The refrain I’ve been hearing lately is that Montana Democrats need to do outreach to rural counties but should avoid topics like abortion, minority and LGBTQ rights, and environmental issues. They should focus on jobs and the economy.
Of course they need to visit the likes of Prairie, Treasure, Carter and Golden Valley Counties, and deliver a strong economic message. But they need not abandon their moral duty to women, the disenfranchised or Mother Earth.
It’s time for Democrats to go on offense and ask our country folk what the Republican Party has done for them lately.
What drove this home was a question poised by MTN’s Mike Dennison to Ambassador Max Baucus in last Sunday’s “Face the State” (at the 12:45 mark, here).
Dennison: If I live in rural Montana or anywhere in rural America, what do Democrats have to offer me? Abortion rights, LGBT rights, environmentalism — that’s not going to pay the bills.
Max offered platitudes on going out and listening, talking about grain and cattle prices, supporting infrastructure improvements, etc. — all legitimate topics.
But let’s turn the equation on its head. Let’s ask what the party of jobs and economic growth, supposedly the Republican Party, is doing to advance rural interests.
The Republican dominated Montana Legislature is spending its time introducing bills to keep Sharia law out of Montana, put guns in schools and post offices, victimize bicyclists, approve raw milk, get rid of the Commissioner of Political Practices, create a state militia… Is that what rural Montanans asked legislators to do?
And it’s even worse at the federal level.
One would assume that most rural voters — farmers, ranchers, small business owners — don’t have health insurance through an employer, and rely on the Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicare or Medicaid. How will Trumpcare work for them: From the Washington Post:
The proposed cuts will fall hardest on rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.
And since these rural areas and small towns tend to be made up of older folks, it’s a double-whammy. From Fortune magazine:
Vox and others reported on Tuesday that annual premiums for people ages 55 to 64 would jump by $5,269 if the Republican plan were put in place immediately, and would rise to $6,971 in 2020.
Let’s talk about the environment. It would seem likely that those in agriculture would be most attuned to climate change: shifting growing seasons, drought and the extreme weather events associated with global warming. This would be a bad time to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, as Trump’s budget proposes.
Same is true for those in the timber industry as wildfires increase in size and intensity.
Then there’s trade. Rural Montanans should be very concerned with potential trade wars with Asia, particularly China, our second largest export market.
Voting against one’s self interest isn’t a new phenomenon but it’s time for Democrats to go on the offensive and point out that Republican policies are hurting rural voters more than Democratic policies ever would or could.