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Can Democrats Win Back Rural Voters?



No one ever thought a Democrat would be a front-runner in a Missouri Senate election, but Lucas Kunce is nothing like the GOP-light establishment Democrats the party has been running. He's a genuine populist who speaks directly to voters like himself-- and that includes the rural voters that many Missouri Dems have given up on. Kunce expects to do well in rural areas because he is directly addressing their concerns. His campaign, largely ignored by Schumer, has been on fire. You can chip in here.


"Farmers understand the dangers of monopoly power more than anyone else," he told me today. "In Missouri alone, we've seen foreign monopolies take American farmland, run independent farmers out of business, and run the market on seed production in a way that screws over rural America. In a single generation, Big Ag has shut down over 90% of Missouri hog producers. Our food supply chain and national security are at risk due to these multinational conglomerates that are stripping rural communities for parts. That's what we're up against in my race, and it's time farmers had someone who's willing to take the fight to these monopolies. I'm ready for that fight."


The Biden administration rolled out its updated Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Rural Playbook-- a roadmap for delivering opportunity and investments in rural America. Members of the Biden Team, including the president-- who is visiting Menlo, Iowa and Greensboro, North Carolina-- will be traveling through rural communities to explain how they are "investing billions of dollars in rural communities across the country. Supporting Americans living in rural areas remains a top priority for the Biden Administration, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law delivers on the President’s promises to work toward delivering affordable, high-speed internet, safe roads and bridges, modern wastewater systems, clean drinking water, reliable and affordable electricity, and good paying jobs in every rural community. In an effort to deliver on these promises, the Biden Administration is committed to improving transparency into the availability of federal infrastructure resources to support rural communities’ ability to access these critical funds."


Other members of the administration going out on the road to explain the program include Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Transportation Secretary Mayo Pete, infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and EPA Administrator Michael Regan. They have to turn this trajectory around before November:



This morning The Hill quoted Vilsack telling reporters that "the tour is intended for rural communities to know they are 'not being left out of this historic bill. It’s important for us to focus on rural America,' said Vilsack, who is not traveling on the tour yet since he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. 'It’s an important part of America. It is critically important to the mission of America.'"

Lourin Hubbard just shocked the California establishment by making it into the runoff to replace Devin Nunes in one of the country's most productive agricultural districts in the Central Valley. "Clean Water," he told me this afternoon, "is a human right. Internet access is now necessary utility not a luxury item. These are not right or left issues. Because of the Biden Infrastructure bill my state of California is getting almost $1B in funding for water infrastructure projects so we can make clean water a reality for so many in my district who are currently having to pay for contaminated water and have to use bottled water for cooking and drinking. My district was full of stories during the pandemic of parents taking their kids to do their homework at McDonald’s or Starbucks just to use the wi-fi because their home did not have stable internet connection. Those items are a good start but we must do more. But we know Republicans offer nothing but words, and those things are being addressed now because Democrats delivered."

Steve Holden is the progressive Democrat taking on Trumpist Chris Jacobs in a new and very rural district in western and central New York. This afternoon Steve told me that "When people hear about rural needs, they think of rural broadband, but that is only part of the issue. Whereas that is important, in rural communities across NY-24 (The Lake District), the main issue is infrastructure. The two main transportation arteries, I-81 and I-90 are in dire need of repair. What this has done is increased transport costs to smaller state highways, which are also underfunded and in need of repair. Furthermore, farmers also must hire middlemen to transport products to market, which also raises food costs. This policy needs to address access to capital and price guarantees, which would allow farmers and rural cooperatives to integrate and remove the reliance on out-of-area transporters vertically and horizontally. This will allow rural communities to pay living wages to farm workers and keep younger farmers in the business. Whereas these policy proposals are a great start for rural communities, they are just that, a start. I support the more comprehensive Build Back Better Plan, as it would address medical costs. One of the arguments against Medicare for All is that it would hurt rural hospitals, but the fact is on its head. With more people being able to go to the doctor, and doing so locally, it would provide a steady stream of revenue for said hospitals, as well remove administrative waste because they would have to collect medical debt. Furthermore, the Administration must address the damage that the Trump Administration and Postmaster General DeJoy did. Many communities rely on Rural Free Delivery for everything from medication to farm supplies. USPS also has cheaper rates and easier access than FEDEX or UPS. Privatization can do damage rural economies, which will pass on the cost to the consumer. Finally, it needs to ensure that rural and Tribal schools receive necessary funding. Much like urban schools, the current property tax system does not provide enough funding to pay teachers a living wage and fund classroom and extracurricular activity needs. As well, Tribal schools, such as those for the Tuscarora Nation and the Tonawanda Band of the Senecas, are woefully underfunded by the State of New York. We must remove the Jim Crow era property tax system and the George W. Bush era No Child Left Behind policies, and use State and Federal matching funds under one of my proposals-- The Educators’ Bill of Rights.

Mark Neumann is working on a guest post for tomorrow on rural revitalization. His western Wisconsin district is very small town and very rural. It's a swing district that voted Democrat in congressional races but for Trump as well. Mark is the only progressive running for the open seat. Today he told me that "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is necessary, its benefits are expected, but they are insufficient for resuscitating a thriving democracy in our country. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Justice Louis Brandeis (SCOTUS1916-1939), "We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." When our government provides us with things like 21st Century infrastructure that we most certainly need and does not appear to care about protecting us from the unfairness of an agricultural market dominated by monopolies, we cannot feel appreciative or participant in that government. Concentrated wealth and monopolies return everything for bigger profits on their bottom line to investors. Families that farm and all rural life get crushed between the monopoly suppliers for their production and the monopoly processors of their production. We need the trust busting government of President Teddy Roosevelt and Senator Bob LaFollette. We need the understanding government of President Theodore Roosevelt and Agricultural Secretary Henry Wallace. We need fair markets, not free markets. A nation cannot be a thriving democracy when its people feel resentful that their government doesn't do the work of the people but rather does the bidding of the few with concentrated wealth."

If you like what Lourin, Mark and Steve had to say, please consider contributing to their campaigns here and to Lucas'campaign here.

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