Writing the Rural Democratic Agenda…

Crossposted from Kos:

We got beat last election, and in rural america we got beat bad. Why? We made some tactical mistakes, and too many democrats stayed home. But in rural america, that don’t explain it all- We had a metro centric agenda. There, I said it, and it’s true, and it’s a big part of why we lost big.

So having gotten that out of the way, how do we adapt the democratic agenda to rural america? No, we don’t have to suddenly fall in love with Keystone XL and oppose marriage equality and sing the praises of Monsanto. And just what is our “small d” democrat’s core agenda… Let me shorten it to paragraph length:

1. Democracy, as in one person one vote and open, transparent government.
2. Fairness and equality of opportunity
3. Economic equity
4. Protecting and caring for the less fortunate and the environment
5. Peace

All 5 of those core democratic party values neatly align with rural values. But our metro centric democratic party is metrocentricly giving them largely metro application… For example, metro minority folks should not be harassed by bad cops simply due to the color of their skin. My rural district (MN 22A, CD7) is over 90% white and probably wouldn’t relate to that, but they can relate to being ticketed for not putting their feet down on a motorcycle at a 4 way stop when there’s no other vehicle except the cop’s squad car for miles around! So we’re not making a hard right turn and abandoning democratic party values, we’re merely adapting time proven democratic party values to a rural environment.

So let’s look at those core values and flesh them out into a rural agenda:

1. Democracy- some of the strongest opposition to the MN republican’s Voter ID constitutional amendment in 2012 came from rural areas. Why? Because in many townships and small cities we have mail in ballots, and Voter ID would have taken them away at great cost- Like $30,000 to turn our municipal garage into a polling place for our small town of less than a hundred. We need to share these great reforms like vote by mail statewide and nationwide! And when our electeds go away to the capitals hours and days away, we should have the ability to watch every meeting and offer testimony via the internet as if we were there!

2. Fairness- Rural folks understand what’s fair and what ain’t- They’ve seen locally owned small businesses like car dealers and stores bullied by big businesses who demanded unrealistic inventory levels and fancy buildings while denying them the volume discounts given to their big city competitors. Same with the small and medium sized family farmers, forced to expand (“get big or get out”) when it made no business sense for them. 15% of the population of my district own their own businesses and a bit over 10% are farmers, and the republicans have been cultivating their votes with false fears of “anti-business democrats” for years. We need to counter that by wedging small businesspeople and family farmers away from the republicans by making franchise law and farm bill reform to protect small business from bullying by big business and big ag a part of the rural democratic agenda. We further need to provide the same standards of service rural folks pay taxes for like education and broadband internet as the metros get a part of our rural democratic agenda. And finally, we need to respect smallness- The pressure to consolidate schools, municipalities, etc. must end… Especially when their is no proof that such consolidations will save money or improve services.

3. Economic equity- With low rates of unionization, rural workers are among the nations poorest. That’s why minimum wage increases should be a top priority on our rural democratic economic agenda, and the voters agree… While South Dakota elected not a single democrat to statewide office in 2014, by referendum they passed a substantial minimum wage increase! And the earnings of those family farmers and small businesspeople are just as important, so we need to put just as much effort into protecting them from bullying and gouging by big business.

4. Caring for and protecting the less fortunate and the environment- None of us are born the stereotypical strong independent types who don’t need anyone or even a government to take care of them, and most of us will die in similar state of dependency. While the republicans fake concern for the young until the end of the second trimester and my republican state rep is a shill for the nursing home industry, we are at heart a democratic party that cares for people at all stages of life and should start acting like it. Toward that end, Universal health care and a free public education from preschool through community and technical college belong in our rural democratic agenda. And while the republicans seem happy to institutionalize seniors and the disabled in some of our rural counties at twice the rate seen in the metro counties, true accessibility in our homes and our small towns so we can stay out of nursing homes should be in our democratic rural agenda. Sustainability is a core rural value- without fertile soil a farm is useless and worthless, and farmers can and have taken the lead in producing sustainable biofuels… Thus opposing projects like Keystone XL which benefits no americans and threatens the future of farming and rural life belongs in the rural democratic agenda, along with support for farmers sustainably producing renewable biofuels and bio-materials.

5. Peace- Nowhere has the pain of war been more felt than in rural america, which has traditionally contributed more service men and women per capita than the metro areas. Providing the same high level of services to our service people and veterans in rural america as they’d receive in the metros belongs in the rural democratic agenda. And to prevent the scarring of yet another generation of rural young folks by war, our democratic rural agenda demands that wars be fought only by neccessity!

OK, that’s a start, what’d I miss?


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