Paul Krugman writes (boldface mine):
Rural resentment has become a central fact of American politics — in particular, a pillar of support for the rise of right-wing extremism. As the Republican Party has moved ever further into MAGAland, it has lost votes among educated suburban voters; but this has been offset by a drastic rightward shift in rural areas, which in some places has gone so far that the Democrats who remain face intimidation and are afraid to reveal their party affiliation.
But is this shift permanent? Can anything be done to assuage rural rage?
The answer will depend on two things: whether it’s possible to improve rural lives and restore rural communities, and whether the voters in these communities will give politicians credit for any improvements that do take place.
This gets to several problems with Democratic strategy. First, professional Democrats don’t toot their own horns very well (sounds kinda dirty, but you know what I mean). The blogger Oliver Willis always jokes about how Democrats should engage in Trumpian hyperbole: “We are building our beautiful highways so strongly”, but he is right in that Democrats need to tout their accomplishments.
But that gets to a much deeper problem. Between Fox News and the purchase of local newspapers and television stations by either hedge funds who are destroying their ability to accurately report the news (can’t do much of that with one reporter) or by ideologues who are turning them into mini-Fox News stations (often even more rabid versions), it’s hard to penetrate these markets. That means Democrats will have to create news by visiting and being present. They actually have to show up and raise the flag. They also will have to have functional and funded local and state parties to push accomplishments and talking points (STOP LAUGHING! STOP LAUGHING NOW!).
Could helping rural communities bring some of them back to the Democratic fold, or at least, blunt the Republican advantage? Yes, especially at the margins in state-wide contests. But to do that, we need a very different Democratic Party (including its financiers to be crass about it). Hopefully, Biden’s strategy will work, but I think it will have a limited effect because professional Democrats aren’t doing the other things too.
It might also help to give rural democrats some nice things. Vilsak, for example, was hardlythe small family farmer’s choice for Ag Sec. but he was big ag’s choice. So why appoint him? And like many others, rural people like better SS and medicare, decent hospitals and health care etc. And, sadly, democrats talk a better game than they deliver. Remeber, Bernie did really well in Iowa when he talked about econ issues in 2016. And these issues involved how small farmers were being crushed by big ag. Today, not so much. So, contrary to what you and Krugman appear to think, the problem is not mainly PR, imo, it is follow through.
Farming isn’t the biggest thing in rural living, by far. According to the US Census, there are more people employed in manufacturing in “completely rural counties” than in the category of “agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting and mining”.
Democrats did great under Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy, including in rural areas. Obama dismantled that and the rest is history. It is telling that everyone, big shot Democrats to liberal pundits know to never suggest bringing back the 50 state strategy.
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