Thursday, December 1, 2022

On remote work for American Indians and Alaska natives

Marketplace, from American Public Media, did this story a week ago, "Telework could help tribes curb outmigration, but Native workers are being left behind."  Here's an excerpt:  
Maleah Nore has a job she’s passionate about, promoting mental health and working on suicide prevention in Native communities. But she’d like to do that work closer to the rural southeast Alaskan village where she grew up.

“Part of the reason that we’re experiencing such drain in our villages is that people are forced to move to these huge hubs,” she said, like the Portland metro area where she lives now.

A hybrid model allows Nore to sometimes work from her home office, but not from her Tlingit homelands.

“In order to do the work that we need to do to help our people and get further in this world, we have to leave our villages,” she said. “That is just counterproductive.”

Because distance makes it harder to be a good relative and community member, Nore said.
* * *
Research from the Brookings Institution and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Center for Indian Country Development finds that the remote work revolution could have unique benefits for tribal communities and economies, but that Native workers are being left behind.

“No one is accessing the remote work environment as little as the American Indian/Alaska Native population,” said Matthew Gregg, a senior economist at the Minneapolis Fed and an author of the report.

At the height of the pandemic, Gregg said, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 23% of Native workers were teleworking because of COVID-19, compared to 31% of white workers.

“One of the key reasons is that there’s employment differences between whites and Native Americans,” Gregg said.

Native people are overrepresented in fields we’ve come to know as “essential,” such as health care, education and service work, and underrepresented in office jobs that are more likely to allow telework.

More than two years into the pandemic, Gregg said the telework gap has narrowed, but those occupational differences no longer explain the gap.

“In fact, within occupations, there’s a racial disparity,” he said.

Gregg and his co-author, Robert Maxim, a senior research associate at the Brookings Institution, have some ideas about what else might be going on.

“The first is access — or I should say lack of access — to broadband internet,” Maxim said.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

On the LGBTQ experience in "red" California

Hailey Branson-Potts reports for the Los Angeles Times.  Here's an excerpt: 
After five people were shot dead in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., Matthew Grigsby thought about Club 501.

It was the only gay bar in Redding, a Northern California city of 93,000 that, like Colorado Springs, is deeply religious and conservative.

There, Grigsby felt comfortable holding hands or dancing with another man.

Club 501 closed this summer, leaving Grigsby and other LGBTQ people without a place where they could be themselves. The news from Club Q in Colorado Springs was another gut punch.

“There’s no safe place anywhere,” Grigsby, 53, said, his voice shaking. “It doesn’t matter where we are or what we do. People are going to come for us.”

In politically red stretches of California — from the old logging towns in the north through the dusty farmlands of the Central Valley — the Colorado Springs massacre was yet another devastating reminder of how difficult and lonely it can be to be queer in conservative America.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Longing for one's rural roots

The New York Times published a fascinating piece this week on the challenges facing baby boomers and Gen X'ers as they age, while living alone.  One of the folks featured was Mary Felder, who owns a home in the Strawberry Mansion area of Philadelphia.  Her very urban present implicates a rural past that she's started to long for:
Mary Felder, 65, raised her children, now grown, in her rowhouse in Philadelphia. Her home has plenty of space for one person, but upkeep is expensive on the century-old house.
* * *
The constraints are especially severe for many older Black Americans, for whom the legacy of redlining and segregation has meant that homeownership has not generated as much wealth. The percentage of people living alone in large houses is highest in many low-income, historically Black neighborhoods. In those areas, many homes are owned by single, older women.

One of them is Ms. Felder of Strawberry Mansion, a neighborhood in Philadelphia. She and her ex-husband bought their two-story brick rowhouse in the mid-1990s for a song, after it was damaged in a fire.

While raising three children, Ms. Felder worked a series of jobs, including retail, hotel housekeeping and airport security. She retired in 2008 and has lived by herself for more than a decade, though her sisters, children and grandchildren live nearby.

Maintaining her home is a challenge. In rainstorms, she sometimes had to use every piece of fabric in the house to sop up water pouring down a kitchen wall. And she worries about her safety.

At times, she dreams about relocating to small-town South Carolina, where she was born and raised.

She imagines a small home there, perhaps even a trailer.

But the median value of a home in her neighborhood was $59,000, according to recent census data. Ms. Felder thinks she could sell her house and net about $40,000.

