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Rural voters feel abandoned by the Democratic establishment — My party must revive to survive

Both mainstream parties are far from perfect, but I believe in our profound ability to be better.

We can choose an incumbent who will blindly side with the fringes of his party even if it hurts his constituents, or vote for independent leadership, someone willing to put the needs of rural Americans over Washington partisan squabbles.

NORTHERN, Mich. — We say this with love to our fellow Democrats. Over the past decade, voters in rural America feel abandoned. The message rural voters have heard is "You don’t matter." The future of the Democratic Party — and indeed our democracy — demands we revive our relationship with rural communities.

This New York Times article highlights what many in Northern Michigan and the UP feel. Here are paraphrased excerpts of that full article.

Democrats can still win conservative rural districts if they take the time to drive down the long dirt roads where we grew up, have face-to-face conversations with moderate Republican and independent voters and speak a different language, one rooted in values.

It worked for a 25-year-old climate activist with unabashedly progressive politics. Chloe Maxmin was an unlikely choice to be competitive — let alone win — in a conservative district that falls mostly within the bounds of a rural Maine county with the oldest population in the state.

But in 2018, she won a State House seat with almost 53 percent of the vote. Two years later, she ran for State Senate, challenging the highest-ranking Republican in state office, the Senate minority leader. And again, in one of the most rural districts in the state, voters chose the young, first-term Democrat.

It was proof the governing dogmas of American politics should be challenged.

Over the past decade, many Democrats seem to have stopped trying to persuade people who disagree with them, counting instead on demographic shifts they believed would carry them to victory — if only they could turn out their core supporters.

The choice to prioritize turnout in Democratic strongholds over persuasion of moderate voters has cost the party election after election. Democrats can run and win in communities the party writes off — and they do not need to be a 'Joe Manchin' to do it.

Since 2008, residents of small towns have fallen behind cities on many major economic benchmarks, and they watched helplessly as more power and wealth were consolidated in cities. We saw up close the loss, hopelessness, and frustration.

Ceding rural America leaves a narrow path to victory even in the best circumstances.

The party establishment doesn’t understand that rural life is rooted in shared values of independence, common sense, tradition, frugality, community, and hard work.

Rural folks vote on what rings true and personal to them: Can this person be trusted? Are they authentic?

Something has to change. The Democrats need a profoundly different strategy if they are to restore their reputation as champions of working people, committed to improving their lives, and undaunted by wealth and power.

The only way for Democrats to regain traction in rural places is by running strong campaigns in districts that usually back Republicans. Even though it’s hard work with no guaranteed outcome, it is necessary.

Through the simple act of listening, we almost always catch a glimpse of common ground if we focus on values, not parties.

As Democrats, we feel every day the profound urgency of our times, the existential necessity of racial justice, the impending doom of the climate crisis, the imperative to reform our criminal justice system, and so much more.

Yet, as a party, we’ve made some big mistakes as we walk down the road to a better world. Abandoning rural voters could be one of the costliest.

It’s not too late to make amends, to rebuild our relationship with the quiet roads of rural America. We have to hit the ground running, today, this cycle, and recommit ourselves to the kind of politics that reaches every corner of our country.

About Dr. Lorinser

For his entire career, Dr. Bob Lorinser (D-MI1) has dedicated his life to the service of his community and country.

After receiving three advanced degrees (Medical Doctor, Masters of Social Work, and Masters in Public Health), Dr. Lorinser worked as a social worker in a Veterans Affairs Hospital and as a physician with the Indian Health Service, serving the Navajo Nation. In 1989, he found his home in Michigan's First District, where he practiced family medicine for three decades.

Dr. Bob joined the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Services in 2011 to serve as a diplomat and Regional Medical Officer. The Lorinsers served the United States for ten years, with tours in Pakistan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Iraq.

When he returned to the states in 2020, Dr. Bob offered his services as Medical Director of Marquette County Health Department. He and his wife of 40 years, Peggy, live in Gwinn and have three children and four granddaughters.

Dr. Bob Lorinser hopes to serve and represent constituents in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. He is unopposed in the Democrat primary and poised to face Rep. Jack Bergman (R, Acme) in the general mid-term election this November. For more information, visit


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