Dems Should Try For Rural Voters

I have read and listened to a very large number of opinions about the election debacle. I was heartened that a few have acknowledged that Democrats (candidates, office holders and partisans) have in general been dismissive and derisive of factory workers who have been at the losing end of globalization. This is not a totally true observation, but the few voices of concern through the years have come primarily from the left. It is the right that has been most solidly in favor of the not-so-free trade treaties. So, it remains mysterious that the electorate has chosen to further reward the party, which has perpetuated the assault on working people. To my mind, the actual significant result of this election is not the grotesque election of Donald Trump, but the fact that very little has changed in the political power structure.

What seems to be missing in the post-election conversation is recognition of the largest political divide of all – urban versus rural. Speaking from a place that is about as rural as it gets I don’t think that the urban cultural/political elite understands or cares much at how angry rural people are. Granted, demographically, we don’t count. There are more people in jail than there are farmers and ranchers in this country. However, in influence we punch above our weight class.

The things that have us thoroughly upset and solidly Republican revolve around environmental and wildlife issues, along with the dismissive attitude coming from those circles that seeks to impose their urban values on our rural lives. An example: On this fall’s Montana ballot there was an initiative calling for the banning of the trapping of predators and varmints on public lands. If the ballot had had a flashing neon sign attached saying “Do Not Vote For Democrats” it would not have been more detrimental to the Democratic candidates.

Granted the Montana Democratic Party and most of the candidates did not endorse or have anything to do with putting this anti-trapping initiative on the ballot. But the damage was done. Montana does, on occasion, vote for Democratic candidates. The Democratic governor won re-election and we have one Democratic senator (not on the ballot this year) who figures among the most progressive leaders in Washington. Otherwise, Republicans swept the ticket in Montana and the Legislature has an increased Republican majority.

On reading this you might say to yourself, “So what, Montana’s three Electoral College votes are irrelevant.” Which is true. But multiply Montana’s electoral preferences by the fact that nearly every single rural county in the nation votes Republican, and herein lies the reason why Democrats are such electoral losers. In addition, you might also be saying to yourself that rural people should not be trapping wild animals. You might. in addition, say that public lands are the patrimony of all of us and that, as an urban person, you have a right to express your views on these rural habits.

Which is true, you do have a right to express your views on these matters. But you have so many views, and so many views are contradictory, ill-informed, downright un-educated, illogical, selfish, self-serving, and derisive of the people who live and work in rural America. To rural people it looks like a conspiracy to marginalize and displace them in favor of enhanced recreational opportunities and half-baked environmental sensibilities.

For many in this country, rural places are good only to the extent that they provide recreation and makes them feel righteous that they are doing their small part in preserving the planet by sending dues to their environmental organization of choice. Never mind that they may be stomping on the very people who are in charge of the environment. Think about it. Every piece of ground in the nation that is not owned by the government and not paved over, is owned by this insignificant number of farmers and ranchers, who strive to care for it, grow food on it, and attempt to raise their families on it.

While professional or amateur environmentalists look upon the land from the outside, a farmer and rancher looks upon his/her land from the inside out. We are intimately tied to a specific parcel of the environment and charged with looking after that piece of the planet to the best of our abilities. In addition, we must do so economically, taking into account both human imposed and natural laws: i.e. monetary policy, farm policy, tax policy, international trade policy, environmental policy, drought, hail, frost, tornados, blizzards, invasive weeds, and predatory wildlife. Does it not seem reasonable that we would resent, ignorant people imposing well-meaning (from their perspective) environmental constraints on the already difficult science/art of raising food.

I am not sure what can be done about all of this except to rail. The interesting thing is that most rural people are populists. Of course, the regressive variety outnumbers the progressive ones. But still, the issues that animate us are mostly identical. It is the level of anger and whether one blames the government or corporations that marks the division.

This magazine is of no particular help when it comes to clarifying rural concerns. [Editor’s Note: Hey!] I previously wrote complaining about the shallowness of the coverage that you gave the Bundy incident on the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. As misguided as their methodology was, the Bundys had an underlying complaint that was ignored by the media. An Oregon jury was apparently more sympathetic. Unless this callous superiority evidenced by the urban elite is moderated, one can only assume that rural voters will continue to vote against the Democrats.

