Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tom Vilsack, who saw Trump as a real threat to Democrats, has some advice for them

Vilsack rides a Democratic donkey into the sunset in a
Des Moines Register illustration by Mark Marturello.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has unique perspectives to offer, has some ideas for his fellow Democrats as they regroup following an election that saw much of their traditional base abandon them for a candidate with mostly vague promises and no government experience.

"If the Democrats are interested in winning statewide races, winning presidential races, winning gubernatorial races, winning congressional seats, they can’t get crushed in rural areas," Vilsack told Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg News. "And what’s really frustrating is, they’ve got a pretty good message, if they delivered it."

Vilsack is the only original member of President Obama's cabinet left, and knows the American heartland that Hillary Clinton lost this month. He is a native of Pennsylvania and was a two-term governor of Iowa, spanning the states that spelled victory for Donald Trump. He discussed his ideas with Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register.

Vilsack said he wasn't as surprised at Trump's win as most Democrats because he had significantly discounted polls that showed Clinton leading: “I travel in different places than most people do and so I was exposed to a tremendous amount of on-the-ground indications of strong support for Trump-Pence in rural areas.”

He had these suggestions for Democrats: Do a better job “of explaining to people on a regular basis the benefits of government;” properly frame and deliver their message for helping people and regions in economic transition; strengthen supporting organizations such as labor unions, perhaps by letting the public buy memberships in them; constantly build new leadership; do a better job of using social media; and “find an overarching theme or connecting message” that connects the diverse elements of the party. “There’s no message that a rural voter would necessarily say, hey, they’re speaking to me. They’re speaking about me. They’re speaking for me.” A few months ago, Vilsack said "I just sometimes think rural America is a forgotten place." Not so much now, it seems.

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