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Can we still elect good men and women?Can we still elect good men and women?

Nor’east Thinkin’: Thoughts from 68 years ago on why we should be raising and feeding politicians as carefully as we raise good corn.

John Vogel

October 19, 2016

4 Min Read

The fast-approaching presidential election is on everyone’s mind. Yet, every one — and I do mean every one — wishes it were over. In late August, we predicted: “If you think the presidential race has been nasty, ya ain’t seen nothing yet.” Boy, was that an understatement!

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In a few days, the print version of November’s American Agriculturist will arrive in farm mailboxes. Your first reaction may be: “Oh, no!!” Two of the nation’s most infamous faces will be on the cover — for good reason. You must know where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on crucial farm and environmental policies. The inside cover story details their extreme differences in their own words. You’ll find the full-length Q&A at Where Clinton and Trump stand on ag policies and issues.

Before assigning November’s cover, Senior Editor Holly Spangler and I talked about whether it would be a precedent. And the answer was “no.” Prairie Farmer had a 1948 election cover story by Editor Clifford Gregory headlined: “We can raise good corn. But can we elect good men?”

So you won’t have to dust off a history book or do a web search to know what election it was, here’s the short of it: The 1948 U.S. presidential election is considered by historians as the greatest election upset in American history — well, at least up to now.

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Virtually every prediction and opinion poll indicated that incumbent President Harry Truman would be defeated by Thomas Dewey. The Chicago Daily Tribune even went to press with a huge front-page “Dewey defeats Truman” headline. Truman won, overcoming Dewey and two other candidates, including Henry Wallace, an Iowa farm boy who once served as editor of Wallaces Farmer and later became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and vice president. But that’s a different story.

Back to electing good men … and women
Gregory wrote: “We have learned how to grow wonderful corn, and we have designed equipment for handling it most efficiently. But we haven’t done so well in human relations, and specifically in government.

“While the science of production has moved steadily forward, the art of human understanding and cooperation has lagged because of our busyness with other things. Our failures in this respect are responsible for over half the cost of government, all the cost of war, plus the blood spilled and the haunting fear of the future which keeps Americans unhappy in the midst of plenty.

“We must do many things if we are to catch up with our responsibilities in American and world citizenship. One of them is to vote intelligently and with sincerity on Election Day. Our votes should be cast for the good of all people, not for our particular group alone.”

What kind of person, man or woman, is best fitted to hold office?
Then Gregory listed the traits:
• “That person should be honest, avoiding easy promises and alliance with one group at the expense of others.
• “That person should be intelligent and humble in the face of the heavy and perplexing responsibilities that go with public service.
• “That person should understand the meaning of human freedom. In a democracy, the individual is most important, and the processes of government are for his service. He does not want to trade his sovereignty for temporary gain or hollow security.
• “That person should have the anchorage of personal religious faith. Who can doubt in our day that man can live in peace only under laws based on the Ten Commandments, and inspired by concepts of duty set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

“We are in danger of losing the fruits of all our labors and the amazing products of our science because we have failed, the world over, to solve our problems of human relations. I think farm people understand our great need better than most people. Because you are closer to growth and life, because your calling combines the dignity of labor with personal decision and responsibility, because you have the best opportunity to reconcile the laws of science and nature with the great purpose of God, you have a special call to leadership in this hour.”

Remember, this was written 68 years ago. Yet, it fits today to a T.

In case some of you were wondering: No, I didn’t personally know Gregory or Wallace at the time.

Bite-sized morsel
“Leopards” don’t change their spots. They just hide them until after Election Day.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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