Tag: rural America

Politically abandoned by both major parties, farmer suicide rates higher than during 1980’s farm crisis

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.


The 1980’s was not a good decade for American midwestern family farmers by anyone’s imagination. In fact, for much of the 1980’s, the Upper Midwest was in the grip of a crippling farm crisis that drove thousands of family farmers off of their land and drove many to take their own lives.

In 2017, the suicide rate among male farmers in the United States is much higher than it was during the 1980’s:

The National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wis., tracked farm suicides during the 1980s in the Upper Midwest, the region most affected by the farm crisis, to try to better understand the relationships between the farm economy and suicide.

They found that 913 male farmers in the region committed suicide during that decade, with rates peaking in 1982 at 58 suicides for every 100,000 male farmers and ranchers.

[…]

Compare that with this year’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report, which found that current national suicide rates for people working in agriculture are 84.5 per 100,000 overall, and 90.5 per 100,000 among males. This means that suicide rates among male farmers are now more than 50 percent higher than they were in 1982, at the peak of the farm crisis.

(Emphasis is mine; I was not able to find a 1982 figure for suicide rates among the overall farmer and rancher population.)

There are major reasons why the suicide rate among farmers and ranchers is so high. First, crop prices are low to the point that farmers are not getting a fair price for their crop and rural communities that are dependent on the agricultural industry are suffering as a result of it. Second, farmers and ranchers have been effectively abandoned by both major political parties: most, but not all, farmers and ranchers in the United States vote for Republican political candidates, but Republican agricultural policies negatively impact family farmers and ranchers, and most Democratic elected officials who remain in office represent heavily-urbanized political constituencies, so the Democratic Party has increasingly ignored the legitimate concerns of rural voters.

Something is seriously wrong in rural America when the suicide rate among those who produce our nation’s food is extremely high.

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For Democrats, winning over rural voters isn’t as simple as talking to a few rural people

For a number of years, Kathy Cramer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying rural resentment towards Democrats and political elites, and seems to be one of only a handful of people who understand why Democrats are so awful at winning over rural voters in Wisconsin.

Recently, Cramer studied Donald Trump’s appeal to rural voters in Wisconsin, and you can read her findings at the end of this article by Jessie Opoien (last name pronounced oh-POY-en) of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times. Another thing that I enjoyed reading about in the article is Cramer’s epic response to a person who volunteered for the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:

After Cramer presented her findings, a woman in the audience who said she had volunteered in Madison on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign asked Cramer what advice she would give Democrats on how to talk to the people in rural areas who voted for Trump.

“It’s not speaking to people,” Cramer said. “It will require just spending time with people and asking them, ‘What’s on your mind?’ for months — then trying to deliver a message.”

If winning over rural voters was a simple as talking to a few rural voters here and there, we’d still have Pat Quinn as governor here in Illinois. Obviously, that’s not the case. For Democrats to win over rural voters across the country, Democrats are going to start needing to emphasize agricultural policy proposals designed to give farmers a fair price for their crops and find other ways to connect with rural voters without alienating the progressive urban base of the party. Even better, Democrats should try to use rural resentment to their advantage by trying to paint Republicans as the party of urban and suburban political elites.

While there are several candidates that political insiders have floated as potential Democratic candidates for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 (such as State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Former State Senator Tim Cullen, U.S. Representative Ron Kind, State Representative Dana Wachs, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, just to name a few), I’ve wondered for some time whether or not Kathy Cramer would be a good candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin, such as governor or lieutenant governor. Given that she seems to know how Democrats can win over rural voters (or at least enough rural voters to win a statewide race in states like Wisconsin), I think that she could be a great candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin. However, I highly doubt that Cramer would even consider the idea of running for public office.

ENDORSEMENT: Zephyr Teachout for 19th Congressional District of New York

I proudly endorse Zephyr Rain Teachout for the Democratic nomination in the 19th Congressional District of New York.

My endorsement of Zephyr is not based on the fact that she has the coolest name in American politics (she certainly does) or because of the cool outfits she wears in parades across her congressional district (see here and here), it’s because she’s an absolutely awesome person. If elected to Congress, nobody, and I mean nobody, will be a stronger and more effective advocate for removing the undue influence of big money in American politics than Zephyr. Zephyr is one of only two congressional candidates in the entire country that I’m aware of (the other being 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin candidate Sarah Lloyd) who has openly talked about how free-trade deals have hurt farmers and rural America. Zephyr is the only congressional candidate that I’m aware of who has talked about how large companies have locked away technologies that can be used by small businesses. Zephyr understands that climate change is real, and that real solutions are needed to curb or reverse global warming.

