Rural America was once the hotbed of progressivism in the United States, embodied in the Farmer Labor movement that is still remembered fondly in many parts of the country.
The Democratic Party can speak profoundly to rural voters because its core principles of empowering working people, supporting local communities, and standing up to corporate special interests run deeply in that vein. Yet, Trump carried rural voters by 28 points. Among their top issues were jobs and opportunities for their children – issues Democrats should win. Yet Democrats have seen an 11 percent drop in support among rural voters.
Post-election surveys show that rural voters feel isolated, ignored and disrespected. They believe that the Democratic Party is too focused on urban voters and has become a party for elites. We must bring rural voices into the conversation to connect progressive policy with local solutions that leave rural voters feeling empowered, rather than dismissed. Just like every other issue the right wing uses to divide us, we cannot allow them to turn rural and urban communities against each other. We must bring unity among all communities over shared concerns around economic fairness and opportunity.
To gain ground in rural counties, we must take them seriously and invest the resources in directly engaging and messaging to these communities. These investments must happen over multiple cycles to see results.
It will take all of us – elected officials, activists, and rank-and-file Democrats – to give the rural voters the tools they need to succeed. Here is how we start.