“That’s not enough” to retire down south, she said, sighing, sitting in her living room filled with plants.

Ms. Felder is a fixture in her neighborhood, keeping watch over it, and has received help from Habitat for Humanity to repair her roof.

But in September, living alone became harder.

While she was cleaning the trash out of a nearby alley with neighbors, a masked gunman looked her in the eyes and shot her twice in the legs.

Ms. Felder had no clue who shot her, and there has been no arrest. She recovered at her daughter’s home across town, where the ground floor has a bedroom and bathroom, unlike in her own house.

Felder still has not spent a night in her house in Strawberry Mansion because she is afraid.

Monday, November 28, 2022

States steering more money to rural roads

That's from a Pew Report published earlier this month. An excerpt follows: 
[A] growing number of states have been focusing their attention on improving rural roads.

Many rural roads carry heavy trucks and farm equipment, and some haven’t been repaved in decades, transportation officials say. With many state budgets healthy and new money arriving from the federal COVID-19 stimulus and bipartisan infrastructure laws, states are spending more.
In June, for example, Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills touted a $9.2 million project to revitalize the rural highway corridors that lead to the state’s western mountains, where several ski slopes are located.

In Texas, the Department of Transportation plans to invest $14 billion over the next decade on rural projects. That’s a 600% hike in planned rural funding compared with just seven years ago, according to Alvin New, a Texas Transportation Commission member.

And in Oklahoma, transportation officials received a $41.5 million federal loan earlier this year; it will fund nearly half the cost of a rural safety improvement project in eight counties.

“Rural areas are absolutely critical to the functioning of the nation’s economy, and you need a safe, reliable transportation network,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research at TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. “If the system deteriorates to the point that it becomes difficult to move trucks that carry food and products, that’s a big problem.”

And for the tens of millions of residents who live in rural communities and use those roads for commuting, shopping, going to school and medical appointments, it’s critical that the roads are in decent condition, Moretti said.

“The worse the shape the roads are in, the more the cost of operating a vehicle increases,” he said. “That impacts the consumer.”

An October report by TRIP noted that the United States faces a $109 billion backlog for rural road and highway rehabilitation, such as repaving and reconstruction, and a $36 billion backlog for rural roadway enhancements, such as safety improvements.

The report said that in 2020, 12% of major rural roads were rated in poor condition, 19% in mediocre condition and 17% in fair condition.

The report called America’s rural transportation system “the first and last link” in the supply chain from farm to market. It said the supply chain issues that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the importance of the rural road system when it comes to moving goods and products.

“As the nation’s major rural roads and highways continue to age, they will reach a point where routine paving and maintenance will not be adequate to keep pavement surfaces in good condition and costly reconstruction of the roadway and its underlying surfaces will become necessary,” the report stated.

And here's a piece on transportation issues in rural Montana, this one about how to better serve veterans in accessing health care through the VA.   

Here's a recent Washington Post piece on the prospect of paving a long Australian road, the Outback Way, which runs from Laverton to Winton. Some 750 miles of it are still unpaved.    

Yesterday, the New York Times started covering the latest data on U.S. traffic deaths

Friday, November 25, 2022

Sacramento Bee publishes op-ed on California's rural mental health crisis

The author is Inyo County supervisor Matt Kingsley, who is also Delegate to the Rural County Representatives of California.  He writes under the headline, "A California crisis: Too many rural communities have no access to mental health treatment."  
In rural California, where behavioral health provider availability already ranges from limited to nonexistent across large expanses of geography, the care crisis is particularly challenging. To ensure everyone in California has access to care, we need to invest in the behavioral health workforce, infrastructure and systems of the state’s rural communities.

Across rural areas, health care and behavioral health care facilities are often limited in number. This is due in part to financing restrictions that have diminished the ability of rural local governments to invest in providing the full continuum of treatment services.

Additionally, some rural areas have no community-based organizations to assist in providing behavioral health services. My county, Inyo, has a federally qualified health care center and an Indian Health Service provider in the town of Bishop. The rest of the county’s 10,000 square miles are underserved or completely unserved by a qualified health center or community-based organization. High job vacancy rates among rural mental health care providers add to this access disparity. As of fiscal 2021, 33 rural California counties were designated as having mental health professional shortage areas. With little behavioral health infrastructure and housing availability, the capacity to build the workforce in rural areas is limited.

