Rural communities that were left behind during the post-Recession recovery are fed up with lip service from politicians in Washington.
In the 2016 campaign, rural Americans were promised a better life: There would be more jobs, better health care, and most of all, that they would have a voice in Washington. Two years after the 2016 election, these hardworking Americans still have not seen results, and unfortunately, they are now facing additional challenges.
Reckless tariffs are making it difficult for rural communities to maintain and attract business. Lack of broadband connectivity prevents business owners from accessing key markets, and, in turn, prevents rural communities from attaining prosperity in a 21st century economy. Families are struggling to figure out how they will pay for higher health care premiums because of destabilized insurance markets. Washington has been gripped by partisan gridlock and has been far too focused on political games rather than commonsense solutions.
Rural Americans know the status quo is not an option, and they cannot continue to endure more pain. Every American depends on these communities for the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes in which we live, and the energy we need. Our success as a nation depends on the hardworking men and women in rural communities, and when they suffer, so does the rest of the country.
We know this firsthand. Both of us represent districts that supported President Trump in 2016, and both districts are emblematic of the problems rural communities are facing across the nation. In Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, soybean farmers who depend on trade with China face additional unnecessary economic uncertainty. In Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, rural Americans still have to travel hundreds of miles for basic health care. These problems are not unique to our districts, but they are all too common in rural areas of the country, and they have compounded the level of inequality between rural and urban America.
Rural communities represent what is best about America. Neighbors look out for one another and watch their kids grow up together. A hard day’s work gives a strong sense of dignity and self-worth. When these communities get knocked down, they pull themselves up by the bootstraps and work together to fix it. Folks take pride in the place they come from. They do not see why Republicans and Democrats cannot get along in Washington and get things done like they do with their neighbors every day. The gridlock in Washington does not reflect the values of the rural communities in our districts and around the country – and that has to change.
That is why we have led efforts within the Democratic Party to give a voice to rural Americans and put rural communities on the path to prosperity. Because, as a Party, we know that when all corners of the nation succeed, America succeeds.
We have listened to Americans across the country, and we have put forward roadmaps, including the Blue Dog Coalition’s A Strong Rural America, that show how Congress can take a commonsense approach to creating policies that are unique to the needs of rural America.
The bottom line from our work is that Democrats will fight for rural Americans so they have a fair shot at success and can create economic prosperity in their communities. We will work to bring everyone together in Washington to ensure they see real results.
About the authors: Congressman Tom O’Halleran represents Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which is the 10th-largest Congressional District in the country, stretching from the southern outskirts of Phoenix to the state’s northern border. He is the chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Special Task Force on Rural America, which recently released an agenda that outlines the path to prosperity and restoring the American Dream in rural communities.
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos represents the largely rural and blue-collar 17th Congressional District of Illinois. She is the only Midwesterner in elected Democratic House Leadership and she’s focused her efforts on addressing the very real economic challenges millions of hardworking families deal with at the kitchen table each night.