Democrats would be making a grave mistake to give up the fight for rural voters | Opinion -

2022-03-12 06:27:56 By : Ms. Amy Tang

A recent Associated Press article datelined Smethport, PA, declared that “some Democrats in rural Pennsylvania are afraid to tell you they’re Democrats.”

“The party’s brand is so toxic in the small towns 100 miles northeast of Pittsburgh,” the story continued “that some liberals have removed bumper stickers and yard signs and refuse to acknowledge publicly their party affiliation.”

This is but one of a number of similar stories in recent months suggesting that Democrats, never particularly strong in rural areas, are becoming increasingly irrelevant in rural America, except possibly as a battering ram. I personally know a couple that got fed up with their over-the-top Trump-loving neighbors in their rural enclave (not Perry County) and moved back to the city.

What is going on here with one of America’s two great political parties? A lot of it consists of the same old story: Democrats allowing Republicans to define their identity. The old canards of “tax and spend liberals,” and Democrats wanting to turn the country into a “Socialist” state, have given away, or been added, to the more recent accusations that Democrats want to “defund the police” and seek to teach “critical race theory” to school-age children, neither of which is part of the mainstream Democratic agenda. And just to confuse things even more, Republicans can’t resist throwing Hillary Clinton back into the meatgrinder no matter how ludicrous the accusations.

And then there is the ever-successful Republican ploy of appealing to voters with their stance on social issues, such as abortion, guns, and, in some cases, outright racism. Democrats, on the hand, tend to focus more on economic issues, such as affordable health care for all, a day’s pay for a day’s work, protecting Social Security, and being able to get a college education without going over one’s head in debt. Somehow, Republicans have a diabolical genius for making these worthy goals sound un-American.

Democrats would be making a grave mistake to give up the fight for rural voters. Some nationally prominent Democrats have a tin ear when it comes to rural America, but by and large, the party has been responsive to the needs of agriculture and country people over many decades and continues to do so, while getting very little to no credit for its efforts. However Democrats definitely need to sharpen their message and not allow Republicans to define who they are and what they stand for, a tactic that has proven to be so successful for so long that it is getting downright ugly in some areas of rural America.

It isn’t just the country as a whole that needs a two-party system. It is in rural America’s best interest to embrace it as well and encourage a healthy discourse that enriches us all.

Herb Field, Wheatfield Twp., Pa.

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