Residents say their central issues are being ignored...
But there is a sense among residents here, as in many rural communities across the state, that they are the forgotten ones — at least politically
You ask most of rural Georgia, and they will say neither party has a vision or game plan for us. There is no respect for agriculture. No planning for our infrastructure. No understanding of the long distances people have to go to access medical care.
That sentiment has me predicting a bitter battle between the political parties to capture the votes of rural Georgia which is right now control by the GOP due to the democrats reluctance to compete in the area. Although these areas tend to lean Republican, during the primary season I asked if they support a generic Democratic or Republican presidential candidate, rural voters narrowly picked the Democrat.
Rural Georgia remains conservative, with social issues in the forefront, but these voters are also consumed by economic concerns and the lack of job opportunities. Regardless of what party they belong to, many say they vote for the candidate who can help them, not the party. I remember when I was stumping with then candidate Thomas Coogle who ran for a house seat in the Georgia Legislature this year, I asked a lady who was 82 years old if she ever voted for a straight ballot, she replied..."I've never voted a straight ballot. It doesn't take brains to vote across the board, although right now I'm not impressed by either side."
Ignoring these areas can be politically lethal for candidates. While rural voters make up around 30-35% of the state's population, they have affected races for Governor (2002) & U.S. Senate (2002). Remember what happened in those races, Barnes the heavy favorite lost to a obscure State Senator, Sonny Perdue & Max Cleland lost to then congressman Saxby Chambliss.
To win as a republican, you need a lion's share of the rural vote & to win as a democrat, you need to neutralize the rural vote....well democrats should compete for the rural vote instead of trying to neutralize it.
But speaking from a democratic perspective, there are a number of theories on why democrats don't pay much attention to rural voters such as: rural voters don't donate as much as their urban/suburban counterparts.
Another reason Dems avoid competing in rural Georgia is difficulty getting to far-flung areas is time-consuming, and crafting an effective message is difficult because many politicians that campaign down here don't understand the complexities of rural Georgia. For instance: many rural residents resent interference by the federal government, but their towns' existence often depends on grants and funding for infrastructure. It's our lifeblood, but many rural residents who lean conservative don't see it that way. Another is that rural Georgia is not as diverse as the more populated areas in the state. Many Dems point to the demographic changes that are coming to Georgia in terms of the growing Hispanic & African-American populations as their ticket back to competing in this state. The notion among some dems in this state is forget about white rural voters who lean more to the right & just focus on minority voters...BAD RECIPE FOR SUCCESS! You're only reinforcing the perception that the democratic party is the party for minorities & only minorities. If you're the "BIG TENT PARTY" all voters regardless of race, class, gender, ideology should be welcomed with open arms. I hear the talk, but see little or no action!
Neither party is paying attention to rural Georgia. Agriculture is in trouble & the quality of life is deteriorating as we speak. In my humble opinion, rural communities are competitive now....not because they love the Democrats. I get the sense from talking with conservative or conservative leaning voters that they maybe falling out of love with the republicans, but as long as the Democratic Party remains resistant to rural Georgia, then republicans will always have two legs up in appealing to these voters.
For Democrats to capture rural votes, it must find cultural and economic connections & be more open to democrats who doesn't hold the same views & insights of that of a liberal. Hey, they like to call themselves the "Big Tent Party", well its about time to live up to that slogan. Voters aren't looking for grandstanding or cheap symbolic performance, just someone who has a pulse on the happenings of their communities.
Although many towns across rural Georgia are struggling, there are indications that a little bit of industry/economic revitalization can get them back on their feet. Georgia Dems, its time to man up & compete for rural Georgia,,the sooner, the better.
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