by Whitney Pitcher
The transcript of the radio ad is below (emphasis added):
My grandparents came from the Midwest and so when I travel to rural areas of the country, what always strikes me is how hard people work and resilient they are, and how much they are worried about being able to pass on that way of life to the next generation. Those core middle class values that helped to build America, I think they’re still out there in every corner of this country. People still believe in hard work. They still believe in personal responsibility. And that’s why we’ve spent a lot of time on how we build on the strengths of rural America, making sure that folks out there have access to health care, the ability to export their goods to markets. I want a young person, if they want to teach, if they want to be an entrepreneur – young people can say to themselves, we can succeed here just like we can in the big city. Because ultimately, the strengths of those communities, those are the strengths of America.
The overall message hits on key words that have the potential to resonate with rural Americans and Americans throughout the country–“personal responsibility” and “hard work”. However, there is one aspect of the ad’s transcript that strikes a wrong tone–the insinuation that rural individuals compare their potential for success to the those in the “big city”. Perhaps one too many Hollywood fundraisers have left President Obama with the impression that rural folks are just like the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies’ fame. Successes can be found in any setting, not because rural people look to the “big city” as the paragon of success or feel that success can be found in rural areas only because the government has done so much for them. In fact, President Obama’s administration has done too much to them.
In May, Vice President Biden campaigned in the small coal mining town of Martins Ferry, Ohio (population just under seven thousand), where he was met with protests from both coal miners and management and Tea Partiers. The coal industry has been hit by massive new EPA regulations from the Obama administration have caused coal fired plants to close across the country decreasing the demand for coal mining Earlier this month, Patriot Coal became the first American coal company to file for bankruptcy, which is becomes a campaign “promise” that President Obama has kept–wanting to bankrupt the coal industry.
Additionally, President Obama’s claim that he is making sure “folks have access to health care” is a bold statement to make to rural parts of the country that are generally older and poorer than the urban population. As an example, the expansion of Medicaid is expected to exacerbate the already large shortage of physicians in rural areas. While the Supreme Court ruled that states will be able to make some of their own decisions when it comes to Medicaid expansion, neither Ohio’s nor Pennsylvania’s GOP governor’s have rejected expansion. Rural areas tend to be older, and thus likely to need more medical care–care that will become increasingly inaccessible.
Just like most Americans, rural Americans are quite self-reliant and independent. A “big city” politician coming in and telling them where they can find success and how politicians have done things for them is certainly not a way to win them over, especially when their jobs and actual access to healthcare have been threatened. However, perhaps this is just the kind of a out-of-touch message can be expected from a candidate who last election referred to rural Pennsylvanians as those who “get bitter and cling to their religion and guns”.