CONFERENCE REPORT: Adjusting to the aftershocks of a Trump presidency

by Joel Crews
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 Ron Elving
Ron Elving discussed the affects of Trump's election on Washington, business, agriculture and for the meat industry. 
 
DALLAS – During this past week’s Annual Meat Conference, nearly every general session and breakout presentation addressed some aspect of the stir created by President Trump’s election and subsequently, during his administration’s first month in office. 
Many of the attendees, comprised largely of retail food company representatives and their supplier partners in the meat and poultry industry are admittedly and understandably a little pensive about how recent executive orders and the potential for more far-reaching policy mandates could affect their businesses and the food supply chain in general.
  
When Ron Elving, senior Washington editor and correspondent with National Public Radio addressed hundreds of attendees on Feb. 21, his presentation, “After the Earthquake: The New Scene in Washington,” addressed how Trump won the election and speculated about what it means for Washington, business, agriculture and for the meat industry. He started by talking about the sentiment in Washington. 
 
“It’s really a little difficult to put it into words how unusual everything seems,” Elving said, and he contended, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, he said, “It is largely what we chose in November,” he said. “We wanted something unusual; we did not want what Washington had been,” he said, and few would argue that today’s White House reflects anything resembling the past.
 
He said the 2016 election turned on its ear, everything so-called pundits in Washington thought they knew about the presidential election process. Elving admitted he and others whiffed badly on assessing the sentiment of voters and the intensity of the overall dissatisfaction among voters in Middle America and the force of their pushback. Concerns about trade, economic inequality, immigration and an uncertainty about the future based on up-and-coming generations all factored into the Trump support few experts predicted. A change-of-party sentiment simmered as elements of the US economy grew in 2016, but lagged in critical areas, including low home ownership rates and wage growth. 
 
Another factor at play was that there is historically, a political pendulum that swings after one party is in the White House for consecutive terms, Elving said. This almost always signals a shift in support to the other party in the next presidential election. That bell indeed tolled after President Obama’s tenure.
 
“There is nothing more typical in American Presidential politics,” Elving said, “changing parties after eight years,” with only one exception since World War II.
 
Other reasons for the Trump victory, Elving suggested, was because the Democratic party looked past the 270 electoral votes needed for victory in aiming for 370 votes, based on faulty faith in polls and political models while believing Florida and Arizona were shoe-ins for their party and that the Great Lakes states would maintain their “blue wall” status. Elving counted himself among the experts in political science who relied too much on the science and not enough on the political part of the equation.  Hillary Clinton’s team, he pointed out, also lost sight of crucial demographics, especially minorities. Compared to President Obama’s 82 percent, Clinton’s share of the minority vote was just 74 percent, and only carried 65 percent of Hispanic and Asian voters versus her predecessor’s 80 percent.

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