This is exacerbated by high burnout and turnover rates among the small number of county behavioral health employees who are tasked with providing 24-hour crisis response on top of direct services to severely mentally ill people. In rural counties, these cases are complicated by significantly constrained placement options, sometimes requiring county staff to transport people in crisis across several hundred miles for stabilization.

* * *
Addressing the mental health crisis in rural communities requires strategies such as loan forgiveness programs to build the necessary behavioral health infrastructure and workforce. Targeting such investments to underserved communities can help ensure that we serve the health care needs of vulnerable people in rural communities where the need is dire.

I note that Republican Kevin Kiley has just been declared the winner in California's 3d congressional district, which includes Inyo County and the rest of the eastern Sierra, along with many other rural counties.  In fact, Kiley's district stretches some 450 miles from north to south.  It'll be interesting to see if he supports the sort of government interventions that supervisor Kingsley is pleading for in his op-ed.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Ranked-choice vote counting done, Mary Peltola (D) and Lisa Murkowski (R) win in Alaska


Photos from Mary Peltola's twitter feed on
November 24, 2022, day after she was declared winner of 2022 midterm
one side of her mug says "made of salmon" and the other is
"Mary Peltola for Congress"
Here's the story about Peltola, about whom I've previously written here.  Peltola is from rural Bethel, and she talks rural--as well as fish--a lot.  Here's her tweet from the morning after her victory was declared, from which I took the photos above.  Here's another fun Peltola tweet reflecting her pro-fish campaign; it features dancing crabs. 

And here's the NYTimes story about Lisa Murkowski, who defeated fellow Republican Kelly Tshibaka, who was backed by Trump.  Democrat Pat Chesbro garnered nearly 10% of the vote in the first round of the state's rank-choice voting, which takes into account voters' second choices if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in the first round. 

Murkowski now begins her fourth full term in the Senate.  Peltola has now earned her first full term in Congress.  As she did in this election, Peltola also defeated Sarah Palin and Nick Begich back in August to fill the seat Don Young (R) had held for nearly five decades.  Young died in March.  

Here is the Washington Post's coverage of these Alaska wins.  Of Peltola, Nathaniel Herz writes: 
Peltola ran a locally focused campaign with both traditional and unconventional Democratic platform planks — she touted her support for abortion rights and “pro-fish” views, along with her endorsement of a new Alaska oil project and the large gun collection that she and her family maintains.

This Washington Post story also has a good explanation of rank-choice voting, and its short history in Alaska.   

Postscript:  Here's an AP piece on the bipartisan coalition that will govern the Alaska legislature after the recent elections.  The lede follows: 

The Alaska state Senate will have a coalition of Democrats and Republicans serving as a majority caucus next January, officials announced. Friday.

The coalition will include nine Democrats and eight Republicans, leaving three members of the 20-seat chamber in the minority.

Gary Stevens, a Republican from Kodiak, will serve as Senate president. Among other leadership positions include Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, as Senate rules chair, and Cathy Giessel, a Republican who previously served as the body’s president and regained her Senate seat in this year’s election, as majority leader.

More analysis of the rural vote, this time from Mr. Rural

"Mr. Rural" is the Twitter handle of Matt Barron, a political consultant based in western Massachusetts.  He published this reflection on the 2022 Midterms a few days ago in the Daily Yonder.  A few highlights follow:  

First, on John Fetterman, who won the U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania:
Fetterman’s “Every county, every vote” strategy involved his repeated trips to all 48 rural counties in the Keystone State. Although he only won two rural counties, Centre County (home of Penn State University) and Monroe County, that candidate face time paid off as Fetterman moved the needle by improving on President Biden’s rural vote in the state by three points – from 26 to 29%.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette said it best: “Mr. Fetterman’s victory could offer the Democratic Party a new pathway to assembling a winning coalition in an electorate that’s undergone fundamental shifts since Mr. Trump’s surprise win in the 2016 presidential election. He has long advocated campaigning in deep-red areas full of white, working-class voters that have shifted toward the GOP in recent decades, not to win majorities there but to cut into Republican advantages by splitting their voting coalitions.”

Of course, I wrote about Fetterman's rural strategy several months ago, here and here.   

