What best sums up rural/urban American relations?
To me, it’s the Thomas Franks book What’s the Matter with Kansas?. The de facto subtitle was “why do Rural Americans vote against (I’m gonna add a little emphasis here) their best interests?”
Can you think of a more arrogant bit of preening than telling someone you don’t know and whose live you haven’t – can’t! – live, what their “best interests” are?
It lives on today, of course; Democrat candidate Jeff Erdmann wrote about his time working with the Angie Craig campaign:
[Erdmann] was phone banking and asked a supervisor what message he should tailor to the rural part of the district, since the script seemed aimed at city dwellers. “Just tell them the trailer-court story, they’re not big thinkers out there,” he said he was told, referring to Craig’s childhood in a trailer home.
But when rural Americans are asked why they don’t “vote for their best interests” for “progressives”, for some reason the obvious response – “you mean “best interests” like out of control crime, society organizing itself into demographic donuts of immense wealth surrounded by misery, exquisitely expensive but utterly wretched public education, intrusive bureaucracies and regulation, and a one-party system run by a political class that holds in sneering contempt everything I believe in? Those “best interests?”
Somehow that response never makes it in the paper.
Which brings us to Dave Mindeman.
Mindeman – DFL activist and the proprietor of the “MNpACT” blog who is, if memory serves, not a rural farmer or businessman, but a retired pharmacist from the south metro, has a piece in the MinnPost (anyone remember the MinnPost? I still get them mixed up with the Minnesota Monitor), entitled “Democrats are the real champions of rural Minnesota”.
And it’s tempting to say that he shoots his entire premise in the foot right out of the gate:
Democrats are always on the defensive when it comes to rural or outstate Minnesota. And I fail to see why that should be.
There is this misperception that Democrats only represent urban Minnesota. And granted, since the bulk of the population are city dwellers, it is only natural to devise programs that fit that large chunk of Minnesota residents. A lot of Democrats represent that urban population and need to pay attention to it.
And that they do, pushing policies statewide that cuddle up to the DFL’s MInneapolis and Saint Paul shot-callers. So while Mindeman is correct in saying…:
But Democrats who have represented more rural areas have nothing to feel bad about.
…that’s because those rural Democrats have either adapted to their surroundings (see: the Iron Rangers’ pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment stance) or, as with most DFLers outside 494/694 and the Arrowhead, or been retired from politics at the ballot box.
But once you get past the thesis, where’s the free-range beef?
I would venture to say that Democrats have done more for rural Minnesota than the Minnesota Republicans have ever accomplished. Look at the record on the issues close to greater Minnesota.
Broadband. Each legislative session, Democrats propose larger funding for this rural business essential. Gov. Mark Dayton, and Democrats in the Minnesota House and Senate have all been on board with much higher investment than the Republicans. And when the majority party throws those smaller bones at rural Minnesota, they think gratitude is in order. It’s not.
This, of course, has nothing to do with “investing in rural Minnesota”, and everything to do with turning rural broadband into a public utility (to create more sinecures for the DFL political class – and, as with every other public utility, what could possibly go wrong, there?), or serve as a political cudgel…
…that the DFL desperately needs to draw attention from the simple fact that it’s Minnesota’s confiscatory business tax and regulation system, not slow internet, that’s the problem for rural business.
LGA. For several years, legislative Republicans have used Local Government Aid as a “wasteful” spending punching bag — even though smaller Minnesota towns and cities request it every session.
But it’s not the smaller towns that the DFL is fighting for. As we showed during the 2010 campaign, while LGA was originally designed to help smaller, poorer towns afford things like water and sewage plants and new schools, it’s morphed into a systematic transfer of tax dollars from the parts of the state that work (largely the Republican controlled parts) to the parts that don’t (Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth soak up an awful lot of that money, notwithstanding all the caterwauling about helping rural Minnesota).
Transportation. This is a real sore point to contend with. Republicans make a mockery of responsible transportation management. [What about the elephant in the room – Ed] Rural roads need fixing, but rather than increase revenue streams to meet the need, they gimmick their way through a patchwork of band-aids that have no long-term resolution.[What about the elephant in the room – Ed] And to justify all this, they demonize light rail and urban transit as taking away all the available funding – knowing full well that metro transportation has created its own funding stream with the metro sales tax, which frees up more of the gas tax for rural infrastructure.
That’s a bit of flimflam; transit eats up all sorts of other revenue, including 40% of Minnesota’s exorbitant motor vehicle sales taxes.
But a guy’s gotta ask: the Democrats (and a Republican, Arne Carlson, who was to the left of many DFLers then, if not now, especially fiscally) controlled most of the power in this state for decades, and (at an institutional level) still do. Are they saying the roads suddenly went to crap in 2010?
Health care. Here is the real irony of it all. Rural Minnesota is the real beneficiary of the ACA health care provisions. Rural Minnesota has fewer insurance carriers, fewer hospitals and clinics, and less local access.
AND OBAMACARE AND MNSURE MADE IT INCALCULABLY WORSE!
People across vast swathes of Minnesota went from having several plans to choose from to, in many cases, one. The horror stories – people having to leave their hometown clinic an drive 40-100 miles to get to an in-network facility – are so prevalent outstate, it’s a wonder any DFLer can leave the metro without getting pelted with rocks and garbage.
What the DFL, Obamacare and MNSure did for rural healthcare was a crime. If only we had an institution, with printing presses
Child care. This is a problem that has kept getting worse in recent years. Rural residents struggle to find competent and local child care that allows them to continue to work without drowning in expenses. Some rural Minnesotans drive 50 plus miles just to drop off their kids at a place they can trust and still get to work. Instead of addressing this issue, Republicans prefer to fight unions and find fraudulent providers that they can make examples of, while doing nothing for the actual problem.
Wait – back up.
Fighting the unions?
He’s reverring, of course, to the DFL’s years-long effort to turn day care providers into unionized de facto state employees (contributing dues to DFL supporting unions, natch), while in the meantime ratcheting up regulatory requirements to a level that – are driving providers, especially rural ones, from the business at a catastrophic pace. I’ve interviewed Rep. Mary Franson – the only sitting rep that has actually worked in the daycare industry – and it’s pretty clear – the DFL seems daycare providers as more a potential revenue source than, y’know, childcare providers.
Once again, Democrats have been discussing this issue for some time, but while in the minority, any solution gets bottled up by the majority in committee.
Which is the handy excuse of every party that has no power.
Best we keep it that way.