Rural America, in large part, votes. With a keen awareness of how government policies and regulations directly impact their operations, farmers head to the polls. While most farmers actively support candidates who value agriculture, understand the impact of over-regulation and who see the importance of supporting rural America, the political influence of rural America has waned in the past few decades.
Issues such as the farm bill, renewable fuels policy, estate taxes and proposed regulations could, if mishandled, sock U.S. farmers in the collective gut. In America’s heartland, the men and women who grow food and fuel for the nation look toward the election with a drought on their minds and a steely resolve in their eyes.
What does this picture lack?
Reports from New Orleans detailed a festive atmosphere on Bourbon Street. Unlike Mardi Gras revelers intent upon imbibing, the 10,000 plus Venezuelans celebrating in the streets had traveled to Louisiana not to party but to vote.
Registered voters, these men and women brought their families made the journey from Florida because, after Chavez had closed their embassy in Miami, New Orleans offered the closest polling station. News outlets across the United States took notice. The scene was, in its rarity, newsworthy.
Take a moment and imagine what an incredible effort these men and women exerted in order to exercise their vote. The trip entailed travel expenses, preparation and time away from work for many. Yet, grandparents proudly displayed flags and caps for photos with children and grandchildren, proudly smiling and sharing in an important moment for their community.
Now, imagine the political influence rural America could assert yet again. The number of men and women who farm has dwindled with improved technology allowing for increased productivity. The numbers alone will not restore political prominence.
What rural America needs is enthusiasm. Yes, many people meet a candidate or even host a tea. But the country, rural, urban and suburban, has lost its patriotic excitement for exercising this fundamental right. If farmers, ranchers and their allies bring energy and unabashed excitement for voting back into American politics, they will make our candidates and our country stand up and take notice of rural issues.