a sharp column that began,
Dear Rural and Small Town North Carolinians,
We need to talk. You’ve been voting for Republicans steadily for the past decade or more and it really hasn’t worked out very well. It’s time to reconsider your choices.
I thought it was a damn thoughtful and also correct analysis of what rural Democrats -- all Democrats -- should talk about with their conservative neighbors. Mills -- like the campaign consultant he used to be -- lays out the specific Democratic messages that could begin to reverse the slide -- messages that come as questions for country people: "What's happened to your rural public schools?" "What's happened with your failing and disappeared rural hospitals?" (Republicans in the General Assembly stubbornly refused Medicaid expansion, until this year.) Mills adds a potential "What the hell?!" issue that could cut deep in rural counties -- the recent Republican imposition of a new sales tax regime on "services":
Who do you think pays more for car repairs, somebody driving a fifteen-year-old Ford F-150 or someone driving a brand new Tesla? And you know what they don’t tax? Accounting services. How many of you use accountants? I guarantee you, all of those millionaires do.
Today I finally got around to reading "The Political Geography of a Changing North Carolina" on CarolinaForward.org. It's an unsigned article, so possibly written by founder Blair Reeves. Whoever put this report together provides some valuable maps, statistics, and hits some of the same issues that Mills is also stressing for any renewed Democratic activism in rural counties.
By opposing Medicaid expansion for over a decade, North Carolina's lawmakers have forced 11 rural hospitalsto close. North Carolina is now #3 nationally for rural hospital closures, and despite millions of residents being in collections for medical debt, lawmakers have done nothing.
Lawmakers have carefully protected a 2011 ban on municipal broadband networks sponsored by telecom lobbyists, leaving wide swaths of the state at the mercy of spotty, unreliable and expensive broadband providers.
Long-running Republican opposition to adequately funding public schools, even after court orders to do so, has left rural schoolchildren in under-resourced schools with poorly paid teachers and staff, while urban counties can afford to supplement their schools.