Insights about Rural America
What Rural Americans Want
Rural communities have been a strong part of historic progressive movements and benefited greatly from those agendas. Unfortunately, over the last several decades leaders of both political parties and most progressive advocates have neglected rural communities. This era of economic unrest, wealth extraction and deprioritization has helped create political alienation that must be healed. Throughout hours of conversation with rural leaders it was clear that rural people first want:
- To be seen, have their challenges and points of view heard, and be included at the table as national and state policy priorities are set.
- Partnership and resources to build capacity and prosperity in their communities.
- To work with allies in cities and suburbs to address shared challenges, while ensuring that specifically rural issues are considered.
Themes from the 2021 policy summit
What Progressives Need to Understand About Rural America
RURAL AMERICA IS DIVERSE, AND RURAL PEOPLE HAVE EXPERIENCED UNIQUE SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION.
Rural America is only slightly less diverse than urban America, a gap that continues to close. And Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian residents of rural communities have experienced specific systemic racism and discrimination in federal policy and government operations. Policymakers should acknowledge this and take action to help correct these historic and current wrongdoings.
RURAL ECONOMIC DRIVERS ARE INCREASINGLY
EXTRACTIVE AND Exploitative.
Federal and state policies have allowed corporations with concentrated power and political influence to extract wealth and resources, drive small businesses and family farmers out of business, and exploit vulnerable workers. We must hold corporate power and influence to account, rein in monopolistic behavior, and create a level playing field for rural workers, farmers, small businesses, and cooperatives.
GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT IS DESPERATELY NEEDED.
We must substantially increase federal grants and capital to pay for infrastructure, public services, job creation, housing, small business development, conserving natural resources and improving health care. In fact, infrastructure is just as important for the health of rural communities as it is in urban spaces.
MANY RURAL COMMUNITY GOVERNMENTS LACK
ESSENTIAL CIVIC CAPACITY.
In addition to funding for physical infrastructure, rural communities need funding for human capital, technical assistance and staffing to develop and procure rural resources through grants, loans and other means.
POLICYMAKERS OFTEN DO NOT PRIORITIZE RURAL LIVABILITY. MANY PEOPLE WANT TO STAY IN RURAL COMMUNITIES OR RETURN TO THEM.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of policy to promote basic livability including, high-speed internet, affordable housing, access to high-quality healthcare, pre-k, K-12, vocational and higher education, child care, and arts and culture. Further, our government – across parties – often promotes extractive and polluting industries that make communities less livable in the name of economic growth.
AN EFFECTIVE RURAL AGENDA AVOIDS ADDRESSING ISSUES AS SILOS.
Integration of policy across issue areas is necessary in order to create thriving rural communities. Rural economic vitality cannot be separated from essential services like healthcare and education or the management of resources like public lands. Effective rural policy focuses on the community as a whole.
MANY POLICIES HAVE A SIMILAR DETRIMENTAL IMPACT ON URBAN AND RURAL COMMUNITIES.
Urban and rural communities alike face crumbling infrastructure from decades of government deprioritization, a lack of choices due to the monopolization of our markets, and challenges accessing good affordable health care or jobs with good pay and good benefits. The best way to address the perceived “rural-urban divide” is by building a coalition of rural and urban people united around an agenda that makes government work for their communities and people’s lives better.