economy was up for election Tuesday; it got a resounding thumbs down, creating a big mandate for President-elect Obama to make things right.  Something like 80% of the voters said the country is on the wrong track.  It may not be a mandate for everything the Democrats want to do, but it’s a mandate to do something else, with someone else. 


Let me also highlight another obvious fact:  the agriculture sector got spanked in the Proposition 2 vote in California Tuesday.  Prop 2, which will hang a for-sale sign on the egg laying business in our nation’s largest state, won handily, with upwards of 63% of the vote.  Even though the Governator, and many of the state’s newspapers, opined against the ballot initiative, the Humane Society poured enough resources into the fight to win.  They had emotions; the opponents mostly tried to use economic facts.  Guess which was more effective?


I draw your attention to what one of those many newspapers – and perhaps the most important, the LA Times, said about the Prop 2 initiative (and this was as it was coming out in opposition to the measure):


Although Proposition 2 isn't the answer, the egg industry is due for an overhaul, and chicken farmers should take heed. Polls indicate that this measure has wide support. If it passes, that will be in part because the egg industry either has been oblivious to consumer concerns or recalcitrant about coming up with its own solutions. Proposition 2 is proof that if farmers insist on mistreating animals, people will act.


The Humane Society of the U.S. was able to frame the issue about proper vs. improper treatment of chickens, and voters (ahem) ate it up.  But the Times is right; if livestock producers are oblivious to the belief systems of even poorly-informed consumers, at some point, we’ll be in the fight for our lives.  Despite its name, the Humane Society is willing to fight dirty if that’s what it takes to win.  And they’re getting good at it.