Political Pendulum Backswing

SEMA News—February 2019


By Colby Martin

Political Pendulum Backswing

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”—Newton’s Third Law of Motion

  House White House PhotoThe 2018 State of the Union speech in the U.S. House chamber.

With November’s midterm election now behind us, the American people have once again shifted the balance of power in a different direction. Although 2016 proved to be one of the most contentious U.S. elections in recent memory, the resulting legislative landscape over the past two years has generally been helpful to the automotive specialty-equipment market and the enthusiasts who support it. While there are important long-term efforts needing to be resolved, pro-hobby proposals have outnumbered threats—particularly at the state level. However, don’t count on things remaining the same. Here is a look at some key takeaways from election night 2018.

Not surprisingly, the electorate’s recent movement toward a shift in leadership continues. The nation is clearly more fed up than ever with the status quo in Washington, D.C., and in statehouses from coast to coast. Reports indicate that the number of Americans who voted—114 million—was a record high for a midterm election. In comparison, about 81 million Americans voted in the 2014 midterms. A history-making number of victorious female candidates created a so-called “Women’s Wave.” Even regional ballot initiatives were not immune to surprising results.

Perhaps the most exciting news for the automotive community was the nod to one of our own in Congress: Meyer Distributing President and CEO Mike Braun. Braun was elected by a wide margin to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate. His contest with incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly was one of the most closely watched races of the 2018 cycle. Senator Braun is the first SEMA-member company official to be elected to the office.

Mike BraunMeyer Distributing President and CEO Mike Braun accepted the award for the Warehouse Distributor of the Year at the 2017 SEMA Show banquet before going on to be elected U.S. Senator from Indiana.  

Braun began working for Meyer Body Co. in 1981 and transitioned its business from manufacturing to distribution, forming Meyer Distributing. Over the following decades, Senator Braun grew the business into a national distribution company with 65 locations in 38 states. As one who uniquely understands the hobby’s importance, Braun’s election is a game-changer, and working with him to protect the rights of enthusiasts will be a welcome opportunity.

Many fresh faces joined Senator Braun in the nation’s capital in January, where both major political parties achieved new seats. As many insiders expected, voters returned power in the U.S. House of Representatives to the Democratic Party for the first time since 2010. At the time of publication, 39 seats had switched hands—with many others still too close to call.

Republicans fared better in the U.S. Senate and grew their majority by two seats. While many assume that a Congressional split between Republican and Democrat control will lead to more gridlock on Capitol Hill, the hope is that good old-fashioned compromise will triumph in the end.

The state level looks strikingly different as well, where the most direct impact of the November ballots might be felt by the auto hobby. Democrats previously had a 10-year electoral slump in most legislatures. They flipped several hundred seats and regained control of five legislative chambers: the Colorado Senate, the New Hampshire House, the Minnesota House, the Maine Senate and the New York Senate. The party also made significant inroads in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arizona.

Many governorships also changed hands. Keep in mind that lawmakers within those ranks will be responsible for proposals affecting the majority of issues with the biggest impact on automotive enthusiasts. The areas of titling and emissions requirements for collector vehicles, vehicle property taxes, backyard restoration projects, registration plate options, specialty parts usage, mileage fees and others all fall under state or local jurisdiction rather than federal.

What will the upcoming transition ultimately mean for our beloved cars and trucks? An old saying rings true: “It’s not who you know but who knows you.” Today’s 24-hour news cycle likely won’t reveal that automotive fans exist throughout the government on all sides of the aisle.

Thankfully for us, four-wheeled topics usually don’t fall along party lines or platforms. Personal politics can be set aside when it comes to engine displacement, performance upgrades, rare factory options and the rest. In fact, hundreds of state and federal representatives are affiliated with the hobby-friendly SEMA-supported caucuses. Find out if your lawmakers are listed at www.semasan.com/statecaucus and www.semasan.com/federalcaucus. Locate your elected officials at www.semasan.com under the “Legislators” tab.

With a slew of unfamiliar faces reporting for duty in Washington and in state capitols around the country, rest assured that SEMA and automotive enthusiasts will be forging new relationships with them. But the task can’t be done alone. You and your friends will play a critical role in educating newly elected leaders about the bliss our machines bring.

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