On the day that he signed the 1985 Farm Bill into law President Ronald Reagan said, “my guiding thought throughout our efforts to put together a truly helpful farm bill has been: We’re nothing without the farmers. They’re the backbone of this country. And everything we do to help them helps our country and its future.”
So it’s bizarre that groups claiming to carry President Reagan’s mantel, such as Heritage Action, have targeted U.S. farm policy for elimination.
According to the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Heritage Action and groups like it are not only out of touch with the Gipper, they are also out of touch with the views of the American public, including those identifying as conservative Republican voters. Nowhere on the list of concerns among the general public or among GOP primary voters was there a proposal to eliminate American farm policy. Yet, Heritage Action scored more House votes on farm policy in the 113th Congress than it did on terrorism, health care, energy, and the budget – issues that Americans said were of concern.
Perhaps this disconnect between Heritage Action’s priorities and the priorities of voters Heritage and other groups claim to represent explains why Americans are so incredibly frustrated with Washington, with some 67 percent of those polled saying the country is on the wrong track.
As the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the recent GOP presidential debate, and any newspaper would indicate, there is no shortage of serious issues facing our nation today, both at home and abroad. Just one of the many issues identified by GOP primary voters is, of course, something on the minds of all Americans right now: jobs and the economy.
And, yet, even as the EPA runs roughshod to finally and fully implement what former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) calls the biggest federal land grab in history, Heritage Action is asleep at the switch.
Absent further intervention by the federal courts, EPA’s job and economy killing “waters of the U.S. regulation” will take effect and without Heritage Action ever having scored a single House vote to block the regulation in the last Congress.
Heritage Action was too busy bullying farmers and ranchers over the Farm Bill. But, this is just one example of Heritage Action’s dereliction of duty in reflecting the concerns of voters, including conservative Republican voters.
As former Rep. Combest remarked recently, “I always stood up for conservative values. But I never once believed that these values required me to turn my back on rural America and the families who feed, clothe, and fuel this country and so much of the world. I see zero conflict between conservatism and supporting American agriculture.”
Ronald Reagan won two landslide elections. Combest won 10 in what the Almanac of American Politics described as the most conservative district in the country. Perhaps that’s because Reagan’s and Combest’s work in Washington reflected the concerns and values of the people who elected them.
Heritage Action and similar Inside-the-Beltway groups could learn from both.