Jane Kleeb is writing a book in defense of rural America.

"Democrats have completely neglected rural communities," Nebraska's Democratic state chair said Wednesday in assessing her party's national attitude.    

Too often, she said, they buy into "stereotypes that rural communities are all-white or racist or backward or all Republicans."

Books and movies portray rural areas in terms of doom and gloom, Kleeb said during a telephone interview. 

"What I have experienced is the hope and creativity that farmers and ranchers have demonstrated as they already are confronting climate change on their own," she said, while also standing solidly together to protect their property rights.

"They don't need a white paper to tell them about climate change; they are installing wind and solar and water sensors and planting cover crops," Kleeb said.

And they stood up in a grassroots effort to fight construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska, she said, and that's an underdog battle against a giant corporation, TransCanada, that they have been winning.

"Keystone is absolutely a model," Kleeb said.

Kleeb organized and led the way after founding Bold Nebraska and gathering farmers, ranchers, tribal nations and environmentalists together in a David vs. Goliath showdown that has prevented construction of the pipeline in Nebraska and placed its future in doubt. 

"That was the example of an unlikely alliance of people who you would think might not agree on anything," she said. "I was there to help them protect their property rights and their water.

"As you begin to work with people, you recognize that you may have different views on guns and abortion, but you can work together to help make the state strong."

The country, and her national party, need to recognize that "we have solutions in Nebraska," Kleeb said, "and we need to make sure rural communities are engaged."

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Democrats need to "bridge the real urban-rural divide in the party," she said. 

Democrats need to look at rural America "not just for its votes, but for solutions about big problems like climate change, health care and creation of new small businesses," Kleeb said.

Some of those issues are identified with progressive politics and on her party's national agenda today, she noted.  

"If powerful Democrats from the coasts decide to meet only the needs of coastal America, then we've become fly-over voters, not just fly-over states," Kleeb said.

Family farmers and rural America already have demonstrated that they have some of the answers as members of Congress prepare to consider the so-called Green New Deal, the Democratic legislative response to climate change, she said.

"We have solutions in Nebraska," she said.

Kleeb and her publisher, Ecco, are timing publication of the book, "We Have the Land," for early 2020 in advance of the Iowa Democratic presidential caucus.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.


Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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