Thursday, December 22, 2016

Democrats need to stop giving up on rural voters, opines Center for Rural Strategies president

Dee Davis
Democratic candidates have cut themselves off from rural voters and it cost them at the polls in November in the presidential election and congressional races, opines Dee Davis, director of the Center for Rural Strategies, in the Daily Yonder., which the center publishes: "Democrats have a progressively hard time talking to rural voters: no communications channels, no cultural connection, no common vision. And that made a critical difference in 2016 when rural turned out and urban votes declined."

"Democrats seem to say, 'Rural America, vote your pocketbooks,' or 'Vote for us because our policies make your life better,'” Davis writes. "But that kind of electoral transaction rarely happens. That is what Larry Bartels at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions calls the 'folklore of democracy.' And it is only that—a story we tell ourselves about self-government. People vote their identity. They vote their culture, their church, their family, their neighborhood. Politics today is about creating, maintaining and expressing social identity."

"The Trump campaign took advantage of cultural identification in building their 'us-against-the-elites, us-against-the-press, us-against-the-world' community'" he writes. "Most of his voters were not convinced Hillary was going to confiscate their guns or that Trump was going to breathe life back into necrotic coalmines and steel mills. But they saw more of themselves in that storytelling community, comprised of hunters, miners, and millhands—part of an iconic America where folks like them were still valued."

"Democrats have relied on a 'demographics-is-destiny' approach that seeks to take advantage of increasing urbanization, increasing racial diversity, and increasing education levels for party growth while moving away from traditional constituencies like rural and white blue-collar voters," he writes. "One goal of this plan has been to turn dynamically changing states like Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia into blue states in short fashion. But the hemorrhaging of blue-collar white voters keeps pushing the timeframe back."

"Another Democrat goal of 2016 was to use Donald Trump’s charged rhetoric against Mexican immigrants to win over wavering Republican states," he writes. "However, half of Latino voters reside either in California, a reliably blue state, or Texas, a reliably red one. Latino votes did not flip any state to the Democrats."

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