Zephyr has the Working Families Party line and faces Will Yandik in the Democratic primary, and the winner of the primary will face Republican opposition from the winner of a contested primary between John Faso (who has the Conservative, Independence, and Reform Party lines), Andrew Heaney, and Bob Bishop. I strongly encourage New York Democrats to vote for Zephyr Teachout on June 28. You can view Zephyr’s campaign website here, and she’s also on Twitter and Facebook.

ENDORSEMENT: Sarah Lloyd for 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin

There aren’t too many Democrats who champion both rural America and progressive values. However, for Sarah Lloyd, championing rural America and progressive values is a way of life for her.

Now, Lloyd is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin. I proudly endorse Sarah Lloyd and her campaign.

As a dairy farmer, Lloyd understands how free trade deals like President Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would severely hurt Wisconsin’s dairy industry, as she has personally experienced how free-trade deals that are currently in effect have hurt the dairy-farming industry in Wisconsin.

Rural America is, by far, the constituency that the Democratic Party has systematically ignored more than any other constituency. You don’t hear Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders talk about rural issues all that often, and big-city political power brokers that form the vast majority of the Democratic establishment are more concerned about getting their cronies elected than anything else. Don’t even ask for Republicans like Glenn Grothman to do anything to help family farmers and rural communities, as they’re more concerned about spewing bigotry and hate towards anyone who isn’t like them.

The Democratic congressional primary in the 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin is August 9. Should Lloyd win the Democratic nomination, she will be on the November 8 general election ballot in the 6th Congressional District of Wisconsin.

You can read more about Sarah Lloyd and her congressional campaign here.

Meet Sady Doyle, the most vocal critic of Bernie’s Army out there

Sady Doyle, a Hillary Clinton supporter, resident of New York City, and freelance online journalist for the British newspaper The Guardian, has taken to Twitter in recent days to attack me, other Bernie Sanders supporters, the people of the State of Vermont, and rural America.

First off, Doyle has aggressively attacked and mocked Bernie Sanders, his home state of Vermont, and rural America:

I want to make two points here. First, Doyle, who is from the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is attacking Bernie for being from Vermont, a state that is mostly rural with small towns (although Bernie is from Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, and was the mayor of Burlington for much of the 1980’s). This is a classic example of urban Democrats trashing rural Americans, which is one of many reasons why Republicans control both houses of Congress and most state governments. Second, U.S. Senators are responsible for representing the people of their home state, not serving as some kind of absolute monarch or imperial ruler, and, unlike most politicians in this country, Bernie completely lacks any kind of a royalist mindset.

Doyle didn’t stop at attacking Bernie himself. She mocked and attacked the legions of Bernie supporters, which I like to call Bernie’s Army:

There are two main themes that Doyle is using to attack Bernie’s Army. First, she’s accusing Bernie’s Army of being a group of racist and sexist Bernie supporters. Second, she’s attacking Bernie’s Army for supporting a presidential candidate who actually agrees with them on the vast majority of issues.

Regarding the first point, Doyle thinks that it’s a valid crime for white men (who are considerably less than 100% of Bernie supporters; there are many women and people of color who support Bernie) to be politically active in this country. In my opinion, if you’re a U.S. citizen, and you’re old enough to vote, it’s an important civic duty to be politically active, regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

Regarding the second point, in regards to the Democratic nomination process, I’d rather support a candidate that I agree with nearly 100% of the time than a candidate who doesn’t really share my values but is the favored candidate of party bosses. Since America’s political party system is a strong two-party system, I support the candidate nominated by the left-most of the major parties (in this country, the Democratic Party) in the general election. However, for the Democratic Party’s nomination process, I usually, but not always, support what I think is the most progressive candidate running in a Democratic primary, caucus, etc. For the 2016 presidential election, that candidate is Bernie Sanders.

Pivoting back the first point, while I’m a Bernie supporter, I am not someone with a “bro” personality. I’m from a redneck part of Illinois, I consider myself to be a redneck, and I love country music (especially older country music) and NASCAR. I guess one could me a “BernNeck”. Also, Doyle made an implicit comparison of Bernie supporters and “PUMA” supporters of Hillary in 2008. For those of you who don’t remember who the PUMAs were, they were a group of Hillary supporters in 2008 who refused to support Barack Obama after he won the Democratic nomination. While PUMA officially stood for “People United Means Action”, it unofficially stood for “Party Unity My Ass”. While there are probably a few Bernie supporters who would not support Hillary if she were the Democratic nominee, I’m not one of those kind of Bernie supporters, as I’d vote for Hillary in the general election should she win the Democratic nomination.

