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Opinion: Busch Valentine thinks rural Missourians don’t matter. She’s wrong.

“Valentine, who owns farmland in Montgomery County, said she will spend much of the primary election focusing on Democratic voters in the state’s major population areas. But, she pledged to make more forays into the rural, red part of the state if she wins.” –St. Louis Post Dispatch

Reading Trudy Busch Valentine’s plan to abandon people like me made my blood boil. There’s a reason rural America thinks elitist Democrats like her are entitled — it’s because they are. 

When I was in the state Senate, I represented my rural community in northeast Missouri. I know what it takes for Democrats to win in tough parts. Believe me, it’s not easy. But you have to have the guts to try. At the very least, you have to be brave enough to show up and meet with us. 

It’s been well documented how our party last lost touch with rural voters. I attribute a big part of that to an unwillingness to show up and listen to us. Heck, how could you ever fight for us if you don’t know a thing about us?

And nowadays, despite Democrats regularly losing by double digits statewide, in no small part due to this rural collapse, we’ve got Democratic candidates like Trudy Busch Valentine who don’t even think we’re worth their time. She’s even cut out the middle man — instead of getting ignored by politicians who are bought off by out-of-touch megadonors, we’ve moved on to just throwing the megadonor on the ballot instead.

I live on a farm with my family here in northeast Missouri. Let me tell you something about Missouri farm families — we don’t trust someone who shows up on our doorstep a week before an election with a lame message after ignoring us for months. Why should we? 

And what really grinds my gears about this whole thing is that Democrats have a real shot at winning the Senate race this year. And that work starts now. Let me say unequivocally — no candidate in either party can win this state without making inroads in rural Missouri. A candidate who is outright refusing to campaign in huge swaths of the state is a candidate who isn’t ready for prime time. Heck, they should be sued for political malpractice. 

I’ve won in these parts. It’s not easy, but it can be done. It’s politics 101. You have to meet people where they’re at. And more than just “finding common ground” as the political consultants all say, you need to fight for them.

That means not only showing up in our communities, but talking to us about the issues that impact our families and our livelihoods. Independent farmers are getting screwed by Big Ag. The meatpackers are stealing our profits. We’ve got foreign conglomerates destroying the land. We’re getting hammered by fertilizer prices set by price gouging corporations. It’s getting harder and harder to be an independent farmer. And for rural Democrats, the sad reality is that it’s leaders in both parties who’ve helped make it all happen.

But you’re not going to know that if you don’t show up. You can’t just read about it in some fancy periodical and say “Great, I get it, those rural folks have it rough,” or “Those people just vote against their own interests.”

Give me a break.

Luckily, there is a candidate who’s actually doing the work and making an early investment in communities like mine. Lucas Kunce has been out to farms across this state, taking time to talk with farmers, both Democrats and Republicans. He’s talking about plans to break up Big Ag, to prevent foreign ownership of our agricultural land, to empower independent farmers, and secure our food supply chain. He’s got a real shot at flipping this seat because he’s not afraid to show up in red parts of the state and get his message out here. If you want a real shot at flipping this state blue in November, that’s what it’s going to take.