Thursday, October 31, 2019

Grassroots organizer says white supremacists increasingly trying to capitalize on rural frustration, economic struggles

George Goehl
Longtime grassroots organizer George Goehl warns that white supremacists are becoming increasingly active in rural areas, and he believes they have been emboldened by President Trump's rhetoric. "I’ve been organizing for 20 years in rural communities and have never seen this level of public activity by white supremacist groups," Goehl writes in an New York Times op-ed. Goehl is the director of People's Action, an organization that advocates for progressive populist causes. It is one of the largest progressive rural organizing efforts in the nation.

Progressives shouldn't write off rural America as a Republican monolith, Goehl writes: "So many of these places need organizing to win improved conditions. Despite the stereotypes, rural people are not static in their political views or in the way they vote. Single white rural women and young rural white people represent two of the greatest leftward swings in the 2018 midterms, moving 17 and 16 points respectively toward Democrats. They played a key role in Democratic wins across the Midwest."

But rural Americans often feel ignored by the powers that be, and white nationalist organizations are trying to capitalize on that. "They’re organizing around people’s pain and using racism to help make sense of changing economic conditions and racial demographics," Goehl writes. "Although these communities may be fertile ground for the Trump administration and other white nationalist organizations, they are also places where people can come together across race and class to solve the big problems facing everyday people. That starts by recognizing one another’s humanity — and with honest conversations."

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