Barron continues with another example of a "good" rural strategy:

North Carolina Democratic Party Spotlights Representative Budd’s Anti-Rural Record

Many state Democratic parties don’t lift a finger to expose the voting records of Republicans with respect to how they screw over rural constituencies in their states and districts. This is important because most county-level parties and rural caucuses lack the specific information with which to write informed letters to the editor or post cool memes to social media platforms or lob-biting calls to talk radio shows that can skewer these GOPers for these votes.

But the North Carolina Democratic Party issued a series of press releases that shadowed Representative Ted Budd, the Republican nominee for Senate, as he fundraised across the state, like this one in Greenville that slammed him for voting against a series of programs and projects aimed at rural needs in the area.

Barron then turns to the bad, highlighting a blunder by Congresswoman Susan Wild in Pennsylvania, who faced a "tough re-election after rural and Republican leaning Carbon County was added to her Lehigh Valley district centered in Allentown:
During a virtual meet and greet on July 18, Wild said “Carbon County has many attributes, but it is a county that – although it was once an Obama county – it since has become a Trump county,” she said. “I’m not quite sure what was in their heads because the people of Carbon County are exactly the kind of people who should not be voting for a Donald Trump, but I guess I might have to school them on that a little bit.”

Ouch.

In playing the elitist card, Wild might as well have told her audience that her favorite perfume is Eau de I’m-better-than-you. But these kinds of intemperate cracks go viral very fast and contribute to the continuing damage of the Democratic brand across rural America. Wild wound up winning her race by 1.6% or just over 4,700 votes and (full disclosure) I produced digital and print ads for My Rural America Action Fund as an independent expenditure which were all targeted at voters in Carbon County and three rural hamlets in southwest Monroe County to try and keep her losing margin manageable in the new turf.
This part, "the bad," also includes vignettes from Texas and Taiwan (yes, Taiwan). 

And then there's "the ugly," which focuses on Wisconsin and Democrat Mandela Barnes failed attempt to oust Republican Ron Johnson, who had plenty of liabilities--including a July 4 spent in Moscow several years ago.  Here's Barron's analysis: 
The Senate race in the Badger State offered Democrats their best chance to unseat a sitting Republican – two-term incumbent Ron Johnson, who won his 2010 and 2016 races over Russ Feingold by margins of 51.9 and 50.2%. Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes emerged from the Democratic primary as the nominee carrying all kinds of baggage from his stands on defunding police and abolishing ICE. September was a pivotal month for Barnes as he was napalmed by an onslaught of attack ads from the Senate Leadership Fund (the super PAC allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell). Barnes never recovered and Ron Johnson eked out a 50.4% win.

Barnes swept the vote in large and medium metro areas, rolling up margins of two to one or more in those urban demographics. But Johnson dominated in the suburbs and got his highest vote share of more than 61% in the rural counties which comprise a third of the state’s voters. Democrats would have been smart to clear the field for Tom Nelson a former state legislator and county executive from Outagamie County who had all the progressive bona fides without Barnes’s liabilities.

Most of the Barnes attacks on Johnson were centered on abortion and saving democracy with some chunks of red meat on Social Security and Medicare. Like Feingold before him, Barnes failed to prosecute Johnson’s abysmal record on issues of concern to rural communities such as the fact that Johnson voted against the Farm Bill three times in 2012-2013, opposed reforming federal milk marketing orders so important to “America’s Dairyland,” and voted against reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools Act to provide full funding for Payments In-Lieu of Taxes for the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest which covers more than 1.5 million acres of Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Barnes also never hit Johnson on his record with veterans.

Finally, there's this out of North Carolina, where Barron's focus is on the failure of Cheri Beasley's campaign to call out her opponent Ted Budd's failures to support the state's rural communities: 

But Beasley never laid a glove on Budd for a series of votes with a profound impact on rural North Carolinians. Some examples would be Budd’s 2019 vote against the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a big deal as agriculture is the Tarheel State’s largest economic sector. Budd also voted against funding in 2019 for disaster aid for the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged much of the eastern part state in late summer 2018. PFAS has contaminated drinking water supplies in Pender, Harnett, Chatham, and other rural counties but Beasley never made an issue of Budd’s 2020 vote against the PFAS Action Act to deal with these “forever chemicals.” In the last few years, North Carolina has received almost $53 million from USDA’s ReConnect rural broadband grant and loan program which has served more than 13,800 households for high-speed broadband infrastructure.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

On rural Democrats' quest for a "seat at the table" in Michigan

Nancy Kaffer wrote in the Detroit Free Press this weekend under the headline "Michigan's rural Democrats want a seat at their party's table."

