Thursday, May 20, 2010

Georgia Democrats Recent Struggles on the Countryside & How they can change that.

The economic problems faced by rural Georgia are very real, and growing worse by the day. Many of them can be attributed to policies of the Perdue Administration & the GOP. But the Georgia Democratic party totally failed to make that connection, and to make it apparent to rural Georgians.

Take small towns in rural Georgia for example. For decades, they've been dying slowly disappearing from the Georgia landscape as their young people move to the cities where they can find a good job (like I did at one time). They're not always in love with the lifestyle -- especially for their kids. But it beats starving.

That decline begins and ends with agribusiness. Perhaps the Democrats are too much in love with their corporate contributions to make the case they need to make. But if they ever again want to win a single rural county, they'll have to make the connection clear.

So jobs decline and wages decrease -- partly from competition, and partly because the only available jobs are minimum wage jobs. The impacts on the small towns here in Georgia that grew up to support those farming and ranching communities are severe:

People have fewer jobs and less to spend, Young people move away and raise their families in cities & The rural population dwindles over time.

Basically, there is a huge disconnect between the Democratic party and the people who make up rural Georgia. Democrats will have to identify policies that would appeal to both rural Georgia and to their socially progressive constituents. With a strong party platform that resonates with the more centrist/conservative democrats , the result would result in a strong connection with rural Georgia that will give them a better chance to win.

Democrats are in a position to make big strides on the Georgia Countryside, if they define the 2010 statewidw elections principally in terms of showing their commitment to family and a new direction for the state as a whole. Coupling an economic and education narrative with reassurances on moral values and spending paves a pathway to success for Democrats back in this former democratic stronghold. Rural voters’ biggest fear about a Democratically-controlled legislature is that Democrats will increase spending and raise taxes (SOMETHING THE GEORGIA GOP HAS ALREADY DONE & HAVE MANAGED TO GET AWAY WITH), and they are more concerned about this possibility than their urban and suburban counterparts.

Democrats can win the moral values debate both by expanding the values debate to encompass a broader narrative about family life, economic pressures, and family values. This means more than just mentioning church and faith: Democrats need to expand the debate to talk about the Democrats as the party on the side of the average family. Can they do it? Yes they can! But will they?

The perception these days is that while rural communities have been able to solidify power along with Republican Stronghold counties of North Georgia for the Republican Party , that support is waning. The massive cute in education, corruption and power abuse scandals, Tax Increases and the generally poor perception of the GOP led legislature have brought the Republican stock down a couple of notches in rural Georgia. But, oddly, some in the Democratic Party appears to have no interest in taking back Rural Georgia. Rural activists are struggling for resources. What the Democratic Party is doing is working to build the party up from the precinct level with computerized lists of names, finding whom to contact for the get-out-the-vote push on election day. Works great in cities. And, frankly it will work great in some parts of rural Georgia as well. About half of the people around here live in small towns, so precinct work will have some effect. SOME

In rural Georgia, however, you have problems with distance and time that you don't have in urban areas. While a state house district in Decatur might take in a couple square miles, my house district covers all of my county, as well as Taylor, NW Dooly Couhty, southern Peach county & North-Central Talbot County. It's hard to get to the doors to knock on them.

just collecting lists of Democrats will never win an election. Plowing the same field over and over, but planting no seed, will never grow a crop. ASK ANY FARMER, & HE OR SHE WILL TELL YOU. To win, you have to get out and engage both Independent voters and Republicans. You have to convince them to make that last jump, to leave the Republicans behind and vote for Democrats.

A wiser strategy, in my opinion might as well be to ignore the Democrats (because they are mostly going to vote for you) and engage the Independent and Republican voters with direct mail, targeted media advertising and door-to-door work where it's feasible. But what Democrats really need to do is to get to know people. They need to do everything from having a marching band to holding a fish fry to get to know people who aren't Democrats.

One problem with the Georgia Democratic Party, at least around here, is that it is centrally operated in a one-size-fits-all manner. There isn't even a second flavor for rural. What ought to be happening is that the state party folks should be talking to each county to find out what might work locally, and be ready to experiment, play around, try new things, and have some fun in finding ways to win. Many of our rural districts will take several election cycles to get to the point where Democrats are trusted. We are well on our way, but we need minimal resources. It's not really about money -- what rural Democrats really need is freedom. To be effective, our volunteers need the freedom to experiment with their rural communities and find out what will actually work. When the state party mandates the use of a centralized data input programs, it looks just like a frontal assault on the Maginot Line to me.

Growing up it was always said to me that Rich people are Republicans and poor people are Democrats. But the reality is Republicans attract two types of lower income voters. The first are fiscal conservatives who don’t want to pay too much in taxes and most definitely do not want to accept anything that resembles a “handout” from the government. The second type are the much maligned social conservatives.

All rural folks don't "cling" to their gun out of fear of everything (like the president Obama mentioned at one time at a SF Gathering). They wonder what the big deal is all of a sudden and why they have to suffer just because inner cities have gang problems. They don’t “cling to religion” out of fear of anything neither! The vast majority of rural Georgians are not particularly over-the-top religious, but Christianity is still part of their tradition, part of their family history, part of their understanding of their place and responsibility on this planet.

The rural vote is critical in mid-term elections because large Republican majorities among rural voters have helped overcome Democratic advantages in urban areas. With the rural advantage eroding for the GOP, both parties may look more carefully at the rural vote in the coming elections.

DEMOCRATS DON’T WIN UNLESS THEY MAKE RURAL GEORGIA COMPETITIVE, and Republicans don’t win without a large rural victory. So you’d think that would mean the candidates would have a spirited debate on the things that matter to rural Georgians, but we haven’t heard that as of yet.

The bottom line is if democrats running for office this year continue to plow the same field over & over again without any result (in other words, the same strategy of campaigning to traditionally democratic areas) they will not make any gains this year. They have got to stake out new ground in the state & get back into rural Georgia. If they do that, they'll be singing "happy days are hear again"! If not, well it'll be another long sorry night on Nov 3.

2 comments:

Slyram said...

Man, Keith. You are sounding better than most of candidates out here these days. You make a whole lot of sense.

Keith McCants said...

Its just me telling it like it is. the same strategy of ignoring rural ga ain't gonna get it this election cycle. hope the candidates take this seriously.

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