Welcome to another week of Keep it Rural! I am happy to report that rain has finally hit the Pacific Northwest after wildfire smoke and heat took the first month of fall from us. I am beyond ready to enter my cold weather recluse phase – I’ve been collecting candles and loose leaf teas for months in preparation.
To my complete delight you all took my “where do you get your news” question last week very seriously. Here’s a nonexhaustive list of some of the local and regional publications KIR subscribers like to read:
- Cardinal News, for news from Southern Virginia.
- Native America Calling, an Alaska-based radio program broadcast on stations across fifteen states and British Columbia.
- North Coast Journal, for news on politics, people, and art in Humboldt County, California.
- Pine Knot News, a newspaper in Cloquet, Minnesota with a “local office, local owners, & lots of local news.”
I’d love to keep hearing which news outlets are doing good work in your area. My email and the Daily Yonder news inbox are always open!
‘Tis the Season of Money and Power
Outside of relishing the rain this weekend, I also went to a rally where Oregon gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke. Big name Democrats have been showing up in Oregon all of October because there’s a three-way race for governor that holds a real possibility of turning the state red for the first time in 40 years.
Democrat Tina Kotek is running against Republican candidate Christine Drazan and independent candidate Betsy Johnson. Betsy Johnson won’t win, but she’s taken enough would-be Kotek voters that the race has become one of the tightest in the country.
I mention this not because I expect you to be invested in Oregon’s politics (although if Drazan wins, the future of abortion rights and climate policy will be put at risk, which affects people outside of Oregon), but because this race is being directed by billionaire private interests, like many elections this year.
According to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness, billionaire influence in elections has increased considerably since the 2010 decision to overrule a prohibition on election contributions by corporations. In 2020, $1 out of every $10 contributed to a political campaign was made by a billionaire, and according to the report, this number continues to grow.
In Oregon, billionaire Nike co-founder Phil Knight poured over $3.75 million into Betsy Johnson’s campaign before switching to Christine Drazan’s in early October when it became clear Johnson will not win this election. Knight has since donated $1 million to Drazan’s campaign.
Billionaires have been playing in other state elections, too. Peter Thiel – Paypal founder and former Facebook board member – has poured millions of dollars into the Arizona and Ohio senate races, the latter of which Republican J.D. Vance (author of the infamous Hillbilly Elegy) is running in. As an aside, Vance did not snag his nomination on the backs of rural voters alone, although popular assumption might suggest as much.
In Nevada, where Republicans have the best chance of taking a Senate seat (they only need one to become Senate majority), billionaires Jeff Yass and Richard Uihlein have spent millions on Republican Adam Laxalt’s campaign.
And in Pennsylvania, where the most expensive Senate race in the country is taking place, Republican candidate Mehmet Oz has funded his campaign via his own deep pockets and billionaire connections. Democrat candidate and rural sweetheart John Fetterman has actually beaten Oz’s fundraising, mostly via small-donor donations under $50, according to reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer, but recent polls show Fetterman holds only a small lead over Oz.
This is a short list of just some of the elections billionaires are meddling in this year, but it’s enough to see how much power they wield in our governing process.
This is bad news for rural.
Rural communities are historically underinvested-in, and billionaires – and the candidates they support – are not interested in changing this. There are shady donations on both sides of the aisle, no question, but by and large Republicans are the beneficiaries of billionaire influence far more than Democrats.
There are efforts to change this: legislation proposed by Senator Ron Wyden would impose a minimum tax rate of 23.8% on a billionaire’s total income, including unrealized income from stocks that have increased in value. President Biden, Representatives Steve Cohen and Don Beyers, and Representative Jamaal Bowman have proposed their own versions of a minimum tax rate on billionaires. You can read more about them here.
Ultimately, our society has reached a dangerous point where billionaires who represent corporate America are bringing their personal interests – protecting their money – to politics that affect the public, and they’re winning. Government is not supposed to work like this: it’s meant to benefit people, not corporations.
With my objectivity hanging on by a thread (I’m sure many of you would argue it was lost several paragraphs ago), let me transition to this week’s rural reading list.
Rural Reading List
Rural voters are far more likely to vote Republican than Democrat this November, according to this poll conducted by the Daily Yonder and Lake Research Partners.
Democratic senate candidates in Ohio and Pennsylvania are paying attention to rural and it seems to be paying off.
In non-election news, thousands of gallons of water may be trucked from the Missouri River to a drying aquifer in western Kansas just to prove that the aquifer … isn’t drying up.
Another water story, this time from me, about a groundwater pipeline project in rural Utah.
One More Thing: No Winter Gloom Here
I wanted to reiterate how grateful I am that rain has finally hit the Pacific Northwest, accompanied by the darkness of fall and winter. I saw a tweet the other day that summed up my feelings about this season nicely:
There is great privilege in being able to slow down as the days shorten and lean into the coziness of the season. Our society is not built for slowness, so when you do have a moment to slow down, dilly-dally, take the long way home – I urge you to do so.
My favorite, favorite quote by author Eloghosa Osunde:
“Time is not real. Urgency is fiction. Whatever we’ve been told must be done right now can wait.”
Until next week, friends.