Cathy Albro has a difficult job: As the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party's Rural Caucus, it falls on Albro and the caucus' vice-chairs to convince the state's Democratic establishment that the counties and candidates in her caucus ― places Republicans routinely win by 20 and 30 points ― deserve more: a place in the state party's strategy, with the investment to back it up, and more attention from the new Democratic legislative majority in Lansing.

Rural Michigan Democrats are in a unique bind. The problems facing residents of rural Michigan counties ― insufficient access to health care, jobs and high-performing schools, or inadequate infrastructure, including broadband internet ― aren't so different from the ones the rest of the state confronts.

But rural Democrats don't have a voice. In the state Legislature and in the U.S. Congress, they are represented almost exclusively by Republican lawmakers who tend to oppose Democratic legislation even when it addresses their constituents' critical needs.

* * * 

Now, for the first time in nearly 40 years, Democrats who prioritize those policies hold a majority in in the state Legislature. But Albro and her caucus know that even a party ascendant has limited resources, and making the case for renewed party investment in the areas they represent is a long game.

Still, rural Democrats say, their party should be careful not to count them out, because it needs their votes to keep winning statewide offices.
Kaffer than goes on to detail how Governor Gretchen Whitmer's recent reelection is attributable, at least in part, to her ability to cut Republican margins in nonmetro counties.  The story quotes Mark Brewer, a former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party who acknowledges that the party won't win a lot of rural counties:  
But we can’t get blown out, either. We need to keep the margin as close as possible. If we just abandon rural areas and start losing them 70%-30%, it’s going to be hard to win a statewide contest.

And it is that story of margins that has been the focus in another race where Democrats performed better than they have recently in rural places:  Pennsylvania

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Rural America's crisis of reproductive health care

Akilah Johnson wrote this past weekend in the Washington Post under the headline, "In rural America, the crisis of disappearing reproductive care steals lives."  The dateline is Bangor, Maine, and an excerpt follows:

All the reasons people in this rural region seek reproductive care — and the barriers they must overcome in accessing it — were on full display from the moment the first patient stepped into this clinic nestled amid towering evergreens.

There was the 32-year-old struggling to pay out of pocket for a medication abortion because her credit card wouldn’t go through. A first-time patient who was referred to the Mabel Wadsworth Center — more than an hour from home — because her provider wasn’t sure how best to treat her disabling premenstrual syndrome. Another woman who developed hypertension while pregnant arrived to have her blood pressure checked. And a couple was there for their first prenatal visit.

The nation is in a maternal mortality and morbidity crisis that grows year after year and is particularly acute in rural communities, where it is normal for the nearest hospital to be a long drive away and poverty is too often prevalent.

Each year, tens of thousands of people experience unexpected pregnancy complications — cardiovascular issues, hypertension, diabetes — and about 700 die, making pregnancy and childbirth among the leading causes of death for teenage girls and women 15 to 44 years old. Black women are three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy as White women, and Native American women are more than twice as likely to die, disparities that persist regardless of income, education and other socioeconomic factors.

Prior posts on this topic (based mostly on prior mainstream media reports) are here.  

Monday, November 21, 2022

A rural-urban food fight on Twitter

It started with this tweet by Patrick Kwan, a senior advisor to NYC Mayor Eric Adams:  

It says "Broccoli in our teeth?!  Joined a few @nycgov colleagues for an amazing vegan #plantbased Thanksgiving potluck."  It then lists what New York City government officers are represented at the gathering.  

Then came this reply from @NYFarmer, whose twitter bio reads: 

Female dairy farmer (4th generation), assistant to veterinarian, lawyer by day dedicated to defending family farms of the NY Foodshed, cheesemaker

By the way, she has 38K followers! 

The reply reads:  "You all have relentlessly dumped your daily garbage in upstate farm towns for decades.  Now you pontificate about your imported plant based food.  Hypocrites."  

And the next tweet follows on: 

"We used to picket your garbage convoys growing up, never did a bit of good.  We snuck into the local unlined landfill where NYC and NJ trucks dumped for decades to grab samples.  Took decades to shut down and finally cap.  Now, u bitch about our clean pastures.  Nervy." 

