From Elections to Fighting for Family Farmers, 2018 a Watershed Year

Another year, another set of goals met as our issue education and voter advocacy efforts to strengthen the bond among Rural, Suburban and Urban America stretched from the South to Appalachia through the Midwest and into the Plains, Rockies and Western Deserts.

Our non-profit Rural Votes organization continues to expand its reach and has an unprecedented opportunity to grow thanks to the support of Americans who agree with our credo that Rural Matters.

We took a multi-pronged approach in 2018, seeking to motivate Americans to vote, working to expand access to the ballot box and sharing information about issues that matter to voters, their families and friends. We avoided the easy fights, opting to join the complicated battles that were required to help bring change and rebuild the grassroots. Our Voter awareness strategy included:

• An all out multi-state effort to support voter registration, get out the vote efforts in the November elections. We ran issue ads targeting a hand full of competitive House races in historically conservative districts, going head-on in areas that too often have been overlooked or taken for granted by the political powers that be. A strong social media campaign and policy posts on our blog The Back Forty addressing the most pressing issues to Rural Voters supported our efforts.

• Using the early special elections and primaries to fire up voter registration, turnout and access. The special election for the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 20th Congressional District was just one example of successful laboratory for fine-tuning our voter access tactics.

• Monitoring and exposing voter suppression tactics and offering counter-measures to ensure that Rural Americans were prepared for Election Day before they went to the polls. We took on voter suppression schemes from Georgia to North Dakota, helping to ensure no rightful voter was prevented from casting a ballot.

• An educational effort urging voters to understand the importance of down ballot races like state legislature, attorney general and secretary of state elections. As was the case in 2017, rebuilding the grassroots and strengthening the field for future races was our message.

• Monitoring and exposing the suspected voter fraud in one of our targeted races, North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. We maintained and will continue to maintain information and evidence to ensure a do-over race is clean, fair and open in NC09.

On the policy front, 2018 was a year of diverse challenges, with unexpected threats to Rural Americans and their families emerging routinely. Rural America is under assault by lawless leadership and their allies on important issues like tax fairness, quality affordable healthcare for children and adults, fair wages, family farms, good schools and colleges, incentives for small business expansion and equal and expanded Internet and broadband access.

We sought to inform voters with facts and the truth and used rapid response tactics to counter a pattern of wholesale lies and deceptions spread by dark forces and their media echo chambers:

• Priority One on the issue front was making the case that the Farm Bill was much more than a crucial tool for the Rural Economy alone. The Farm Bill matters to everyone, from conservation to food and nutrition programs to food safety and ample production and supply to feed our nation. We took a lead role in exposing how the leadership in Congress and the White House attempted to use the Farm Bill to carry out a partisan agenda at the cost of children, Family Farmers, seniors, veterans, active duty families and the disabled. In the end we won, even as our opposition tried to hold hostage the essential Farm Bill.

• We helped rally voters who said enough is enough when it came to the Trump-McConnell-Ryan scheme to take healthcare coverage away from millions of Americans and rip a hole in the American Safety Net to pay for their $1.5 trillion tax giveaway to corporations and billionaires (We warned at the start of last year that the tax scam would add $1 trillion to the federal debt and indeed that forecast came to fruition). We stressed the need to protect Rural Hospitals at risk of closing their doors.

• We issued a call to action when we saw that Rural America would be devastated by the poorly planned and shortsighted Trade War that sacrificed Family Farmers without leading to building more factories or strengthening American products and services. That trade fight is not over, but nor our efforts to protect Rural America from retaliation for Trump’s headline grabbing and market threatening policies.

• We said no way when the leadership in Congress and the White House came up with an infrastructure scheme that would surely force Rural States and Small Town America to raise taxes and impose tolls on roads, bridges and waterways. Instead we looked to a new balance of power in Washington as the best chance to resuscitate a fair and equal infrastructure plan for rebuilding and repairing aging, obsolete and in some cases dangerous roads, highways and waterways.

We exited 2018 with one goal in in our hearts and minds: we must do more in 2019. We can’t do it alone, so we will need your help. We must take the fight to the enemies of American Unity on ground of our choosing with persistence, truth, honor and dignity. In the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the Great American Heroes whose vision for building the Rural-Urban-Suburban Alliance remains with us today: “The nation asks for action, and action now….”

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