Monday, December 21, 2015

Abandoned Rural Voters waiting for Democrats!

Blue Jean Nation's Mike McCabe should be the first stop for every wayward Democrat who still can't answer a question yes or no; who still muddies up and stumbles around the easiest solutions; and still can't find it in their hearts to outright oppose any part of the Republicans agenda. I personally flame on when I hear them beg to be included, promising to give up every value they hold dear just to be a part of the process. Weakened, bruised and has that worked out?

McCabe's focus is on disenfranchised rural voters, farm communities I've written about ad-nauseam. My growing list of stories, ignored by the party, can be found here. Republicans have all but abandoned them, instituting hard line policies that are killing local control, their schools, roads, and polluting their wells. 

The thing is, Democrats have been on the farmers side for years. And McCabe's advice and consultation is free, so take it. Audio from WPR's Central Time. 

1. Restore home rule. Republicans used to be for local control, now they are controlling the locals. If local communities want to put rules in place to protect their air and water and landscape from sand mining or put limits on high-capacity wells or manure spreading by large-scale animal feedlots, let ’em. Give ’em back control over their schools, their local zoning, their taxation. Let ’em manage their affairs.

2. Keep rural schools open. A local school is a rural community’s bedrock, even to a greater degree than in urban or suburban areas. The rural school is a hub of community activity. Everyone goes to the school play or the high school football game. School district consolidation and school closings have hit many rural communities with the force of a bomb. Anyone who cares about the vitality of rural communities knows that extreme measures need to be taken to keep rural districts viable and their community schools operating.

3. Rethink bypass-happy highway planning. Most every major highway project done any time in recent or distant memory that reaches out into rural areas has featured bypasses of small towns. Think about the impact this has on those communities. Their family-owned cafes and coffee shops and restaurants close. Their main streets die. Shaving a few minutes off your or my travel time can be a death sentence for a small town.  

4. Universal access to high-speed Internet and mobile phone service. Look at a map showing which parts of the U.S. have access to broadband. The urban centers do and the rural areas don’t. The telecommunications industry and its apologists in public office often are heard saying that programs are in place to address this disparity. But the fact remains that in 2015 over half of all rural Americans lack access to high-speed Internet. How can you start a business and compete in today’s economy without access to these services? High-speed Internet and mobile voice are to the 21st Century what telephones were in the 20th, namely essential communications technologies. Essential technologies that remain out of the reach of most rural people.
The last point has more to do with offering free college tuition to all, without regards to income:
5. Stop means testing. Many rural voters oppose programs to help what they regard as the “undeserving” poor is an incredibly important point for Democrats to ponder. For decades now the Democrats have ignored the political law of universality: That the most widely supported and successful government programs are ones where everyone pays and everyone benefits … the party had a big hand in creating things that tangibly benefited everyone … like Social Security and Medicare, rural electrification, the GI Bill and the interstate highway system. Today’s Democrats seem to want to means test everything and target assistance to particular constituencies, which makes their programs highly vulnerable to the divide-and-conquer tactics of the Republicans.

Doing these five things would be enormously helpful to rural areas. But today’s GOP won’t do any of them. They won’t do the first four because today’s breed of Republican is philosophically at odds with the measures required to accomplish those aims. In fact, they are moving in the exact opposite direction. And they won’t do the fifth because it is politically advantageous for them to be able to pit the poor against the nearly-poor. If these five steps are to be taken, it’ll be the Democrats taking them. If enough of them wake up to the need . . . and the opportunity.

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