An Open Letter to the New York Times

To the Editors of the New York Times:

As residents of the "Far North of California" (in California we call this region "the North State"), we take exception with some of the characterizations the Times conveyed to its readers in a recent feature article.

First and foremost: There's Democrats in them thar hills! Rural people live a bit of a different lifestyle than our urban friends. We face different day-to-day issues.

But the last election has galvanized rural Democrats. We are finding our voices and coming out and organizing. Virtually every Democratic club and organization has had a surge of new members, even tripling membership and meeting attendance in some cases.

Too often, folks in the media write off rural Democrats. They write off our candidates as "sacrificial lambs" and they write off our issues as irrelevant to the blue majority in coastal cities. That's a misconception this article buys into.

The truth is, most rural communities are more purple than red. After all, with the exception of Modoc County (population 9,023), the Republicans do not have a majority of registered voters in any county of California. With the right candidates and right resources, Democrats can break through in rural areas. Every rural Democratic Party can point you to a local supervisor or school board member or sheriff who is a proud, rural Democrat.

And as for the so-called disconnect between rural voters and our urban peers? Far from being disconnected, the reality is that we are intertwined. We're very concerned about clean water -- because the water folks drink in Los Angeles and the Bay Area comes from our communities. We're very concerned about climate change because it's our counties that suffer the most during wildfire season. We're adamant about protecting our health care just like every other California Democrat.

The GOP attack on health care is the real door opener for Democrats is this landscape. Tens of thousands people got healthcare through Obamacare programs in the rural parts of California. With that coverage threatened, even staunchly Republican County Supervisors are voting to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (including the Board of Supervisors for Shasta County, featured prominently in the story).

The same dynamic is playing out on other issues, too. The Kern County Board of Supervisors was forced to table a resolution supporting Trump's plans for the Grand Sequoia National Monument. Why? Because of a tremendous outpouring of local opposition.

Rural communities need hospitals, emergency clinics, and doctors. We need broadband and high-speed internet because the digital age is passing us by. We need reliable transportation for our kids to get to schools that can be dozens of miles away, and we need a functioning postal system because Amazon and the major delivery services don't serve us.

Democrats are well-positioned to address these core issues. But rural Democrats have to speak up as well. We are hard at work changing the perception of Democrats in rural areas, especially on these issues where Republicans keep failing us.

And while we do this work, our urban peers should remember that our communities and our needs are just as complex and challenging as those of urban Democrats. There's a good rule of thumb when it comes to understanding that rural communities are more than the blanket stereotypes we're saddled with in the media: If you want to understand rural communities, you have to see the forest for the trees.

Democratically Yours,

The California Democratic Party Rural Caucus

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