Gilles Stockton
Grass Range, Mont.

Need Education in Politics

Thank you, David Daley [“Un-Rigging Our Democracy,” 12/15/16 TPP] for bringing to the surface the power-motivated redistricting of voter precincts by the “party” in office.

Thank you, Judge Kenneth Ripple and Judge Barbara Crabb, members of a three US District Judge panel, for agreeing “an intent to entrench a political party in power signals an excessive injection of politics into the redistricting process that impinges on the representational rights of those associated with the party out of power.”

Why do we need “party” designations? What is wrong with the designation “American”? Why can’t we do what benefits everyone? (I know the laste question is rather broad, but it could be figured out, as long as everyone has an open mind.) The only agenda should be “What is right for America?”

If it hasn’t been clear so far, this puts “grassroots organizing” in the forefront. As many people (Howard Zinn, Bernie Sanders, Jesse Jackson, Margot McMillen, Amy Goodman and Connie Schultz) have professed, in the pages of The Progressive Populist for sometime, we have to start educating at the municipal, township and county level.

Maybe I am advocating too long of an education, but we have to start somewhere soon!

William Shaw
Harrison, Mich.

Businesslike Government Not the Way to Go

In response to Jim Hightower’s applause of the Minnesota ballot initiative to have a citizens committee set salaries for elected officials [“Takeaways from the Election, 12/1/16 TPP], I admit I don’t know the details of the Minnesota bill. I do know the details of the consequences of a similar initiative in Arkansas.

Tucked in five newspaper columns of fine print was the citizens committee to set salaries for elected officials. Also was a provision to set term limits. Let it be noted that term limits had been set years ago when the GOP was a minority in Arkansas politics. This amendment to the state constitution actually doubled term limits, but you had to carefully read five columns of newsprint to find this out.

After passage, and very much to no one’s surprise, the citizens committee (appointed by the governor 1, Senate president 2 and House speaker 2) decided that legislators needed a raise from $14,000 to $39,000 a year. Legislators meet for two months a year.

Executive branch received raises also. So instead of having to justify the raises you give yourselves, appoint your friends to do it for you, guilt-free.

Now that is what I call running government like a business.

Chico Kumbusky
Fox, Ark.

New Cold War

Mr. Nader’s devastating end-of-the-election-cycle evaluation of the Trump campaign [“The Silver Linings of Silver-Tongued D.T.,” 12/1/16 TPP] made one try to imagine just how different and healthier US society might now be had the misled electorate not suffered the infamous Cheney/Rove/Scalia coup d’etat in November-December 2000 and instead placed Ralph, the land’s matchless citizen, in charge of the Presidency for eight years. That we’ll never know, of course.

The 2016 choice between an intolerably female suborned insider and an unaccountable narcissistic showman guaranteed an unsatisfactory outcome. Now the question may be: which treacherous oligarch will blink when push comes to show between the mutually admiring top dogs of the fraudulent Cold War’s adversaries? My bet’s on the pushover Donald — no Hebridean he.

R.V. MacLeod
Porthill, Idaho

Speak Up This Time

With sincere apologies to Pastor Martin Niemoller, whose 1945 statement about Nazi Germany was the inspiration for this modified version:

First they took away LGBTQ rights, and I didn’t speak up because I’m straight.

Then they took away women’s reproductive rights, and I didn’t speak up because I’m a man.

Then they deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and I didn’t speak up because I’m a natural-born US citizen.

Then they took away the rights of Muslims, and I didn’t speak up because I’m a Christian.

Then they took away the rights of people of color, and I didn’t speak up because I’m white.

Then they took away my rights, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.  

Rev. James P. Freda, Jr. (retired)
Portland, Ore.

Shut America Down

We’re in the midst of one of the great turning points of history: the crisis of neoliberal global capitalism is fracturing the old order. It’s imperative that progressive forces prevail to rebuff the rise of reaction that’s given us Trump and his minions.

A vigorous pushback on all fronts here in the belly of the beast is necessary immediately. It will also inspire and embolden progressive forces around the world challenging their own fascist resurgencies.

Shut American down on J20!

Robert McAllister
Lantana, Fla.

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2017


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