Bringing Rural Voters back to the Democrats
May 3, 2022 9:06 PM   Subscribe

What Democrats Don’t Understand About Rural America. Chloe Maxmin is a state senator (D) in Maine. Canyon Woodward was her campaign manager in 2018 and 2020. "As two young progressives raised in the country, we were dismayed as small towns like ours swung to the right. But we believed that Democrats could still win conservative rural districts if they took the time to drive down the long dirt roads where we grew up, have face-to-face conversations with moderate Republican and independent voters and speak a different language, one rooted in values rather than policy."

"...the dogmas that have long governed American politics could and should be challenged. Over the past decade, many Democrats seem to have stopped trying to persuade people who disagreed with them, counting instead on demographic shifts they believed would carry them to victory — if only they could turn out their core supporters. The choice to prioritize turnout in Democratic strongholds over persuasion of moderate voters has cost the party election after election. But Democrats can run and win in communities that the party has written off — and they need not be Joe Manchin-like conservative Democrats to do so.

This isn’t just a story about 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 had been 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.” "

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"The Democratic campaign leadership was eager to replicate our success but also fundamentally unequipped to understand what we were doing. At the height of the pandemic, we told the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee about our approach. Almost immediately the committee’s staff was instructed to tell Democratic candidates to make similar calls, but only to seniors within their “persuasion universe” — people whose votes they thought they could win. Specifically, people over 60 who were likely Democratic voters. We read this in horror and immediately wrote back, imploring the leaders to not limit the scope of the calls. They brushed us off."
posted by storybored (128 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Paul Campos of LGM has a sharp takedown of the piece:
Because of a combination of The Wisdom of the Framers and of the presidential primary system American politics pretty much consists of nothing but constantly kissing the asses of rural white voters. Nevertheless or more accurately therefore these most special of special snowflakes will still never shut the fuck up (sorry Mami) for even five minutes about how nobody listens to their endlessly dreary stories of loss and alienation, except of course for the gaggle of national journalists who show up like clockwork every other Thursday to chronicle those stories again and again in the New York Times etc.

Oh and Chloe I get that you’re a young woman on the make and again I wish you nothing but the best, but must you parrot the most absurd and outrageous lies of the right wing scream machine while you’re slinging your political career/book? Hillary Clinton talked and talked and talked about “regular [white] American [white] working [white] people,” over and over again, because that’s how the game is played (see above), although she did make the unforgivable mistake of uttering the truth — that a lot of Trump voters were a bunch of racist crypto-fascists — that one time, which of course cost her the election, because if there’s one thing regular American working people can’t handle, it’s the truth.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:51 PM on May 3 [108 favorites]


Speaking as a rural democrat organizer, I hate the DCC so much. Pat Brown made the CDP great because he worked tirelessly to build a party in all 54 of California Counties. Modern national leadership only cares about three counties: San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles. Orange, San Joaquin can burn for all they care.

I've worked on political campaigns since starting on Ellen Tauscher back in 1996. I really do believe that Krysten Sinema is emblematic of an entire faction of the Democratic party: one that is only interested in keeping the checks rolling in at the winery mixers. They're not interested in winning, not interested in governing, not interested in policy or platform; the only thing they ever care about is your fundraising metrics.

We are truly the Washington Generals of political parties.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 9:56 PM on May 3 [48 favorites]


It’s probably too late for all of this, because it assumes we have a functioning democracy. In Republican-ruled districts in 2024, Democratic votes will be thrown out directly, if even allowed to be cast.

