The right Democratic Presidential candidate can cut into the huge Republican margins in rural America, but that candidate must understand that the mother lode is just one shovel away. That one shovel to the mother lode is economic populism.
A recent Pew Research poll had 73% of the respondents saying. “Today, it’s really true that the rich just get richer and the poor just get poorer”. This thought is especially prevalent in rural America. Here are a few (a very few, there’s not much space here) across the board reasons that rural Americans are especially “fed up”, and how the right Democrat can go to rural American and carve out the necessary votes to turn red states blue with a strong message of economic fairness. Anybody who lives in non-amenity rich rural America gets a 360-degree view of economic inequality. Please, please pardon the southern analogy, but rural smalltowns all over America now look like Sherman went through but forgot to burn them. Rural Americans can look around and see what the big boys have done to them. They see how unbridled Republican deregulation contributed to the current decline in rural America. Deregulation shot rural America in the gut. Remember deregulation of banking and how it was going to perpetuate the “American Dream” by making investment dollars readily available to everybody? The end result is the big boys came in and bought the existing rural banks, and our homegrown capital which actually did perpetuate the “American Dream” is now all but gone. Here’s one we can all relate to. Remember how the deregulation of the airlines was going to improve efficiency, drive down costs, and expand air travel to more Americans? While all Americans obviously got screwed by airline deregulation, including the employees of the airlines, no area has suffered like rural America where growing businesses need quality access. Today, there are only a handful of tier-2 and tier-3 regional trade centers where you wouldn’t rather take a stick in the eye than fly in and out of. In the tier-3 market I live in, we have a wonderful modern airport that has everything but airplanes. Trade treaties, negotiated by the huge corporations and not enforced, shot us in the chest. All but a few of our manufacturing jobs have been taken by today’s corporate-driven government policy of rewarding companies who send jobs overseas. Everybody acknowledges that cheap foreign labor, mostly from China, and the Walmartization of rural America have killed Main Street. Huge ag interests have driven our family farmers out of business. A great example is twenty years ago there were over 20,000 thriving family-owned hog farms in Iowa. Today, there are about 7,000, many of them contracted out to Big Ag. Rural economies are in chaos, not to mention crumbling infrastructure (including public schools), lack of healthcare (500 hospitals have closed in rural America in the last 25 years), non-existent dental care, and of course, the greatest argument. The Pied-Piper of greed, in cahoots with the Republican party, has taken from rural America its’ most precious resource—its’ children.
On these issues alone, how could the right Democratic candidate not carve out the necessary number of rural votes to at least draw even with the Republicans in rural America and win 350 or so electoral votes? Go back through these few economic issues and think of all the targeted constituencies the right Democrat with a message of economic fairness can appeal to? But, then again, you’ve got to go to know. So far the only Democratic Presidential candidate who’s apparently ready to go is John Edwards.
Tomorrow…the right Democrat.