Friday, June 24, 2016

Progressives, liberals largely ignore rural interests, but shouldn't, 2012 candidate writes

Anthony Flaccavento
Rural voters have become more Republican in the last decade, and the reasons you usually hear for that shift obscure one reason that deserves more attention, rural food entrepreneur and recent congressional candidate Anthony Flaccavento of Abingdon, Va., writes in the liberal magazine The Nation.

Flaccavento acknowledges "the relentless propaganda of Fox News and conservative talk radio, to the right’s timely and well-funded co-opting of public anger over the economic crash and bank bailouts of 2008–09," as documented by several writers. "Dark Money, Jane Mayer’s recent book, provides further detail, a chronology of how such a comprehensive, patient plan to change the narrative was developed and funded. And multiple commentators have taken advantage of the presidential campaign season to highlight how the Democratic Party has steadily moved towards Wall Street and away from working people, at least since Bill Clinton."

But Flaccavento also blames "the near-complete absence of the 'rural' among the priorities, policies, and leaders on the other side, i.e., in the progressive movement. By rural, I mean the people, their communities, the predominant livelihoods, and the culture and language of these places. The plain fact of the matter is that, excepting recent transplants from the cities, most rural people see progressives as elitist, dismissive of their concerns, largely ignorant of both their problems and their contributions to the nation. And too often, living 'in their head' rather than getting their hands dirty."

As one example, Flaccavento says this year's "Good Jobs for All" report by several progressive groups doesn't mention "the words 'farm,' 'farmer,' and 'agriculture' ... and 'rural' is alluded to only once or twice, in the context of USDA programs. Mind you, there are plenty of 'struggling Americans' living in the countryside."

Flaccavento says he understands that "liberals and progressives default to the triage approach: that is, we focus our priorities and resources on the places we can win or at least win over. I experienced that when I ran for Congress in 2012 on a very progressive agenda. We met with folks at the Democratic National Committee, and they seemed genuinely impressed with both our platform and our campaign. But because I live in a very rural, red area, the DNC decided it was hopeless, and not a dime was offered to the campaign. In spite of that, we fared best—approaching 45 percent of the vote—in the coal counties, where rural jobs and livelihoods were most in decline. If it turns out that if your words and actions make sense to people and honor their experiences, they’ll get behind you. Even in the country." (Read more)

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