I don't know anything about the dumping of garbage in upstate New York, but I assume it is literal and thus refers to an environmental injustice--a way in which the urban uses the rural.  One reply, from a New York City sanitation official, reads: 

"I'm so glad we made change in our waste management systems.  Your activism made a big difference, though that was before my time.  I hope we can make the same kinds of long term changes in creating an agricultural system that is both economically and environmentally sustainable." 

That official, Joshua Goodman, has this Twitter bio: "Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs
@NYCSanitation (personal account obvs)."

Finally, there is this from NY Farmer:  

"I doubt that even one could name the communities where their garbage ends up or the names of the communities and regions flooded in Canada that provides a chunk of power."

Sunday, November 20, 2022

More post-election commentary on the rural vote

The rural vote has garnered a surprising amount of attention since the November 9 election, but I'll highlight just a few recent essays and tweets in this post.  First, there is Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect writing under the headline, "The Rural Turnaround," which begins with some data:   

For decades, Democrats have been losing rural America by ever-worsening margins. If they could perform even 5 percent better in rural counties, the political landscape would be transformed. In the 2022 midterm, Democrats did increase their share of the rural vote in several states, and it’s worth exploring where and why.

After going over the "appalling" recent history, Kuttner gets to what I believe is the most interesting part of the piece: 

My doctoral student at Brandeis, Rachel Steele, has just completed a dissertation on Democrats and rural voters, which will be published as a book. With her permission, I’ll quote a couple of her important insights.

The most important is that Democrats have been losing the white working class, but place acts as an intensifier. If white working-class voters feel abandoned by the economy and disdained by liberal political elites, that is doubly true for working-class rural voters. Their communities as well as their livelihoods have been squandered, and they have had little evidence that Democrats cared. “Place itself has become political,” Steele writes. (emphasis mine)

As late as 2008, according to Steele’s tabulations, 139 rural white working-class counties voted Democratic. By 2016, that fell to six. In 2016, rural white working-class counties favored Trump by a margin of over 51 points. Much of the loss came in the Upper Midwest—Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota—where national elections and control of Congress are determined.

Steele’s extensive interviews with rural working-class voters also reveal a bitter paradox for Democrats. As good jobs have disappeared, people in communities that once took pride in their self-sufficiency express a broad sense that the work ethic has deteriorated along with the job loss. Instead of crediting Democrats for safety-net programs that save people from destitution, many rural working-class voters, who see their neighbors and their children on the dole, blame Democrats for eroding the work ethic.

IN 2022, THE BEST OF THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES resolved to reverse this syndrome. Just showing up turns out to be hugely important, as a sign of respect and commitment.

John Fetterman’s successful slogan and strategy was “Every County, Every Vote.” Fetterman improved upon Biden’s 2020 rural support by 2.4 percent. According to tabulations by the Daily Yonder, this swing, combined with higher rural turnout for Fetterman, resulted in a net rural gain over Biden of more than 110,000 votes.
The column also talks details of Michigan, Wisconsin and Kansas.  Kuttner cites to his own September piece about the role of rural organizers, a topic I've also taken up on this blog and in my own writing about the Democrats' lackluster effort to win back the rural vote.  
Among the most creative approaches I’ve seen to recruit activists and voters on the ground, especially in rural areas, is a group called Movement Labs, founded in 2017. Movement Labs provides data, technology, and strategy to help grassroots voter mobilization, especially in red and purple states and rural counties that Democrats tend to write off. One of their marquee projects is called Rural Power Lab.

* * *  

Another key insight is that affinity for the Democratic Party may be depressed in many rural areas, but it is far from extinct, and can be rebuilt.

The Nation also published a piece this week on the rural vote.  It's titled "Democrats Must Do Better in Rural America."  Here's an excerpt from the piece by Anthony Flaccavento, Erica Etelson and Cody Lonning:  

Rural races are different from urban and suburban races; running competitively in them requires a different approach in both style and substance. Two-thirds of rural voters hold Democrats in low esteem and are profoundly antagonized by liberal elites who scorn the “rubes of flyover country.” Though Democrats’ rural deficit runs deep, it’s important to remember that as recently as 2008, Barack Obama garnered 43 percent of rural votes. And this cycle, John Fetterman’s consistent presence in rural places produced a two-and-a-half-point improvement over the 2020 presidential race—enough for him to win statewide in Pennsylvania.

