ORLANDO, Fla. — The American Trucking Associations and the US trucking industry have long held an affinity for the Republican Party. Yet, as was foreshadowed by the playing of Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They are a Changin’ as ATA president Bill Graves took the stage to deliver his annual State of the Industry address, traditional allegiances may be reevaluated.
Graves, a former Republican governor himself, said as much, right at the start of his address. Graves pointed out that – like it or not – the world trucking operates in is in large part shaped by the policy and regulations set by government and so engagement in the political process is critical.
“Political change is underway and many of the traditional allegiances the business community has had with the Republican Party are necessarily going to need to be re-evaluated…We are rapidly moving to a time where political labels mean very little, but the integrity and statesman-like qualities of candidates for office, or those already holding office, must be the measure by which we decide our level of support,” Graves told the strongly attended State of the Industry session.
Graves called the collapse of the Republican Party in the face of the emergence of its ultra-conservative Tea Party wing alarming and referred to the Tea Party’s influence as “corrosive.”
“While it’s appropriate, and there is certainly merit in advocating for reduced government spending, smaller government, reducing our debt, limiting regulations and controlling the reach and intrusive nature of the federal government – insisting on having things their way, without a hint of willingness to compromise and threatening to ‘burn the house down’ otherwise, is a combination of foolish, ill-advised, reckless and detrimental actions to the future of this country,” Graves said.
He added, “Compromise must be at the heart of all the federal government does.”
Graves believes the Republican Party will spend its energy wrangling internally over who they are and who they represent, allowing the Democrats to dominate presidential elections and possibly end up controlling both chambers of the Congress. “The Tea Party is intent on fielding candidates and challenging any Republican officeholder or candidate not viewed as conservative enough and committed to the Tea Party agenda. The candidate may win the primary only to prove unelectable in the general election,” Graves said. “I’ve personally been in this political family feud and in the near-term, no good will come of it for the Republican Party. If I was your political broker, my advice would be that you should sell your Republican shares and buy Democrat,” Graves said to a likely surprised audience of fleets executives.