Will they make any noise? Like I have been speculating, Sen. McCain's adamant opposition to farm and ethanol subsidies is turning red voters blue, or at least purple. And the process for some is more than a little uncomfortable.
But it seems almost assured that the choices will be John McCain and Barack Obama, neither, from the standpoint of farmers and many white rural voters, good.But even if they can bring themselves to vote for Sen Obama will they keep the system of payouts they have fought for? I'm not so sure. I think stronger payment limits/means testing will be back, in that case.
McCain is burdened among these constituencies by close association with Bush. More specifically, he has railed against subsidies for farmers and he was in lock step with Bush's recently overridden veto of a major farm bill that, while capping subsidies, left those subsidies sufficiently intact to mollify Arkansas farmers.
McCain's war record and maverick independence overcome quite a bit with these voters. But it is always problematic for a politician if he is perceived as a threat to livelihoods.
It takes an unusually altruistic voter to support a political candidate who wants to cut that voter's income. A man running for office while saying newspaper columnists ought to get paid less is going to be a hard sell with me, all other issues and factors notwithstanding.
That leaves Obama, who supported the farm bill and the override, but who is an African-American.
I am not saying all East Arkansas farmers are racists. I am not saying all conservative white rural voters in Arkansas are racists. I'm saying remnants of a racist culture stubbornly persist in some parts of rural Arkansas. [More]
Both Democratic candidates, Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton of New York, voted for the legislation when it first went through the Senate but weren't present for the vote overturning Mr. Bush's veto. Both campaigns said they supported the override. Because of a clerical error, a section of the bill was omitted for the override vote, and lawmakers are expected to deal with that this week.But the largest problem of all is whether our tiny handful of votes really amount to any political clout. One thing does seem reasonable is the farm vote could be farm more divided than we have seen for along time. And if the split is roughly 50-50, it's like we didn't vote at all, in some sense.
The legislation begins shifting the direct farm subsidy from one that all farmers receive to one paid only when times are bad. While there is still an element of the payment formula involving a direct subsidy, it is decreasing.
"Sen. Obama is a supporter of that concept," said Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.
The Illinois senator has also advocated cutting support for large commercial farmers and transferring it to small and medium-size family-owned farms.
Sen. McCain, on the other hand, has opposed farm subsidies regardless of their structure, Mr. Doggett said. [More]
This outcome will not go unnoticed by political analysts.