On Saturday, September 3, 2005, I opened a link to a diary at Daily Kos, one in a daily series by the same author, RubDMC, honoring those fallen in Iraq. On this day, there, staring me in the face, was a picture of a memorial bracelet, a hero bracelet inscribed Capt Alan Rowe Hagerman, ID Marine 9/3/04.
That instance brought the Iraq war home to me in a big way, the proverbial ton of bricks hitting me in the chest. I spent a lot of my childhood in Hagerman, Idaho. My grandparents lived there, having retired there for the “easier” winter from the higher elevations north of the Magic Valley on the Camas Prairie, where my family ranched. In the comments to that diary, I met Cpt. Rowe’s sister, Diana Rowe Pauls, who informed me that while Alan had been born in Hagerman, he grew up in Gooding, even closer to home, and that he was buried in the little cemetery of my old home town, Fairfield, at the foot of Soldier Mountain.
Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for the stories about Idaho and Iraq. And there have been far too many. In its ongoing series of tracking polls of rural voters, the Center for Rural Strategies has consistently found one incredible finding: at least 60 percent of rural voters know someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. A quarter of them have a family member serving. And support for the war is down from 51 percent to 45 percent among rural residents.
And in a study [pdf] just released by the Carsey Institute, the tenth highest death rate of the wars falls on Idaho. The methodology used to calculate a death rate was to divide the number of men and women killed from a state by the total number of people in the state of military age. The ten states with the highest death rates are Idaho, Delaware, Alaska, Maine, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Vermont, a distinction none of these rural states enjoys.
It could be one of the reasons that the majority of meager donations from rural areas is going to the Democratic candidates in the presidential race. According to the Center for Rural Strategies’ The Daily Yonder, 55 percent of donations in the first quarter of this year went to Democrats. That’s rural counties from around the country, though five of the top 20 most generous are interior west states.
Which brings me to my point: the war is going to be just as important in the mountain west in 2008 as it was in 2006. Western votes are going to be coveted in 2008, as the GOP tries to maintain its hold on the region and the Democrats try to expand the successes they found there in 2006. In order for the Democrats to do that, the Democratic presidential candidates and nominee need to recognize the extent of sacrifice that our region has made in this war, and that, even in the rural West, there are gains to be made by being bold on Iraq and by making a firm commitment to getting our troops, all combat troops, out of Iraq.
(Note: Alan Rowe was featured in Newsweek’s “Voices of the Fallen” issue, April 2, 2007. You can hear his last words to his family here.
Editor’s note: Joan McCarter’s weekly blogs are part of a new feature on NewWest.Net/Politics called “Diary of a Mad Voter,” a group blog, published in partnership with the Denver Post’s Politics West intended give a glimpse into the hearts and minds of several independent-minded voters and thinkers in the Rocky Mountain West in the ’08 election cycle. Check back this week at www.newwest.net/madvoter.