Sunday, July 10, 2016

Democrats are uniting but need to address rural issues

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) speaks to the evidence for Dems uniting behind Hillary Clinton.

[It appears that] the post-primary process is actually going a lot better than many hand-wringers expected. Though Sanders had declined to endorse and threatened to take the battle to the convention, it has long seemed most plausible that he was mainly interested in trying to win concessions on the party platform and the party’s agenda for as long as possible, not that he would blow up the party if he didn’t get his way.

And this has actually happened: Sanders has won a string of victories in the platform, such as commitments to a $15-per-hour minimum wage; expanding Social Security; making universal health care available as a right through expanding Medicare or a public option; breaking up too-big-to-fail institutions; and a host of other, smaller goals designed to regulate Wall Street, make banking services available to lower income people, and spend more on infrastructure and job creation. Clinton has also agreed to vastly expand her plan for free college, which — along with a Sanders endorsement — should help unite young voters behind her, after a primary in which she really did fail to win their votes in worrying numbers.

... though Sanders’ decision to hold out to secure more in the platform enraged a lot of Democrats, it does not appear to have posed any kind of serious threat to party unity. He has gotten a number of his priorities included and he now looks poised to help unify the party behind her. Though it is certainly possible that the horrifying spectacle of President Donald Trump could have accomplished this, Sanders’s success in getting items added could actually help Clinton, since it could potentially mean more Dem unity and a better showing for her among younger voters.

There are still outstanding questions. How enthusiastically will Sanders endorse Clinton? Will he make a robust case that she would move the country in the direction of his vision, albeit not as ambitiously or dramatically? Will he make a strong case to his supporters that the outcome of the primaries and the process determining the party’s agenda were legitimate? Provided he does the right thing on all those fronts — and I think he probably will, since he has repeatedly said he will do everything possible to defeat Trump — we may soon be able to declare that, for all the anger and uncertainty it has engendered, this process has actually gone quite well.

Look for an endorsement on Tuesday.

Dems need to address rural issues

This is another area in which the Dems can unite and become even more inclusive. "There really are two Americas. An urban one and a rural one."

John Nichols (The Nation) explains what is yet lacking in Democratic policies and the platform: Democrats Are Not Speaking Loudly Enough to Be Heard in Rural America. "The party platform is not aggressive enough in reaching out to voters who could be won over."

I've seen reports that Dems win in cities but lose in rural areas. Nichols wants to see Dems focus more on agrarian America.

The Democratic Party needs rural votes to secure a decisive victory in the race for the presidency, and to win back the Senate and make real progress in the fight for the House of Representatives. That’s a powerful lesson from recent election cycles. When President Obama won a decisive victory eight years ago, Democrats made major inroads in rural America: Two hundred and thirteen rural counties and 49 exurban counties flipped from the Republican column in 2004 to the Democratic column in 2008. But in 2010 and again in 2014, Republicans swept rural regions. With an assist from gerrymandering, Republicans won dozens of congressional seats and hundreds of state legislative seats in rural areas that were once safely Democratic. As The Washington Post noted just before the 2014 election, “There really are two Americas. An urban one and a rural one.”

Democrats can compete for rural votes. Hillary Clinton knows how to speak to the specific concerns of farmers and small-town voters: As the senator from New York, she was deeply involved with dairy-policy and rural-development issues (and she won the vast majority of rural counties when she sought reelection in 2006). Clinton’s 2016 campaign has taken some strong stands on rural issues and, in a serious debate about rural issues, every indication is that she could trump Donald Trump.

Trump’s only chance—and, by extension, the Republican Party’s best chance to keep the Senate and House—is if Democrats fail to make a bold bid for rural votes. Unfortunately, the party’s draft platform speaks softly when it should be shouting.

What's the evidence? The word count. 350 in FDR's platform, 1100 in Jimmy Carter's platform, but only 80 in the current platform. Dems need to bend that curve back.

To be sure, other sections of the platform mention issues of deep concern to rural America: education, health care, and maintaining the US Postal Service. But they don’t make the specific connections that speak to the social, economic, and political circumstances of rural America.

This is certainly not the only objection that has been raised regarding the draft. When platform-committee members meet this weekend, the National Nurses United union will encourage them to embrace single-payer “Medicare for All” health-care reform. And labor and environmental groups want an explicit rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal added before the final document is considered by delegates in Philadelphia.

But Democrats really do need to recognize that they can and must speak in a clearer voice to rural voters.

Rural post offices are one example of how the platform could be made to better address rural issues.

Rural post offices are more than just places where people pick up mail. They serve as informal community centers. They give small towns definition. They keep rural businesses connected to markets. The more that Democrats do to identify their party and its candidates as absolute and unequivocal defenders of rural post offices, the more the party will benefit. That’s simple, practical politics.

This is an area where Bernie can still be influential in shaping the Democratic platform.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders knows this. It’s one of the reasons he ran so well in rural states, and in rural regions of states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky, and New York. Sanders says that “it makes no sense to downsize the Postal Service by tens of thousands of workers, slow mail delivery service, and devastate rural communities by closing their post offices.”

I don't think that Clinton needs a rural VP, but Nichols concludes, again, that she and the party do need to say more about rural issues.

...Clinton and her running mate should lead the party in reaching out to rural voters whom Democrats neglect at their political peril.

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