Beginning to think abt how to reconcile w/ disaffected rural voters, I search-engined my way to articles arguing that a radically progressive agenda championed by uncompromising candidates and advocates would turn a red electorate blue. A related thread agrees w/ the need for an avowedly progressive agenda, but despairs that it will actually attract rural voters who’ve decided to ruin themselves by ignoring their economic interests in favor of a romantic commitment to restore the white dominance of a bygone era, choosing guns over butter, as it were.
The despair is fully justified, but the analysis is muddled. Non-metro voters have given up on Democrats simply bc Democrats have given up on them. The party’s concluded there’s no there there in rural America, “there” being a synonym for money. The money’s on the coasts. Large blocs of voters are on the coasts. The party’s heart and soul moved there too. Yet it isn’t so much that monied elites have pushed the party’s agenda to an unpalatable social left, it’s that the party’s up and gone, moving to be closer to its money.
As a consequence, riddled w/ panic & guilt, the party belatedly remembers it’s homecoming weekend & spasmodically leaps into action. There’s a hopscotch listening tour, a Howard Dean specialty. An endeavor to find a menu of policies that ought to sell in provinces. And of course there’s gobs of polling, especially before elections.
There is however no disguising the fact that half-hearted compensatory gestures reflect rather than restore the breach. Divergent views on LGBTQ rights for example stay divergent because there’s no real connection between highly visible urban advocates & the LGBTQ community in non-metro areas. That community, by the way, includes friends, family, and workmates. These are people who don’t want to see the people they know & love confined to the closet.
Same w/ guns. Rural communities can be engaged around the issue of safety productively if doing so isn’t couched in condescending and punitive terms. Broadening the issue of high rates of unskilled labor immigration to focus on its impact on wages for less skilled domestic labor is a crucial missing link to the urban un- and under-employed.
The challenge is not designing a centrist agenda, it’s adopting an approach to party sufficiently grounded in the constituencies it hopes to represent that it knows the interests ideological issues obscure. That’s a people-to-people problem. It’s involving people in the discussions (months’ worth) required not just to get those interests articulated but to get them heard by other non-rural constituencies.