February 18, 2022- For years on end, even the most sincere members of the political class have ended up offering disadvantaged communities a cross between Band-aids and packages that benefit large corporations, more than the communities themselves. Thus, the emphasis on giving rural communities High Speed Internet (not a bad thing, but a middling priority for many families in the rural South and Midwest) and placing the emphasis on farming issues (again not a bad thing, when it comes to helping families and sustainable small farms).
There is a disconnect, though. People in rural areas, as well as in small cities-and in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods of larger cities, across the country simply do not feel heard. It’s been that way at least since the Seventies, and played right into the hands of demagogues who, once elected-either ignored said groups or privately disparaged them as useful idiots. I can remember writing to Barack Obama, during his presidency, urging him to visit people in so-called “red states”, with an open mind and listening in good faith. He made maybe six trips to the South, and three to the Mountain West, during his eight years in office- with three of the southern journeys, and one of the western forays, in response to tragedies of national import. Donald Trump, for all his hype about being a friend of the working man, did no better. He got his audiences riled up, but there is little to show for the four years he spent in the White House. I mention the two leaders by way of example, that town hall-style conversations seem to have evaporated- at all levels of government.
Engaging with residents and actually hearing what they have to say about their lives, making notes and carrying on a conversation generative of their ideas, ought to have never gone away. It would seem to be the only sensible foundation for forming public policy. As mentioned in the earlier post about the rank and file of General Electric Corporation’s industrial plants, the benefits of making several, regular visits to the communities of our nation-with a view towards actually generating practical and sustainable ideas for solutions to the problems facing our communities and then promulgating the best of these, would seem to far outweigh the risks of hearing out complaints.
The betterment of our nation, of our planet, is not a zero sum game. Engage with the people, solidify the ideas exchanged and re-engage.