Hank Linderman, as we saw a few weeks ago when we first met him, is the head of the Kentucky Democratic Party’s rural caucus. He’s running for Congress in a very rural– and very red– district. His campaign is more an organizing effort for the Kentucky Democratic Party than anything to do with replacing a right-wing Republican (Brett Guthrie) with a Bernie-grade progressive. It’s still very much worth contributing to his campaign.
Last month, when I asked him about the morass the Democrats find themselves in rural areas like his, he told me that
“Our party needs to decide to invest in rural and small town America. Democrats have been absent in many of these districts for decades– since they didn’t think they could win, they invested elsewhere. This might have made sense for an election cycle, but being gone for so long means we have been out of the conversation while Republicans became dominant. State parties need to contribute to candidates running in hopeless races, they will help organize to help others win later on.”
Since then, he came up with a “the contract for rural and working America,” which is part of his campaign– and organizing– platform for Warren, Davis, Hardin, Bullitt, nelson, Barren, Boyle, Ohio and a dozen other counties in the second district. It’s long and detailed but he came up with an express version for our readers to look through.
1. Restoring Health Care In Rural America– Rural hospitals are failing at an accelerating rate, as we reform and modernize our health care system, we must secure their survival.
2. Education and Childcare– Higher education, from trade schools to universities, must be made available to any qualifying student for free or for very low cost. Public schools must be expanded to provide childcare and preschool, available to all children. Student debt is a 1.9 trillion dollar drag on the U.S. economy, financing of education must be cleared of predatory lenders. We need the return of high school shop classes, home economics, trade schools and apprenticeship programs.
3. Support for Small, Subsistence and Family Farms– Farming by individuals, families and co-ops must be encouraged. Tax benefits like those given to large agri-businesses that will work for and not against the family farm must be implemented. We need high quality locally grown food, clean water and air, sustained wildlife habitat, and the assurance that our children will continue to want to call rural America, “home”.
4. Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure And Domestic Supply Chain— For too long, working people have been denied the benefits of global trade. The needs of businesses, working people and national security must all be balanced. We must rebuild our supply chain, particularly in industries with national defense ramifications, such as tech, electronics, and renewable energy.
5. A Living Wage– Compared to the 1970’s, wages have dropped, in fact, 1977’s minimum wage adjusted for inflation and purchasing power would be $22/hr. today. Raising the minimum wage is one way the nation can begin to address the extreme inequality we now face.
6. Support For Workers In Declining Industries– American workers need protection from increasingly turbulent changes in the workforce. As industries decline, working populations need support. We support eliminating anti-union legislation and policies.
7. Renewable Rural Energy: Water, Wind and Solar– The tremendously profitable fossil fuel industry is subsidized annually with of billions of dollars. We think rural America would be better served if subsidies were redirected to make energy costs lower for all Americans. This will reverse the pollution of our air, water, and land, safeguarding a cleaner environment to pass on to our children, and creating more and better paying energy sector jobs. Energy must come from renewable, non-polluting sources.
8. Rural Broadband– The internet is a requirement for daily life. We must bring the internet to where Americans live and work – to improve education and provide business opportunities that are currently impossible. Construction of this new infrastructure will provide jobs as well. This must be a national project, like Rural Electrification (1936) or the Federal Interstate System (1956), and it should be administered by a Federal agency, like the US Postal Service.
9. Abuse Prevention, Rehabilitation and Support– Drug abuse in America is a complex problem that will require efforts on several fronts. Prevention programs in schools, expanded health care, rehab and follow up will all be important, as well as addressing America’s rising inequality. The collateral damage from the “War on Drugs” continues to damage to rural families and communities as the problem of abuse and addiction. We must also hold drug manufacturers liable for misleading the public, and for irresponsibly promoting addictive drugs.
10. Legalization of Cannabis– Legal cannabis means new cash crops for farmers, new business opportunities for investors, and new ways of treating pain without addiction. Cannabis enforcement disproportionately punishes people of color; legalization will eliminate a significant piece of systemic racism.
11. Secretary of Rural Affairs– This new cabinet level position must be created with the goal of making rural life more than survivable: Rural America must become a place where families can thrive, with new opportunities for work, education and a dignified life.
Again, please consider contributing to Hank’s campaign here… especially if you like the new song Jim Lough wrote and recorded for him above.
And let me say one more thing. Vermont– not Iowa or Nebraska– is the most rural state in America. In 1932, it was one of only 6 states to support Herbert Hoover over FDR. In 1936, It was one of only 2 states to vote against FDR. Nor did Wisconsin vote for Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 or 1948. Vermont voted against Truman in 1948 and for Nixon against JFK in 1960. It was the reddest state in America. But Democrats never gave up and it is now the bluest state in America!
And Bernie Sanders— who super-serves rural communities– is their senator. So… Democrats flipped one red Kentucky seat in 2006 and have held it ever since. The PVI is now D+8 and the district helped oust Trump ally Matt Bevin in 2019 elect a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear. That’s why I included the thermometer above– for progressives like Hank Linderman running in districts that Trump won.