You’re Not the Boss of Me

There are important lessons we can learn from the long, strange trip to the 2016 election. This column is published in the June issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Ron Lamberty | May 18, 2016

If you were paging through Ethanol Producer Magazine to avoid reading about the 2016 election season, I apologize. I don’t normally write about politics, unless it’s something that affects our ability to sell more ethanol to consumers, but I think there are important lessons we can learn from the long, strange trip the 2016 election already has been. Even if you don’t start with Iowa.

Instead, you can start with Donald Trump, who in early May became the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party.  Pundits predicted his demise several times early in the primary season after he made politically incorrect or ill-informed statements and then refused to back down from those remarks.  News channels played and analyzed clips as though they would never get a chance to talk about him again after shocked viewers rushed to the polls to vote for anyone but Trump.  Record numbers of voters did rush to the polls, but they apparently went there to vote for Trump.

When he attacked his opponents, Trump gained support. When opponents attacked Trump, they disappeared. Conservative PACs spent big money attacking Trump and promoting other candidates, the TV talking heads railed against him, and other candidates worked the rule book to gain delegates and even explored ways to join forces to defeat him. Early on, election analysts boldly predicted Trump’s “ceiling,” but they kept having to come back to raise it. And Trump kept getting more votes.

Puzzled politicos have asked “Why are people voting for Donald Trump?,” and they’ve answered their own questions with Trump haters citing some variation of rage against fellow humans, and supporters talking about toughness, and being an “outsider” who can shake up Washington. Those answers all contain some truth. Bernie Sanders’ rise in the Democratic primaries supports the outsider and shake ‘em up analysis.  But while a lot of people were voting for Trump, I think a lot more of them were voting against all the “experts” and “leaders” who are trying to tell voters what to do, what they should think on the “issues,” and why they should feel shame voting for a particular candidate.

Some call this the year of the outsider, but I’m calling it the “You’re-not-the-boss-of-me” election. But it’s not a loud crusade against political correctness and predetermination (like a Trump rally), as much as it is a kind of anonymous resistance.

That’s a lot about an election and only a couple paragraphs left to explain what any of it has to do with ethanol. To oversimplify, ethanol’s opponents have gained support by defining ethanol as a fuel people are being forced to use. It is not coincidental that big oil and its politicians to use the words “mandate” and “government policy” when talking about the renewable fuel standard—anti-ethanol rhetoric always includes some element of the fuel being forced on the public.

In reality, oil companies are the “party establishment” in the fuel world, and government and bureaucracies create rules to limit drivers’ ability to choose our fuel. Ethanol gains support when we remind people of those realities. We want an “open convention” at the pump. Always mention big oil contract restrictions, and government regulations limiting fuel choice. FlexFuelForward.com tells retailers about other retailers who have been successful selling higher ethanol blends. It’s no coincidence successful ethanol retailers have a “rebel” attitude and approach to selling E15 and flex fuels. People may not rally for ethanol, and it may not seem like we're winning, but wherever we give people the chance to vote with their tanks, we keep getting more votes.



Author: Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol
605-334-3381
rlamberty@ethanol.org