TESSA GOULD: North Dakotans Want A Real Economic Plan

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that North Dakotans aren’t feeling optimistic about the state of the economy. The current leadership in Washington has put North Dakota communities on the back burner, and President Trump’s failed economic policies hurt the Peace Garden State each day. Promises from Trump are made and broken, and farmers and communities in rural America are paying the price.

However, even with the President’s ongoing mistakes, the majority of rural North Dakotans still don’t see Democrats as the answer.

In fact, voters in rural North Dakota feel Democrats don’t share their values. This comes from a new survey released last week by the One Country Project (OCP) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), conducted by Change America, which polled North Dakotans, along with voters in eight other rural states, to find their views on challenges and circumstances in their communities.

Looking at the results, North Dakotans have a bleak outlook on the economy. When asked if Main Street was declining or thriving in small towns across the U.S., 78 percent of North Dakota voters surveyed said it’s declining. To that end, 21 percent are concerned about monthly bills going up faster than income, 11 percent are concerned about jobs not paying enough, and 20 percent are concerned about saving for retirement.

Even with the above worries, 51 percent of North Dakotans still strongly approve of the President’s handling of the economy. This echoes the sentiment across states in the full poll, which shows 84 percent of Republicans surveyed strongly approve of Trump’s economic work, along with 48 percent of rural America voters overall.

Almost worse than North Dakotans’ view of the economy? Their view of the Democratic Party. A mere 16 percent of North Dakotans surveyed believe Democrats support rural communities, and only 21 percent trust Democrats care about people like them. Even with Trump’s disastrous trade war in full swing, just 19 percent of North Dakotans think Democrats support trade policies that help their communities.

If the Democratic party can do better than the President on anything, it’s on trade.

To have any chance with rural voters, Democrats must step up and show they not only care about their concerns, but know them. The poll shows 81 percent of North Dakotans are concerned about opioid and prescription drug addition, 87 percent care about the cost of prescription drugs and medications, and 91 percent care about the cost of health insurance premiums.

Health care is clearly a top concern, and the majority of Democratic candidates for president have plans for rural America on these very issues. But these policy proposals aren’t connecting with North Dakotans.

There is a divide between what Democrats can do for rural America and what they’re presenting. OCP’s driving force is making it clear there is a better alternative to Republican rule, and these results show Democrats aren’t there yet.

As a party, Democrats have to work harder to show rural American communities the future isn’t a downward spiral of trade wars and economic uncertainty – it’s belief in hard work, plans that make sense for rural America, and listening to what voters want and care about. It’s time for Democrats to step up and fill this void, one community at a time. Let’s start with North Dakota.

Tessa Gould grew up in Jamestown, ND and attended college there. Rumor is that’s where her love of the color orange began. She has served four Members of Congress, two U.S. Senators and worked on countless campaigns in flyover country. Her professional work has focused on rural economies, health care delivery and tribal sovereignty. After serving as Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s Chief of Staff, she has joined her One Country Project as Executive Director. She is also a partner at Forbes Tate Partners in Washington DC. where she lives with her two bulldogs, Finley and Sully and attends a lot of Nationals games while wearing a Yankees hat.

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