We’re past “campaigning” now.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:08 PM on May 3 [13 favorites]


oh my god what a 40 million word load of gobbldygook. door knocking, empathy, listening to people.. cmon. that is not what dems need, especially not in places that are heavily white and rural. you think trump needed to knock on 20,000 doors to swing middle of the road conservatives to his crazyass brand of bullshit insanity, which was against everything they said they ever believed in? no. all he needed was a story. narrative. good guy. bad guy. in group. out group. keep it simple. that's how you win with these folks.

then, after you win, quickly do the progressive things you want to do that promote long run equality, and lock them in with procedural bullshit. and then retire.
posted by wibari at 10:10 PM on May 3 [62 favorites]


we believed that Democrats could still win conservative rural districts if they took the time to drive down the long dirt roads where we grew up

Beto O’Rourke campaigned in every fucking county in Texas (254!) and they still elected Ted Cruz.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:11 PM on May 3 [105 favorites]


As a Democrat from rural America who can not escape being surrounded by my fellow refugees, I am completely done with narratives about how we don't understand our homelands. And about how we should drive on more dirt roads because we're too fancy to "get" rural life? Go back to Maine and keep your opinions there.
posted by traveler_ at 10:13 PM on May 3 [41 favorites]


Oh and Chloe I get that you’re a young woman on the make and again I wish you nothing but the best

Well, hot damn.
posted by Beholder at 11:03 PM on May 3 [12 favorites]


As a Democrat from rural America who cannot escape being surrounded by my fellow refugees, I am completely done with narratives about how we don't understand our homelands. And about how we should drive on more dirt roads because we're too fancy to "get" rural life?

I've lived in Maine most of my life, and i'm frustrated by the number of Northeastern megalopolis refugees who have priced people here out of a place to live. And I don't agree with the thesis being put forward by Chloe Maxmin and Canyon Woodward in the commentary that is the subject of the FPP, but state Sen Maxmin is not an urban refugee who has relocated to rural America. She is representing the rural district in which she has lived for her entire life.
posted by virago at 11:23 PM on May 3 [7 favorites]


The point, virago, is that the Cletus Safari narrative of how urban dwellers don't "get" rural folks is getting tiresome, especially given that many urban dwellers are rural refugees who fled because of how they were treated, and know all too well what rural life is about. And when she parrots bullshit bromides about "authenticity" and "trustworthiness" to those people, it rings hollow and offensive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:57 PM on May 3 [49 favorites]


I understood traveler_'s thesis but was thrown off by the emphasis on "from" in the phrase "a Democrat from rural America," which seemed to suggest -- to me -- the mistaken perception that the source of Sen Maxmin's cluelessness was that she was raised in a fancy suburb and relocated to Maine after college.
posted by virago at 12:16 AM on May 4


And lots of rural dwellers lived less rural places and moved out because they hated being around things they encountered in those places. Like, my worst uncle definitely lives in rural Idaho now and he definitely moved there from California on purpose to get away from racial diversity and being taxed at rates necessary to pay for government services. He doesn't care how far you walked along a winding country road to chat with him or how authentic you are. If you've got a (D) by your name he might be polite (he might also not, depending mostly in what you look like) but he absolutely isn't buying what you're selling.
posted by potrzebie at 12:20 AM on May 4 [31 favorites]


Lots of rural dwellers moved out ... because they hated being around things they encountered in those places

I deal with the kind of people those rural dwellers moved to escape every single day. They're the online commenters who complain that the paper where I work publishes only anti-Republican "hit pieces": that is, letters to the editor and commentaries critical of 45 or of the mean-spirited two-term tea party Maine governor who wants to oust the current governor this fall.

Our far right readers are furious that we don't publish their submissions, but very few of the letters and op-eds that they send us weather even the most cursory fact checking.
posted by virago at 12:30 AM on May 4 [8 favorites]




I haven't met a single rural Republican who was remotely open to considering alternate political ideas. Their political and religious beliefs go hand in hand, and are the core piece of their worldview and identity. Compromising on any of the key issues is really out of the question for the vast majority. Asking them to support things like expanded social benefits, or stronger environmental protections, would be like suggesting they pray to Satan instead of Jesus. And if you're a baby-killing Democrat and think they might possibly vote for you, you're delusional. I grew up around evangelicals in the South, and I know their ways well. (I would love to be wrong on this, but I'm not optimistic.)
posted by TreeHugger at 1:46 AM on May 4 [38 favorites]