Can Democrats Succeed in Rural America?” describes more than a dozen strategies used by rural candidates and office holders, four of which we highlight here.
First, candidates must have local credibility. Whether through generational ties to the area or long-standing community involvement and problem solving, Democrats fare better when they have local roots and are fluent in the concerns and values of the people living there.

Second, candidates put local concerns and issues first, rather than trying to mobilize people around their own—or their party’s—policy agenda. ...[I]t means respecting voters enough to put their priorities at the center of the campaign. In so doing, candidates sometimes find meaningful ways to tackle state and national issues by drawing upon local experience, as when a candidate in rural Appalachia stood up for local businesses by fighting the outrageous subsidies used to recruit big box competitors.

Third, candidates and campaigns seek people where they are, rather than strictly following the advice to “go where the votes are.” Canvassing and phone-banking strategies typically focus on people who vote regularly and lean Democrat. By contrast, many of our study’s successful candidates reached out to people usually overlooked by campaigns.

Fourth, successful candidates listen more and talk less.
Fetterman’s victory might be uniquely instructive. He defeated a candidate, Mehmet Oz, who was conventionally stronger than those other Democrats’ opponents. 

* * *  

How this happened is illustrated by the [American Communities Project] data. Fetterman significantly reduced his opponent’s margins of victory — relative to Biden’s 2020 performance against Trump — in three types of counties where Trump has done extraordinarily well.

In the ACP’s taxonomy, those three county types are known as the Middle Suburbs, Working Class Country, and Rural Middle America.

The Middle Suburbs.  These types of suburban counties are Whiter and more working class than your typical inner-ring suburb, which tends to be more diverse, cosmopolitan and professional.

We often think of the suburbs as anti-Trump, but his large margins in Middle Suburbs across the country were key to his 2016 victory.
* * *
In Pennsylvania’s Middle Suburbs, Fetterman limited Oz’s margin of victory to 11 points, significantly down from the 15-point margin Trump racked up in 2020, according to ACP data provided to me.
* * * 
Working Class Country.  These counties are even Whiter than Middle Suburbs and tend to be rural and sparsely populated. They often have low college education rates.

In Pennsylvania’s Working Class Country counties, Fetterman shaved Oz’s margin of victory to 27 points, down from Trump’s 2020 margin of 36 points. Such counties include ones along the state’s northern border or in the southwest corner of the state, abutting West Virginia.

Rural Middle America.  These counties are also rural, but also tend to include a lot of small towns and smaller metro areas. They are somewhat less agriculture-dependent than Working Class Country.

In Pennsylvania’s Rural Middle America counties, Fetterman limited Oz’s gains to 31 points, down from Trump’s 37-point margin in 2020. As Chinni noted, nearly three dozen of these counties are spread throughout Pennsylvania’s vast heartland. 
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, long-time Speaker of the House, has indicated she will no longer seek to be part of the Democratic leadership.  This led to a few Tweets by Matt Barron, a political consultant whose Twitter handle is "Mr. Rural."  You can see these below.  The first is about the likely new house leadership, including Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Pete Aguilar of California.  

Matt Barron writes:  "So the new House Democratic Leadership will be from NY (45th most-rural state), MA (47th most-rural state) and CA (49th most-rural state).  Democrats really have become the party of the coasts."

The second Barron tweet is about Pelosi's failures:  "Great news.  This is the woman that disbanded the House Democratic Rural Working Group in 2011 and would not enable the creation of a Rural Desk at the DCCC.  Take Hoyer and Clyburn with ya."
 

Meanwhile, the 134 PAC in West Texas has been tweeting about future strategy for rural organizers, here and here:

The first says, "We aren't asking for resources from the central party as they have never provided any.  Our work is to raise the resources ourselves to do what the party does not or cannot do."
The second says:  "The priority for rural Democrats should be to forget about statewide and national elections and focus solely on building up our local organizations and communities."

Lastly, I'll just note that Adam Frisch (D), who ran against Lauren Boebert (R, incumbent) in mostly rural and exurban CO-03 (western and southern parts of the state), has conceded the race to Boebert.  He did so even though he lost by just about 500 votes and was entitled to a recount.  Indeed, NPR is reporting that the recount will go ahead regardless of Frish's concession--and that Frisch has already re-filed to run against Boebert again in 2024.

Cross-posted to Working-Class Whites and the Law.