Rural America needs bipartisanship

Rural America needs bipartisanship

PRESIDENT Barack Obama doesn't always get a warm reception in the countryside and actually seems a bit uncomfortable there, according to political analyst Matt Barron.

In the recent election cycle, it cost the Democratic party its majority and the delicate bipartisan balance needed for rural America.

In The Hill, Barron said, "Democrats' problems with rural folks ... are due to a variety of factors, ranging from recruiting poor candidates, not showing up in small towns to campaign, hiring urban-centric consultants who have no dirt under their nails to bad mapmaking as a result of the 2010 redistricting."

Barron added that despite Democrats recognizing the key role rural voters would play in this month's election, dislike of Obama won out in the end.

For example, Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.), who was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee spending panel on agriculture, was beat by Rep. Tom Cotton (R. Ark.), who actually voted against the farm bill and disaster aid for towns in Arkansas.

Across the board, city, small-town and rural voters made similar shifts from Democrat to Republican candidates in the midterm elections.

"Compared to the national elections in 2008 and 2012, metropolitan and non-metropolitan votes for Republicans grew at about the same rate," according to Daily Yonder's rural election overview by Tim Marema and Bill Bishop.

In Iowa and Georgia, Republican Senate candidates opposed the 2014 farm bill, but Democrats could not make political hay with it, Barron added. "The loss of majority-rural House seats also continues to haunt the Democrats," he said.

In a Nov. 12 Huffington Post blog, Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture during the Clinton Administration, pointed out that there are very few Democrats representing primarily rural districts, and in many cases, "Democrats have become the exclusively urban party."

Glickman, who currently serves as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said rural and urban residents care about most of the same issues: good jobs, economic growth, a sound environment and access to decent and affordable health care.

Glickman suggested that, at a minimum, the President needs to visit farms and the rural heartland early next year and listen to the concerns of those in the countryside.

"Reaching out to rural America might just be a good first step to reinforce the bipartisan traditions of rural America," Glickman wrote.

Historically, food, farm and rural development legislation, including national nutrition programs and global food security measures, has required a bipartisan national base of support. This has included lawmakers representing urban, suburban and rural communities.

This unique balance of interests needed to pass a bill was very evident earlier this year with the passage of the farm bill.

"The last farm bill demonstrated how tenuous the nature of this coalition has become and the vulnerability of numerous important legislative initiatives on these issues," Glickman wrote. "The future of American leadership on nutrition, farming and hunger is in jeopardy without positive action to rebuild and maintain these bipartisan coalitions."

Volume:86 Issue:47

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