Beto O’Rourke campaigned in every fucking county in Texas (254!) and they still elected Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz won by 16% in his 2012 Senate race and 2% in his 2018 one. Part of that could be down to disaffection with Cruz, but it's just possible that O'Rourke's efforts did make a difference just not quite enough to get him elected.

oh my god what a 40 million word load of gobbldygook. door knocking, empathy, listening to people.. cmon....good guy. bad guy. in group. out group. keep it simple. that's how you win with these folks

This gobbldygook wound up netting her an election win in a previous R stronghold, so I guess maybe it is how you win with these folks?

my worst uncle definitely lives in rural Idaho now and he definitely moved there from California on purpose to get away from racial diversity

The article is pretty clear that Maxmin isn't convincing or really even investing any time in people like your uncle. At the outset it says that she's talking to 'moderate Republicans and independents' and winning their votes. Democrats are actually decent at doing this sort of thing in suburbs, which is one reason why Trump didn't get a second term. As has been said here many times, there isn't red and blue America, but various shades of purple. The work of getting Democrats elected is shifting those shades of purple in a marginally more blue direction.

the Cletus Safari narrative of how urban dwellers don't "get" rural folks is getting tiresome

I don't think this is the point the article is making. It's arguing instead that the Democratic Party as an institution does not do a good job campaigning in rural areas. I don't think there's any requirement for urban dwellers to get or like rural folks, but if those same urban dwellers are Democrats and want to get stuff done at state and national levels, they do need to have at least some of those rural folks electing Democrats.

Like it or not, land votes in America. It's deeply unjust that rural voters enjoy such a disproportionate share of electoral power, but that is the current system. If Democrats are interested growing and maintaining power they can't cede all of rural America to the Republicans.

Maxmin seems like she's found a way to fight back in her particular corner of America. Maybe that's not the way it can work everywhere else. Maybe what's needed is a lot of different strategies for a lot of different kinds of rural regions (I'd take it that that is actually what's implied by Maxmin's very localist campaign strategies--not everywhere is going to get excited about handmade signs...). And maybe some regions are lost for a century or two. But that doesn't take away from the fact that she was able to change what happened in her district. Maxmin could very easily have embraced fatalism, written off her neighbours as hopelessly backward, and done nothing, but thankfully she didn't and now Maine has one more progressive legislator from a place that hadn't elected one in years.
posted by nangua at 3:12 AM on May 4 [83 favorites]


Jesus and John Wayne, which on its face is about white evangelicals, is all anyone will ever need to know about rural white voters, from now until the end of time. 100% of white conservatism is about white grievance, white nationalism, and keeping up with the white Joneses. Note that this is a conservative thing, not just a Republican thing.
posted by JohnFromGR at 3:14 AM on May 4 [21 favorites]


Stacey Abrams has already campaigned extensively and will win plenty of rural votes in Georgia, because rural Georgia includes lots of Black and Hispanic voters. But she won't get many votes from white rural Georgians, because they, like most white Georgians, are big old racists who love Trump because he says the quiet part out loud. I appreciated that they acknowledged that their strategy isn't the right one for Georgia, but really, very few states are as white as Maine.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:44 AM on May 4 [51 favorites]


This is such a challenging subject to try to tackle, and I appreciate Chloe and Canyon's outlook as much as their detractors. There's truth in all of these peoples' experiences. What to do?! It's all so confusing.

I imagine there's a lot of regionally-relevant variation in statements like this:

Since 2008, residents of small towns have fallen behind cities on many major economic benchmarks, and they watched helplessly as more and more power and wealth were consolidated in cities. We saw up close the loss, hopelessness and frustration that reality has instilled.

I grew up in a rural chicken farming part of the south. I am the product of a 1980s-90s school desegregation-busing system that ended in the early 2010s because the money ran out after the political tides turned and acknowledging the good of deseg was replaced by white pride or racist policies are solved or whatever they're calling it now.

The school system was hugely improved for rural white people like me by allowing me to go from my podunk school (with no walls separating classrooms) to schools in the state's capital city where teachers had advanced degrees and there were AP classes and all that. It worked so well that many, many of us eventually left. Not just our hometowns, not just the state, but the entire region. I'm not even in the same country anymore.

