I think that the idea that liberals are completely out of touch is way, way overrated. The people who are most open to this message generally don't have to deal with the issues that urban liberals do, and we're adept enough at dealing with those issues. But that modern liberalism is out of touch with the issues plaguing rural America is fair enough, as Jake at Lying Media Bastards addresses on his blog today.
I saw a startling example of this blindness while watching "The Daily Show" last night. They were discussing all the BushCo resignations, and the joke was that the anchor was more interested in all the people that resigned that weren't Colin Powell. In order to make the joke work, they had to sort of pick on these people and imply that none of them did much with their position or had much power, which was funny enough. What startled me was that they reserved particular mockery for Ann Veneman, implying that she was even less important than everyone else that resigned since she never got into the news.
Well, Veneman was the secretary of agriculture, and she is an absolute nightmare. She was awarded the position in order to consolidate the power of Big Ag, wreaking havoc on the lives of small farmers and attacking the rights of food consumers. Here's a pretty good summary of all the wicked little agriculture disasters this woman has her fingerprints over in the last four years. How easy would it have been for the Democrats to stick canvassers into every district in the country where the local economy still depends on the small farmer?
Of course, the Democrats have turned their backs on these people, since they are so deeply invested in voting Republican. I don't blame the party necessarily; having grown up in one of the most rural parts of the country I can tell you that after decades of being blanketed with propaganda from the NRA and the Christian right, a lot of rural people are under the impression that Democrats want to take your guns and your Bible. But not all.
It will take work, but I think that there are tons and tons of rural people who would be open to the Democrats if they put forth some decent policy proposals and made a good faith effort to communicate their ideas to rural people. Not all, or even most, farmers are Bible-thumping wingnuts. Their main interest is finding a niche in the ag market so that they can continue living life as they like it.
For instance, Big Ag has done a number on the small ranch-based economy of the town I grew up in. While our ranchers turn out a superior product--free range beef has flavor that factory farm beef just doesn't have--superior isn't what the market demands in our age of McDonald's. But there is hope on the horizon--the demand for organic beef is rapidly on the rise, because of fears of mad cow and E. coli. But BushCo has worked against the small farmer and the growth of the organic beef industry, going so far as to actually force a small producer to stop testing its beef for mad cow in order to sell it in Japan at top dollar prices.
I think if the Democrats started now, they could undermine the stranglehold that the Republicans have on the small rancher vote. Cobble together some materials explaining exactly how BushCo has worked to hurt them and offer some policy proposals to help these ranchers enter the lucrative organic market--some training, government funding to create channels between these ranchers and purchasers in Europe and Asia, and solid labeling requirments to distinguish organic from factory beef. Start early, like right now, instead of waiting until right before the election. There's a lot of Republican propaganda to undo.
If the Democrats are actually successful in this campaign, it would send a shockwave over the red states. Sure, the small farmer and rancher vote is a small vote, but it's an influential one. Plus, it would be fun to go behind the Republicans' backs and start taking the votes the Republicans treat like a birthright.