• Jill Dunham

Have Democrats forgotten rural voters?

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Many thanks to DJ Kaminski for writing this blog! DJ has been our Communications Committee Chair for almost a year. Sadly for us, he and his wife are moving to Fort Wayne, IN. Thanks for your contributions, DJ, and good luck in Fort Wayne!

“In the 1980s, Democrats such as Jesse Jackson and then-Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin stood with rural voters at the height of the farm crisis, eventually passing a comprehensive farm bill. But since then … Democrats have forgotten about rural voters — and that’s exactly how they feel.”

In the above quote, Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, describes a major problem facing the “Blue Wave” today – the perceived abandonment of the rural voter. While Democratic leaders failed to court these voters in recent years, the Republican Party under a new, populist spell, poached them by leaning into the disenfranchisement they felt. Kleeb says of this: “Trump and others in the Republican Party have latched onto cultural wedge issues, such as gun rights, abortion and immigration, to attract rural voters…”

As Democrats, we tend to see this for what it is – pandering to voters on hot button, poorly-understood social issues that take the pressure off doing anything about the issues that actually matter to rural voters:

  • The growing threat of corporate agriculture.

  • Eminent domain of farmland.

  • High speed internet access.

  • Rising healthcare costs.

  • The opioid epidemic.

These are the issues and problems rural Americans face daily. Though the Republican Party is working hard to appeal to these voters by leveraging frustration, the Democratic Party has a prime chance to do the same by actually focusing on these issues. The question then becomes, what are we as Michigan Democrats doing to help our rural neighbors?

The Michigan Democratic Party Rural Caucus is working to advance the cause of rural Michiganders, giving them a voice in state and local leadership. While many of us reading this blog likely donate time or money to the local Democratic Party causes, our society is structured in a way that opinions are formed more by social media and endorsements than ever before. How many of us have bought a product because it had good reviews online, or because a close friend of ours posted about how much they loved it?

There are Democrats who will always be Democrats, and likewise, Republicans who will always be Republicans. Right now in history, we are experiencing a moment of division within the Republican Party. Many voters are “shopping” for what will come next for them. Our reviews of our party affiliation, and our knowledge of the big issues, especially for rural voters, is crucial right now.

What is the MDP Rural Caucus doing to help rural Michiganders?

  • The Rural Caucus supports increased funding for community health centers, an increase in the funding and support for the National Health Service Corps, providing scholarships and support for students willing to serve in underserved locations.

  • The Rural Caucus supports modern infrastructure improvements, which include reliable and affordable internet and cell phone service, better roads, safer dams and bridges, and common-sense renewable energy projects.

  • The Rural Caucus supports universal access to the internet, robust rural health care facilities and modernization of rural school systems.

These topics, and many more, can be found on the Michigan Democratic Party Rural Caucus webpage linked below. Having a knowledge of what we as Democrats are working to do for our rural neighbors may be the information a “shopping” voter needs to hear. We rely on each other to form our opinions, politically or otherwise. To our friends and neighbors that may not trust the media or officials, we owe it to them to be educated on the issues because they may rely on our thoughts more than we assume. Change starts locally, so we had best keep educated on the issues that matter because we don’t know when they might to someone else, too!

-DJ Kaminski


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