In that context--education, experience with people and the greater world at large--my hometown looks like it's accepted rot and decay as the cost of staying put and resisting any change whatsoever. I go back and good god I miss the natural beauty, the summer indolence, but it takes about three days on average before I have an awful encounter with someone that reminds me why I was willing to leave in the first place. "Keep Your California Out Of My Arkansas" reads a huge bumper sticker slapped on the window of the one gas station in town. Businesses and homes along the main drag have a 50% chance of flying a confederate flag, something that wasn't common when I was young. There is no agricultural industry any longer. That land has been sold to megacorps and nothing was sought in return--no procesing plants, no warehousing or distribution operations, just nothing. Without the military base that's an easy drive away, I doubt there's any solid source of employment anymore.

From my perspective, the loss wasn't passive. My hometown, the people in it, ran away from the changes that would have brought in power and wealth, because it would've also brought in people, outsiders, different folk. It's made me sad to watch this happen over decades because it's less and less possible to excuse it as anything other than what it looks like the more it digs itself in. That loss, hopelessness, and frustration is a price people were and are willing to pay to feel like they're preserving some lost Americana that, to most people, just looks racist and ignorant.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:50 AM on May 4 [96 favorites]


My hot take: whomever kneecapped Howard Dean can die in a fire, thank you.

Yes he was a transplant to a state with less baked in rural conservatism. But he brought the fight to parts of the country that hadn’t seen it in years. He understood that local seats matter, and growing local talent matters, and that takes commitment.

Not like door knocking every rural home is possible or magic, but showing up and sticking around to make sure the message is owned and spoken means it might not get extinguished as quickly, and might carry itself a bit further. It means comfy conservatives have to spend to defend. It means people who self select can have a place to gather and gain strength.
posted by drowsy at 4:19 AM on May 4 [27 favorites]


How does door knocking and thinkpieces about White Plight counter 25/7 Fox news psyop propaganda?
posted by Jacen at 4:23 AM on May 4 [12 favorites]


Oh dear god, how many of these articles is the New York Times going to write?
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 AM on May 4 [41 favorites]


Hillary Clinton talked and talked and talked about “regular [white] American [white] working [white] people,” over and over again, because that’s how the game is played

I'm pretty sure one of the reasons HRC lost was that she was perceived as inauthentic. Trump, for all his evil, put who he was on display. You could tell Clinton hated parts of "the game." If she'd been upfront and called it out for what it was, she might have flipped a few votes in her favor.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:05 AM on May 4 [7 favorites]


I dunno how well "I'm sick and tired of these old rich white male racists deciding anything and everything about our bodies, our families, our lives and our country, so vote for me" would play on a stage larger than, say, a soapbox on a corner. Though it did get AOC a seat, so there's that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:17 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


There are many rural areas that are not white. There are many rural women who are pro abortion. There are many rural folks who are basically communist separatists, left as hell, and many who believe in big government. They don't have. Antional party.

The electoral math isn't going to change, so I do agree that anti- rural chauvinism is the largest failing of the democratic party, but it seems like the party is just going to ignore the problem and allow the continued establishment of minority rule. I think this is what made Joe Manchin the most powerful person in the country.

I think the biggest problems in rural areas are due to the massive losses in local journalists that hit an inflection point around 2013. Such work was never valued at its worth, not even by TFA.

But I think a lot of you here didn't read the article, which is about Democratic Party suppression of local leadership.

I think a lot of what the article argues for, that politics is local and local strategists should have some control over who the party talks to, would be supported by folks here, but the anger in the thread doesn't seem to have allowed people to read the article.
posted by eustatic at 5:20 AM on May 4 [42 favorites]


What's wrong with the American political system - two party system, PACs, redistricting, money, money, money... continue the list please...

