Politics & Elections: Columnist Tells Progressives to Get Beyond City Limits

"Wisconsin is a lesson in what happens when progressives" neglect rural and small-town voters who used to support their candidates, says E.J. Dionne.

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In an interview in the Capitol Times of Madison, Wisconsin, columnist E. J. Dionne had some advice for Democrats: Get out of the city.

Dionne was talking with Paul Fanlund, editor of the Capitol  Times of Madison, Wisconsin, about his new book, Why the Right Went Wrong.

It’s a history of the conservative movement, but in the interview, Dionne talked about Democrats’ failure to appeal to people outside the cities:

“I’m going to answer and I’m very curious if it makes sense to you as someone who lives and breathes Wisconsin,” he told me. “I’d be curious if you share this view: Wisconsin is a lesson in what happens when progressives sort of stray from more rural voters, more small-town voters. You look at what you might call the [former Democratic U.S. Representative] David Obey parts of your state. … These used to be good old-fashioned rural progressive counties. They’re not anymore.”

(Obey, now 77 and a fiery progressive still, is a Democrat who represented northern and northwestern Wisconsin in the U.S. House from 1969 until 2011, which made him the state’s longest-serving member of Congress. That district is now represented by Republican Sean Duffy.)

Dionne continued, “You know, progressives are going to win Milwaukee and Madison, they’re going to lose in Waukesha County. We know that going in, but they’re not going to prosper if they lose in those other rural parts of the state that were more open to progressivism than they are now.

“That’s a very complicated challenge, but I think that’s where, in Wisconsin in particular but not only Wisconsin, progressives need to put some energy.”


There continue to be lots of stories in the papers — if not speeches on the campaign trail — about financial troubles in rural hospitals.

The latest comes from the Effingham (Illinois) Daily News, where reporters Dawn Schabbing and Kery Murakami talked to officials at St Anthony’s Memorial Hospital about growing financial problems. It was the same story we’ve seen from around the country: the hospitals have benefited from new patients covered under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but that is not making up for budget cuts in Medicare reimbursements.

St. Anthony's Memorial Hospital in Effingham, Illinois.
St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham, Illinois.

Illinois did expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, one of 32 states to do so. That paid for those new patients, but it wasn’t enough to make up for other budget cuts.

“We are not receiving ample reimbursement to offset the cost of care for this patient population,” said hospital official Terriann Tharp. “The additional reimbursement from the expansion of Medicaid related to the Affordable Healthcare Act is helping to provide some new revenues where there previously were none; however, this new revenue is not enough to offset the large gap of covering total cost of care for these patients.”

The paper reports that Congress has cut reimbursements to hospitals that treat uninsured patients from 100 percent of cost to just 65 percent.


DTN’s Chris Clayton notes that agriculture “will be swept up in the waves” created by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

In particular, Clayton says the court may hear a challenge of EPA’s water pollution rules from the American Farm Bureau and 22 states without a ninth justice. If the Court hears this appeal and there is a four to four split, the rule stands.

Names Clayton hears being suggested as nominees to replace Scalia include Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, and Senator Amy Klobuchar, a second term Democrat from Minnesota and a member of both the Judiciary and Agriculture committees.


Save the Post Office reports that the Postal Service did not “discontinue” a single post office in the fiscal years of 2014 and 2015.  Protests, largely from rural communities, and questions from Congress have led to an unofficial moratorium on closures, according to STPO.

That doesn’t mean post officials aren’t being closed, however. The Postal Service continues to use “emergency suspensions” to shutter post officials. Suspensions are supposed to be temporary, but some are extending for years.

In FY 2014, 85 post offices were suspended. In FY 2015, 76 offices were suspended.




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