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WASHINGTON – People’s Action joined rural leaders from around the country today to announce a bold, multiracial rural and small town deep organizing project in 72 counties in ten states across the heartland, Rust Belt, northeast and south by the end of 2018.

The organizing project will unite rural progressive groups and community leaders to counter corporate greed, hate, and white supremacy with a multiracial, progressive populism that builds bonds on issues like health care for all, public education, and getting big money out of politics.

See video of today’s event here: http://bit.ly/ruralprogressive

The counties include 28 “pivot counties” that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then went for Trump in 2016. These rural counties include African American communities, Native American nations and areas with significant immigrant populations. People’s Action is committed to support lasting community groups through 2020 and beyond.

“The billionaire class is working their tails off to divide poor and working class communities with race as the leverage point. We see this in rural communities all the time,” said George Goehl, director of People’s Action, who grew up in a rural working class family in Indiana. “Now we are launching a campaign to fight back, by organizing tens of thousands of new people in rural communities to join the progressive movement.

“We will unite urban and rural communities up and down the ballot in 2018 around a bold populist agenda. We will not concede the rural vote to the right, or to centrists for that matter,” Goehl said.

The announcement was made at Tuesday’s “Promise of a Progressive Populist Movement” strategy summit at the National Press Club. Participants included grassroots leaders from rural Appalachia, family farmers from Iowa, tribal leaders from Indian country, small town residents from the Rust Belt, heartland and south. Members of Congress, philanthropic leaders, and heads of national movements for racial, economic and gender justice also joined.

Gubernatorial candidates Paulette Jordan, a Native American running in Idaho, and Cathy Glasson, an intensive care nurse from Iowa spoke as well.

People’s Action also released preliminary results our new report, “The Promise of a Progressive Populist Movement” at the event. It explores rural priorities through more than 2,200 individual conversations. The preliminary results show:

  • There is higher support for progressive solutions like health care for all, raising wages and public education than for conservative proposals like cutting government regulations.
  • Four times as many rural people in blamed government controlled by big money donors and corporations for problems in their communities, than blamed immigrants.
  • Poverty and suffering are widespread. More than half the people said keeping a roof over their head or food on the table concerned them often or a great deal of the time.

Quotes from some of the participating candidates and community leaders:

Brigid Flaherty, co-founder of Down Home North Carolina:

“Human beings, people with hopes, fears, joys, and sorrow are being written off by the Democratic party because they live in ‘red’ places. Do not underestimate the decency of rural and small town communities. We are seeing the beauty of these extraordinary multiracial communities who are ready to stand up for justice. The fight for dignity, inclusion, and security – that’s what this shared struggle is all about.”

Iowa Gubernatorial Candidate Cathy Glasson:

“We’re building a bold, progressive movement that puts people ahead of profits and before party. A grassroots movement that truly puts people first. The time for centrist politics are over. The people of Iowa are tired of corporations winning. We need politicians and leaders across the country who are not afraid to be bold. Door by door, block by block, we are talking to voters about the issues they care about.”

Idaho Candidate Paulette Jordan, who if elected would be the first Indigenous Governor in history:

“When government is not representing the people, it has failed us. When you go to the Idaho State House, the voices of the people are often drowned out by the wealthy and corporate interests. We are attacked daily in Idaho – women’s rights, Indigenous rights, workers, and people of color. But no one can buy us, because money cannot buy freedom.”

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidate Jess King, running in PA-11:

“We can win in places where Trump won. When we do – we know healthcare will be a right not a privilege. We will pass Medicare for All. We will work with small businesses to raise the minimum wage so that people who work full time aren’t in poverty. It’s us against the wealthy – and we are fighting to build an America that works for all of us.”

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People’s Action is a bold progressive multiracial working class network of more than one million grassroots leaders, with 48 member organizations and 600 local staff across 30 states.

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About People’s Action Institute

Over five decades, People’s Action Institute and our affiliates have fought for reforms that recognize poor and working people’s dignity and make material and political improvements to millions of lives. Our victories include the Community Reinvestment Act, Superfund, the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act and the MAT Act.

We engage in issue campaigns, public education and training to advance a long-term agenda for racial, economic and gender justice. Our focus now is on deepening community organizing so we can build lasting power across the country. 

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