Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Op-ed writer offers suggestions for Democratic candidates looking to reconnect with rural voters

Rural America has become increasingly Republican for almost 30 years, though Democrats gained a little in rural Trump strongholds in the 2018 midterm elections. If Democrats want to make inroads in rural America, they need to understand a few things first, Ron Formisano writes in an op-ed for the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky.

Democrats must first understand the growing rural-urban cultural rift, and that people on both sides of that rift believe those on the other side don't respect them. Dems must also understand that rural voters don't like Democrats, but most like Democratic policies, according to a Daily Yonder poll, Formisano writes.

"The poll reflects rural people’s sense that their way of life is slipping away leading them to favor policies to protect their quality of life. More than 90 percent of voters in small towns and rural areas support investment in small businesses and preserving rural schools. Large majorities want hunting and fishing habitats protected, support for rural grocery stores with healthy food and for rehabilitation not prison for drug addicts," Formisano writes. "Putting Democrats in office will give rural folks a better chance of realizing this wish-list. Democrats should take notice specifically that majorities in rural areas support free tuition for community colleges (66 percent), expanding Medicare for all (63 percent) and raising the minimum wage (54 percent)."

Democrats might also find favor with rural voters by challenging laws, supported by big businesses and agri-businesses, that hurt small towns and farmers, Formisano writes.

"Oh, and Democrats, let rural people know you want to do something about the scourge of opioids, heroin, meth, and fentanyl ravaging lives and communities," Formisano writes. He also advises that one of the most important things candidates can do is show up and listen to rural concerns: "In the 2018 Sixth District Congressional election Democrat Amy McGrath carried just two counties, Fayette and Franklin, doing best in the counties of the Lexington-Frankfort axis. Although she lost heavily in the most rural and poorest counties, McGrath who campaigned through the entire district, won more votes in 16 out of 18 counties than Clinton in 2016. Letting people know you want their votes is a good start."

Formisano is the author of "American Oligarchy: The Permanent Political Class", which argues that the American political system has created a powerful, corrupt political class that contributes to societal inequality.

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