There are Rural Voters Waiting to Hear from Us; Lets talk to Them

We reject the click-bait driven misconception about a widening urban-rural political gap in America.

It is a fact that most progressive voters live in big cities and suburbs closest to large urban areas. It is also a fact that progressive strategies are aimed at the largest clusters of Democratic voters. Because of those two factors it is also a fact that attempts to re-connect with rural America, once a core part of the New Deal Coalition, haven’t been particularly successful.

However, as the highly respected independent online publication Daily Yonder recently reported, “Despite stories about the ‘deepening divide’ between rural and urban, the difference between major-city voters and rural voters changed very little in last year’s election. In fact, Democrats made a four-point comeback with rural voters in 2018.”

But, as the Daily Yonder asked, “Is anybody listening?” Some of us are, but more need to open their ears. We need to continue to make inroads in our rural America. Reaching out to rural voters isn’t as difficult as misinformed purveyors of myths would have us believe.

A comprehensive analysis of the 2018 House votes in more than 3,100 counties by William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, makes one of stronger arguments for the importance of reaching out to rural and small town and city voters. Overall, Frey found 83 percent of the 2018 voters lived in counties where support for Democratic candidates improved over the 2016 presidential election, including proof of meaningful gains in traditional GOP areas.

“This increased Democratic support was not confined to traditional Democratic base counties. It occurred in suburbs, smaller metropolitan and rural counties, and most noticeably, in counties with concentrations of older, native-born and white residents without college degrees,” Frey concluded. “Moreover, at the state level, enough states flipped from Republican majorities in the 2016 presidential election to Democratic majorities in the 2018 House elections to project a 2020 Democratic Electoral College win.”

Frey’s projection for 2020 Electoral College is based on the total combined House votes in each state. The statewide 2018 House vote totals showed Democrats winning in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, flipping the vote in states that Trump won in 2016.

Of course, it all comes down to turnout in 2020 in order to prevail in those states, and hold other key heavily rural states like Nevada, New Mexico, Maine, New Hampshire and Virginia. When we add into the mix battlegrounds like Florida and North Carolina the evidence for why it’s crucial to fight for every possible rural vote is overwhelming.

The biggest reason to fight for rural votes is we are good people who a want to be good neighbors who live in a good country, however let’s consider why rural voters are important to pursue for a counterintuitive reason. Rural America is the only place Trump is popular, as data driven FiveThirtyEight reported in the aftermath of the 2018 elections. There is an argument to be made that to pursue rural votes is to take on our opposition at its strongest point where there is a base of voters our opposition takes for granted.

We can make the case that our opponents only talk a good game, using anger and diverting attention away from how first and foremost they put the desires of Wall Street and corporate interests well above the needs of rural Americans. It’s our policies for rebuilding, re-investing in and respecting rural Americans that have their best interests at heart.

We have a still have a history in rural America. Lets make our case on ground of our own choosing, where our opposition does not expect a fight but surely deserves one.

(Note: This is the first in a series of posts on the merits of pursuing the rural vote)

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