Doyle didn’t stop at just attacking Bernie’s Army as a whole. She took a couple of swipes at me:

While I thank Doyle for referring to me as “heroic”, she clearly attacked me for criticizing a lame reference to pop music singer Miley Cyrus that she made about the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as for saying that female supporters of the Bernie campaign (which there are a large number of), aren’t interested in silly pop culture references. Most supporters of the Bernie campaign, both male and female supporters, aren’t interested in silly pop culture references; they’re interested in making America a better place to live.

Oh, and while she was at it, Doyle admitted that Hillary is a bought-off corporatist politician:

I thank Doyle for reminding us what the primary reason we dislike Hillary so much is! Oh, and regarding Doyle’s claim that no other moderate Democrat has faced as much criticism of Hillary has, I can think of several moderate/conservative Democrats that have faced far more criticism than Hillary has. The most notable one that I can think of off of the top of my head was Mary Burke, a charter school supporter who was the Democratic nominee in last year’s election for Governor of Wisconsin (losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker).

Last, but certainly not least, Doyle claimed that the vast majority of women that she knows are leaning towards supporting Bernie:

Keep in mind that Doyle is a known Hillary supporter, and she admitted that the vast majority of women that she knows are…you guessed it…leaning towards Bernie. Bernie is going to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and no Miley Cyrus references or attempts to divide Democrats based on gender are going to convince us to support Hillary for the Democratic nomination.

I now await the Twitter wrath of Sady Doyle…

Hillary Clinton wants to destroy rural America by putting gun manufacturers completely out of business

Losing ground in recent Democratic presidential primary and caucus opinion polls, Hillary Clinton is trying one last thing to save her campaign from falling behind the Bernie Sanders campaign in the opinion polls in even more states. She’s proposing ending the gun manufacturers’ legal immunity from lawsuits every time someone uses one of their products for its intended purpose of killing a person or other living thing (such as a deer or a rabbit).

Make no mistake about it, gun violence is a serious problem in this country. We have far more mass shootings in this country than any other country, and, to put it mildly, it is a problem that needs to be addressed. I strongly support common-sense gun safety measures like universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and enacting a ban on assault weapons outside of the military, and these are all measures that Bernie Sanders supports. However, I cannot reasonably support completely eliminating legal immunity for gun manufacturers for reasons I will explain in the following paragraph.

I live in a region of Illinois that has a lot of deer hunters. While I’m not a hunter myself, and I’d never use a firearm for any reason, I can tell you for certain that Hillary’s plan to allow people to sue gun manufacturers every time some jackass decides to use a gun for its intended purpose of killing someone would put gun manufacturers in this country completely out of business, at least in regards to the civilian market. Without anyone to manufacture guns for the purposes of deer-hunting, downstate Illinois would lose a large part of its economy if Hillary were to get her way.

I thank Bernie Sanders for standing up and opposing the ridiculous idea of ending lawsuit immunity for gun manufacturers. He’s a real friend of rural America.

Joni Ernst likely wore bread bags over her shoes when Ronald Reagan was president

Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa gave a vague response to the State of the Union Address last night, in which Ernst talked about her life story for nearly half of her short speech, and then used typical GOP talking points about a handful of issues without going into much detail about the issues she did talk about (which there weren’t many of). It’s worth noting that, immediately after Ernst’s speech, Ernst was not trending on Twitter in my neck of the woods, which gives you a general idea of how her speech was viewed by the American people (i.e., they didn’t care).

One remark that Ernst made in her speech that did get quite a bit of attention, however, was her story of wearing bread bags on her shoes while going to school as a child. However, what Ernst didn’t mention is that Republican policies likely played a role in Ernst’s family being poor. Ernst was born in 1970, which meant that Ronald Reagan, whose trickle-down economic policies, which Ernst and the rest of the far-right Republicans support, led to rampant income inequality in this country, was president for much of her childhood. In fact, for much of the 1980’s, rural America was in the midst of a farm crisis caused by, among other factors, Reagan’s economic policies, and Iowa was one of the states that was greatly affected by the farm crisis.

You can watch my own response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address here.