Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Three Practical Steps to Create Effective Reform

-- from the desk of Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director
Center for Rural Affairs

There are challenges confronting rural people and rural communities. But the problem is solvable. Active citizens can fix it.

Effective reforms would provide genuine opportunity for rural people and a future for their communities. We can make the political system responsive to such solutions by keeping three essential points in mind.

1. - Partisanship is not the solution.

When in control, each of the major parties has failed to institute the reforms needed to create a better future in rural America. Each has frequently used issues to gain political advantage rather than seeking solutions.

Individual elected officials have fought for real solutions but none has gained sufficient support to succeed. Neither party has consistently championed the interests of ordinary rural people and the common good.

2. - Candidates from all parties must be held accountable.

We must use our votes to reward and punish candidates for their actions on rural economic and community issues.

Thomas Frank, author of the bestseller “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” and keynote speaker at the Center for Rural Affairs Annual Gathering blames the diminishing focus on economic issues in elections. Frank’s critics have derided him by saying he wants voters to elevate economic self-interest over values. Frank’s critics miss the point.

Fairness and social justice are values. Our values are violated when people are denied genuine opportunity and those who contribute to the nation’s prosperity are not allowed to share in it.

We need not choose between voting on economics and our values. To the contrary, to be true values voters we must consider economics, fairness, and social justice.

3. - As citizens in a democracy, we hold the power.

It is in our power to fix the system. Rural representatives – our representatives – dominate the Congressional committees that decide critical rural issues. We need not win the support of the metropolitan majority. We need to get our representatives to fight for us and our communities.

If we remember – and exercise – these three points, change is possible.

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