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Small Town Progressive

I live in a small town with a population of under 10,000 people. We’re often referred to as rural, and our county is most assuredly rural.

When it comes to politics, our small town and rural county are true-to-type, with a majority of voters supporting conservative candidates in the last two presidential elections.

In 2012, when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were on the ticket, Minnesota as a state chose Obama with 52.65% of the vote over Romney’s 44.96% of the vote. In my county (Morrison), however, Romney received 60.78% of the votes to Obama’s 36.81%. (Source: MN Secretary of State, Election Results)

In the 2016 presidential election, Minnesota chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump with 46.44% of the vote versus 44.92%. Meanwhile, in Morrison County, Trump got 73.38% of the vote to Clinton’s 20.65%. (Source: MN Secretary of State, Election Results)

That’s one heck of a spread. Our county is a case study in rural conservatism.

However, small towns and rural areas are not monolithic in conservative thought and attitudes. Though rare, there are small town progressives.

What do we rural and small town progressive unicorns believe? While I can’t speak for every one of my small town progressive acquaintances, as a small town progressive myself, I believe the following:

  • That government is a necessary sector in society and it should be run with the best interests of all, with the American people taking precedence over the interests of corporations or the wealthy.
  • That our government leaders are public servants, there to consider the best interests of all their constituents, not just those within their own party or the interests of their funders or lobbyists.
  • That our politicians and government leaders should not be corrupt or self-serving. (That I even have to mention this shows how far off the rails our country has gone.)
  • That our politicians and government leaders should be held to the same laws that the American people are expected to follow, and held to account if they don’t.
  • That corporations and businesses should not have more rights or say in our government than the people do. Our country was not intended to be a corporatocracy or oligarchy.
  • That compromise is not a dirty word.
  • That our elections need to be fair (no more gerrymandering to favor specific parties, for one), easily accessible to all citizens, and safe and secure from outside forces.
  • That all Americans should have equal rights and freedoms, regardless of their race or skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, political party, culture, income or wealth, or any other arbitrary factor that tries to make some people “less than” others.
  • That, in order to get to equality, we need to provide forms of equity in order to level the playing field for those who are currently being treated as “less than” or  have been treated as “less than” in the past. While affirmative action may seem like the most obvious example, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is another program that provides equity, as are Social Security, Medicare, various amendments to the Constitution, and federal grants and loans for higher education.
  • Speaking of higher education, as a small town progressive, I believe that higher education should be affordable, not saddle students with insurmountable debt for their entire working lives. Ideally, I think the first  community/technical college degree or certificate or Bachelor’s degree should be free to students, with them paying for successive degrees. I’d change the financial aid system to bring back more grants and offer loans at a lower rate. One thing I can’t believe no one has ever mentioned is getting rid of compound interest on student loans. This is the only loan system I have run across that charges compound interest. Why? It’s as though lenders knew they could screw borrowers forever with this system. Why not charge straightline interest like on housing or commercial loans?
  • To provide equity for more Americans, I believe we need universal health care or Medicare for All.
  • In addition, the federal minimum wage should be set at a living wage and indexed for inflation so we don’t have to wait decades for it to be changed.
  • I believe in a fully functioning, non-partisan United States Postal Service.
  • In order to pay for services that support a well-functioning government and its citizens (you know, roads, bridges, water, fire suppression, public education, polices, the USPS, etc.), we need a fair system of taxation.
  • I believe that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution should not take primacy over every other part of the Constitution to the detriment of society.
  • I believe that the United States should strive to live up to its best values, not sink to people’s worst and basest instincts. While the U.S. puts a great premium on individualism, which is why we value our personal rights and freedoms so  highly, when we come together as a collective to work toward our highest values and goals, showing empathy and compassion for each other, we are a formidable problem-solving force. When we balance our individualism with the collective good and take our responsibilities as seriously as our rights, we can serve as an inspiration to ourselves and others around the world.

Those are some of my beliefs as a small town progressive. Surely I’m missing some, so feel free to add in the comments.

If you consider yourself a small town progressive, how do those beliefs align with yours? Are we basically on the same page?

How about you suburban and urban progressives? Do our beliefs match up?

Small town, suburban and urban conservatives, do you see anything on my list that you agree with? I certainly hope so, even if it’s only a couple of items. Though polarization may make it feel as though progressives and conservatives are from different planets, I don’t think we are as far apart as it seems.


6 thoughts on “Small Town Progressive”

  1. A discussion on populism is much-needed, Mike, because its original progressive purpose has been sidelined by politicians who use it to win races but not to actually bring about the changes that regular Americans desire. The entire language of politics
    needs to be carefully dissected because terms like “socialism” are hurled like dirty words so that no one really knows what they mean anymore. I think any political conversation should start with a definition of terms.

  2. I am with you on those progressive statements. I grew up in small town Appalachia, lived in small to mid-sized communities across the country, and currently live in the Minneapolis suburbs. I work for candidates that I think will help solve problems, and vote in all elections (yes, in one small town the election judge said cheerfully: “Oh! You’re the Democrat!”).

  3. Isn’t that something, Lin? “Oh! You’re the Democrat!” with the assumption that there’s only one. There’s typically more than one if there’s any sort of population, we’re just too quiet and accommodating with our attitude of equal rights and freedoms for all. 🙂

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