There has been much discussion — mostly by conservatives — in recent years about the Democrats having become a coastal elitist party that knows almost nothing about rural America. It’s objectively and demonstrably true, but it hasn’t prevented leftists from being paternalistic and assuming they can sell false narratives to the good folks in flyover country.
Take, for example, this recent Opinion piece from The New York Times titled “Biden Has Already Done More for Rural America Than Trump Ever Did.” It’s condescending and cliché, as most mainstream media pieces involving rural America are. The article was shared on Twitter by noted Chinese spy-lover Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and the responses were quick, brutal, and occasionally epic.
Here’s an example:
I just filled up my diesel tank for $1280 last week. This time last year it was half that amount. pic.twitter.com/O6RIuS72GC
— SWARK Hog (@clint3344) May 1, 2022
All of this makes it even more surprising that, just a few days later, the same New York Times ran an Op-Ed detailing, as the headline states, “What Democrats Don’t Understand About Rural America.”
This wasn’t one of those token Opinion guest essays that the Times occasionally has a conservative write. It was co-written by a self-styled “progressive” state senator from Maine and the man who managed both of her campaigns. The first paragraph comes out of the gate with some tough love.
NOBLEBORO, Maine — We say this with love to our fellow Democrats: Over the past decade, you willfully abandoned rural communities. As the party turned its focus to the cities and suburbs, its outreach became out of touch and impersonal. To rural voters, the message was clear: You don’t matter.
The article isn’t just about Maine or one politician. The authors point out that it’s a much bigger problem and — as the kids like to say — they brought receipts:
This is a story about not just rural Maine. It’s about a nationwide pattern of neglect that goes back years. After the 2010 midterms, when the Democrats lost 63 House seats, Nancy Pelosi, then the House minority leader, disbanded the House Democratic Rural Working Group. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada later eliminated the Senate’s rural outreach group. By 2016, according to Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich, the Clinton campaign had only a single staff person doing rural outreach from its headquarters, in Brooklyn; the staffer was assigned to the role just weeks before the election. And in 2018 the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, told MSNBC, “You can’t door-knock in rural America.”
The authors explain the success that the senator has had with old-fashioned retail politicking, noting that she has “knocked on over 20,000 doors” during her two campaigns.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know there were even 20,000 people in Maine. Years ago, I was driving up there from NYC for a college gig in late November and was told by the booker to watch out for moose. I chuckled and she said, “No, really.” I don’t remember seeing many people until I got to the gig.
The article also confirms that we rightwing nutjobs have been spot-on about the Democrats being paternalistic and dripping with condescension when it comes to rural Americans:
While these defeats ought to prompt real soul-searching within the party, some political scientists and many mainstream Democrats have taken them as proof not that their own strategies must change but rather that rural Republicans are too ignorant to vote in their own best interest. It’s a counterproductive, condescending story that serves only to drive the wedge between Democrats and rural communities deeper yet.
Chloe has knocked on more than 20,000 doors over the past two cycles, listening to stories of loss and isolation. One man told her she was the first person to listen to him. Most campaigns, he said, didn’t even bother to knock on his door; they judged him for what his house looked like. Another voter said she had been undecided between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump until Election Day but voted for Mr. Trump because, she said, at the Republican convention, he talked about regular American working people and Ms. Clinton didn’t at her convention.
What they get wrong is that the Democrats don’t only feel that way about rural Republicans but all people in rural America.
The 2016 presidential campaign was a perfect snapshot of just how out of touch the Democrats are regarding flyover country. Granny Maojackets all but abandoned the Midwest, just assuming that the rubes in the hinterlands were lapping up the media spin about her and would reflexively vote Democrat.
Meanwhile, Manhattan billionaire Trump was relentlessly campaigning in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
It turns out that the rubes did know how to vote in their own best interest.
Biden won back a lot of the Democrats who voted for Trump by lying to them and promising to be moderate as President. As soon as he was sworn in, his handlers led him to the edge of the progressive cliff, and he immediately jumped off.
Since then, I’ve written and said in interviews that Biden has essentially created two Democratic parties. The farmer in Iowa who is worried about fertilizer and fuel prices isn’t identifying with the coastal Dems who are obsessed with making sure that boys who say they’re girls can urinate in the ladies’ room.
Despite the sincere appeal from the authors of this article, it’s unlikely that it will find any sympathetic reaction from the Democratic elite. Coastal Dems are all more in sync with the article that tells rural America how things are going, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Don’t take my word for it. I’m sure that we will hear from plenty of the good rural folks in November.