Idea #4: Give rural Democrats their own brand


TODAY’S GUEST: Kyle DeBeer, the former executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party.

Much has been made recently about the white working class, depressed former factory towns, and so-called flyover country’s new role of presidential kingmaker. But while some of the vocabulary is new, the fundamental divide between rural and urban America is not. For a long time now, how you vote has been inextricably and somewhat inexplicably linked to the relative population density of where you live. If you live in a city, it’s probably a bastion of liberal democratic politics, even if it’s located in famously red Texas or Georgia. And if you live in a rural area, it’s probably conservative and Republican, even if it’s in California or New York.

For decades now, political parties have tried to bridge this considerable divide. The Democrats, for instance, maintain a national political movement that, against all odds, seeks to place the young activist at Berkeley in the same big political tent with the retired rancher in rural Montana who belongs to the NRA yet has a soft spot in his heart for single payer healthcare.

The marriage is an uneasy one, to say the least, and the tensions surrounding it get a lot of credit for the party’s current depressing walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The balancing act pleases nobody. Sell the Democratic brand to urban dwellers, and you’ll run into people who think it’s not liberal enough, leaving a wide berth for the likes of Jill Stein and Ralph Nader. Sell that same brand to rural residents, and you’ll likely run into blowback against the urban elites, especially on the topics of guns, abortion, and cultural issues. Whatever poor democratic soul volunteers to run for office in Rural America, they will inevitably be tarred as a stooge of the urbanist Pelosi as they are efficiently led to the slaughter.

Clearly, this is one of those relationships where both sides are hindering each other’s progress and driving each other nuts, so we have a modest suggestion: Get a divorce.

Call a meeting, spread the maps out on the table, and divide up the country by congressional district or something smaller. Those areas with less population density effectively get their own Rural Democratic Party brand. It would probably be a bit more socially conservative, more focused on the second amendment, and more populist, but there would still be plenty of issues to work on in common with the urban democrats once everyone got elected. Every four years, the national organization comes together to elect a president, and no doubt wise primary winners would select a running mate from the other branch. But in most of everyday life, the two camps would be free to pursue their different versions of lefty politics without carrying the baggage of the other. “Nancy Pelosi? Well lemme tell you: as a Rural Democrat, I wouldn’t know anything about her.”

Split one unsatisfying democratic brand into two that more accurately reflect the reality on the ground, hopefully enjoying some electoral success in the process. It’s today’s idea so crazy it just might work. 

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