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DEMOCRACY: Government & Politics | November 28, 2002



An E-Mail to a Rural Democratic Activist

As far as the "rural" vs. "urban" thing (You're absolutely right about the lack of attention to rural concerns), I've always lamented "city people" and "country people" stereotyping each other and not trying to find common ground (like issues of concern to the elderly [as you mentioned] -- we're all going to grow old, if we're lucky).

Dad's been ill this summer, and now into fall. He's gotten better and hopefully after the current round of med's and a recent procedure, he'll be in pretty decent shape (Poor old guy wore out his body taking care of Mom and me all those years). I've spent countless hours with him, at home, in the hospital, and in a nursing home. It's been a "liberal education". One of the biggest problems (in addition to the obscene expenses involved, even with Medicare) seems to be a shortage of help -- the nursing home he was in is owned by a company that owns 500, and they cut corners. Most of the nurses and their assistants were competent and hard-working, but they can do only so much. I just break down thinking of those who have no where else to turn.

I went to UC, Davis, Dad & Mom grew up on farms in South Dakota, we try to keep in touch with the relatives in the Midwest, he's got a subscription to Wallace's Farmer, and we occasionally watch RFD-TV, so we've got some idea of what's going on in rural America. A lot of the younger people go off to the towns to work, leaving an aging population back home. Corporations and other large interests are buying up a lot of the land, and communities are dying (WalMarts sucking up business from main streets, too). Farm incomes are often not enough to support a family, so couples go into town for second jobs. Aquifers are going down or being polluted. Prices for fuel, seed, fertilizer, etc. always seem to go up; prices for products are always at the mercy of speculators (as my Grandpa Drenkow used to say).

And yet, the countryside is such a beautiful place to live, to raise a family if you can. Especially if your family has roots on the land going back generations, but really...for anyone.

The "conservative" values so traditional in rural areas often put off liberal urban Democrats; but underneath it all are genuine concern for family and neighbors, the land, God, country, and justice -- all "issues" that the Democratic Party used to draw much strength from in rural regions (Dad could never figure how the South, for example, could turn on the Democratic Party, after all FDR did for them, as with the REA. Unfortunately, the GOP played "the race card"; and the Vietnam War really did a number on not only the Party but also the Country).

I've always thought it was a mistake for the Democrats to write off rural states across the nation (and not just because of Electoral College arithmetic), and it also is a mistake for us to neglect rural counties across California. Davis and Clinton both got into office with significant, albeit not majority, support in rural areas of California. Hopefully it won't take pressing economic times to get people to see that the Democrats, not the Republicans, offer the most for "the common people", whether they live in the city, the country, or somewhere in between.

Well, I'd best check my (suburban) garden to see if the carrots and peas sprouted yet (the first planting was iffy, although the crucifers and onions are thriving in this cool weather). Gotta put my UC, Davis education to work, you know!

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