Obama and Democrats’ Rural Problem

Bipartisanship needed in rural America from both sides of the aisle to reinforce delicate balance of working together for rural needs.

President Obama doesn’t find a very welcome reception in the countryside, and actually seems a bit uncomfortable there, according to political analyst Matt Barron.

And in this recent election cycle, it cost the Democratic Party and the delicate bipartisan balance often needed for rural America.

Barron shared in The Hill, “Democrats' problems with rural folks go beyond the president's skin color and 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 it, dislike of President Obama won out in the end. Take Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who was the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee spending panel on agriculture, was beat by Republican Rep. Tom Cotton who voted against the farm bill and disaster aid for towns hit hard in Arkansas.

Across the board, city, small town and rural voters made similar shifts from Democrat to Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm elections.

“Compared to the national elections in 2008 and 2012, metropolitan and nonmetropolitan votes for Republicans grew at about the same rate,” according to Daily Yonder’s Tim Marema and Bill Bishop’s rural election overview.

In Iowa and Georgia, Republican candidates for the Senate opposed the 2014 farm law 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.

Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture during the Clinton administration, shared in a Huff Post blog Nov. 12, 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, shared that in most of the issues rural and urban folks care about are the same: good jobs, economic growth, a sound environment and access to decent and affordable health care. He suggests that at a minimum the president needs to make some personal farm and rural visits in the heartland early next year and listen to the concerns from those in the countryside.

“Reaching out to rural American 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 have required a national bipartisan support base. This coalition involved lawmakers representing urban, suburban and rural communities creating a national policy on food issues. This was very evident earlier this year with the passage of the farm bill and the unique balance of interests needed to pass a 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,” he wrote. “The future of American leadership on nutrition, farming and hunger is in jeopardy without positive action to rebuild and maintain these bipartisan coalitions.”

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