HomeBernie SandersThe Nation: Progressives Need To Stop Ignoring Rural Communities
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My organizing sister’s heart was in rural issues and she built up a Bernie group that had a very broad geographic base in rural Oregon here in the mid-Willamette Valley. Her passion made her group a real force in the political revolution here.

She is an amazing woman! Will do an article on her latest project which is the happening thing this weekend–BernieStock!


What a beautiful part of the country you live in! I had family who lived in the rural area outside Springfield for most of the 20th century, and loved visiting there. All the best to your sister and BernieStock, and everything else she’s doing!


Yesssss!!!!! Thanks for posting this!!

Anthony has a book out now, called “Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change” available from the University of Kentucky Press and on Amazon. (Anthony would prefer you order the book from UKyPress, not Amazon, or even better, buy it at a good small independent bookstore.)

He also does a series of five-minute videos on his YouTube channel called “Take Five” that are good analyses of rural redevelopment and sustainable agriculture and progressive politics in the rural economy.

The part of Virginia Anthony’s from was once the most reliably Democratic congressional district, dubbed The Fighting Ninth. A lot of folks out there support Bernie. It’s a part of the country that is just amazingly misunderstood and has been the subject of a lot of negative stereotyping. When I read Thomas Frank, I think of my friends in Appalachia.


I was Jimmy Carter’s organizer in the “Fighting Ninth” in 1976 as he carried it by about ten thousand votes while losing the state as a whole. For all of us to better understand the Ninth and similar areas that Frank pointed out in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” perhaps he should have titled it “What’s the Matter with the National Democrats?” instead.

Rather than presenting an agenda that addressed the economic inequalities brought on by the rise of the Oligarchs, the Democratic strategy has been to chase the corporate money and campaign as “republican lite”. In our quite commendable commitment to equal rights and fighting discrimination, we seem to have forgotten a once-loyal constituency, the white working class. They aren’t as often victims of discrimination but increasingly feel powerless in the face of the corporate takeover of our economy.

Corporate giants like WalMart armed with tax advantages and the economies of scale have virtually destroyed the merchant class throughout rural America. Massive bank consolidation funded by other tax advantages and buy outs of local newspapers by large chains with similar favorable tax treatment have hollowed out the soul of many many small towns and other communities. Despair and a growing drug culture have been left in its wake.

Democrats, hampered by social issues and cowed by tax cut rhetoric ignored an increasingly desperate constituency failed to present any sort of compelling economic message. The result was disastrous both for rural America and Democratic prospects at the ballot box.

What Bernie Sanders has given us is a new alternative Democratic “brand”. It’s appeal in rural america was visibly demonstrated during the primaries as he became the first insurgent Democrat in memory to win rural areas against the establishment candidate, all the more remarkable because most rural areas tend to contain more older voters, a constituency more aligned with Hillary Clinton.

Instead of running campaigns against the republicans by trying to carve out a salient issue or two, Democrats are now armed with a number of powerful issues that will appeal in rural America. Because Bernie has exposed long dormant economic injustices to the electorate, we can credibly attack republicans on their cozy relationships with the pharmaceuticals, the insurance companies, the communications giants, the service economy behemoths that suppress wages, and the state legislatures that have driven the cost of a college education out of sight.



I am thinking that the politicians think of the rural areas as “empty space”, something to fly over. Bernie went to so many places that had never seen a presidential candidate!

Rural people are used to being over-ruled in elections by the higher vote counts in the urban areas and it causes divides. They even treat rural people differently. Oregon’s $15 minimum wage was heralded but what many do not realize is that it was graduated with urban areas getting more, rural less. Policies like that further divide us.

Bernie always had the rural folks’ backs. He not only got health care for them but dental care as well. In Oregon, it is a mark of growing up rural to have missing teeth.

The urban areas cannot house all the people there, driving a lot of homelessness. Urbanization is not a cure for anything.

Betty Pinson

These are excellent. Thanks for the link.


This is one of the reasons I have supported Bernie’s campaign so wholeheartedly. He doesn’t just write off rural areas and smaller states; instead, he has actively taken his message on the issues to them.

Great post, LieparDestin.


Yes! I was particularly moved watching videos of his meetings with farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley here in CA and folks in a small town in West Virginia. I particularly appreciate that what he did was listen to them, and learn — and then incorporate what he learned into what he shared in his speeches and rallies, to teach the rest of us about what needs doing.


Excellent Post! Our breathless progressive commentators on MSNBC would have us believe we don’t even NEED rural voters because of the favorable demographic trends among minorities. Meanwhile the repugs keep piling up victories in red and purple states because we have had NO message for the white working class. Until Bernie and Elizabeth Warren our national brand was all about fighting discrimination that whites don’t face and little about the economic inequality that is destroying their lives. Bernie’s campaign has given us an alternative brand, introducing long ignored issues that will enable us to compete in purple and red districts and states. You cannot expect to hold the senate or win the house without a strong economic message. The truth is the white, substantially rural working class vote was the swing vote in many purple and red states a generation ago. This allowed us to hold five of six senate seats in Nebraska and the Dakotas, for example. Our muted economic message has said little to these people in recent years as their communities have been economically depleted by the tax-advantaged corporate behemoths like WalMart.


Progressive populism is the answer. Sadly, especially in the South, racism gets in the way as those in power divide those who have economic interests in common.


Rural communities are also starting to soften their hearts towards progressive ideas, as it becomes more obvious that they are losing ground. It has been hard, though, in many rural communities, to gain much ground in the past–lots of hostility and “back of the hand” to progressive ideals.

Thankfully, with organizing around ways to really benefit the communities and a determination to refrain from preaching and look people in the eye and become friends, this is changing.

Betty Pinson

Yes, Big AG and NAFTA, etc. have decimated these communities. So many young and elderly people living in poverty with no way out. Access to quality, affordable health care is extremely poor. I work often with cancer patients in rural areas and the mortality rates are like those in third world countries.


Thank you for your work there, Betty.


Prepare to recoil in horror: I think we must use tRump not only as leverage against DNC corruption, but to get onto the wavelength of a huge portion of USA whom we need to overcome oligarchy. Bigotry really is NOT as toxic as Clinton’s proven neo-fascism. >>http://vcbestor.blogspot.com/2016/04/incredibly-im-now-troll-for-trump.html #NeverHillary


Bigotry is a part of Trump’s brand of neo-fascism. Neither one is good. We’re in a tough spot.
But the convention hasn’t happened yet. If this election cycle has shown us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

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