In order to win power you need a Plan! That Plan should be set for the long game. Republicans have been doing this for decades. Chiseling away at the poorly constructed institutionalized systems piece by piece. W put in place the 'middle people' - people with the power to appoint, people prepared to sit on committees and raise points of order, people with the power to appoint others to positions of power, decision makers and takers. Hanging chads. Diebold machines - questioning the integrity of the ballot. Legal challenges to counts. Take a closer look at who is appointed (volunteers) to the ballot counting. 'Moms for Schools' outraged at books. Books being banned with no oversight on the 'why'. The race for the PA governor - the Republican front runner is proposing that everyone (EVERYONE!) needs to re-register to vote. Why? Who is in charge of the registration process. Deliberate delays in issuing postal votes (because you MUST vote in person). I suspect it is no mistake that the leak from the Supreme Court will bring out a rallying point for 'all decent Americans to stand up against the moral decay we are seeing'. And people will walk along with this...

The parallels with 1930's Germany are startling...

Sadly the DNC and the majority of Democratic 'leaders' are so wishy-washy as to be worthless. Lacking in charisma and with no true policies. No 'fight'. Again in PA. The choice for candidate with the most energy and the greatest likelihood to succeed is Fetterman. Instead a middle of the road, milquetoast, flaccid, characterless, institution reared guy is pushed to the fore... shaking my head as I mutter and stumble away.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 5:25 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


It's arguing instead that the Democratic Party as an institution does not do a good job campaigning in rural areas.

THIS. 1000%.

Yes, you can criticize the article for being naive and just showing up won't solve the problem, but you do have to show up. Here in Montana, there is no local Democratic chair or committee in 21 of 56 counties (primarily in the east). Despite that, we actually have a Democratic senator, because he lives in that part of the state.

But for state offices, those counties have effectively been abandonned. And for state offices, even winning just a couple seats -- even if you lose the majority -- can make a huge difference in what passes the state legislature.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:26 AM on May 4 [25 favorites]


My hot take: whomever kneecapped Howard Dean can die in a fire, thank you.

Which brings us to something that too often gets overlooked in these political discussions: The need to have a better media.

The so-called "Dean Scream," like so many Democratic "gaffes," was the so-called "liberal media" taking its cues, as usual, from Republican sources. The media has been thoroughly cowed by a decades-long bad-faith Republican campaign to insinuate they are biased, and when Democrats point out that they're doing a terrible job, they smugly say that since they get criticized from both sides, they must be doing a good job.

The media does not report accurately on Republicans, since to objectively report their words and deeds would sound "biased." So, for example, in Maine they let Susan Collins pose as a moderate instead of noting that she basically votes in lockstep with Lindsay Graham and Mike Lee.

Of course, the media is owned by big companies, which have their own biases. And just as the Republican "liberal media" branding effort took decades of hard work and message discipline, it'll take the same for Democrats to pressure the media to do its job. But it needs to happen, if for no other reason as a counterweight to Fox News' constant propaganda.
posted by Gelatin at 6:00 AM on May 4 [23 favorites]


The rural areas of different parts of the country have some important differences that make what works in rural Maine (famously described by a previous Maine politician as “a state of friendly anarchists”) different from what works in rural Idaho, or what works in rural Wisconsin, or what works in rural Arkansas. In particular, there are important differences in racial composition of rural areas in different parts of the country. But even in some of the heavily white areas like Maine (or Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, upstate New York, Kansas, West Virginia), there are histories/traditions of leftist radicalism that local organizers could call on (and in some cases, successfully have) to win elections. But you do need a well-informed local organizer, in a rural area that hasn’t seen too much influx of people fleeing “urban” areas who wouldn’t know the local history and would have a higher than average racial prejudice.

In Maine, for example, Franco-Americans have, by now, mostly been assimilated into whiteness, but at least half would still remember being discriminated against for their background and language. Some politicians like the former governor directed that experience toward resentment against new Black immigrants being settled in heavily Franco-American Lewiston, but others have been able to use that background to get folks on board with politics that promote racial justice. Rural Maine is also very working class (and white, nowadays, yes), and has a strong tradition of Grange Halls, which were more leftist organizations. There’s also a strong tradition of letting people alone to live as they please, which has at times been harnessed to support lgbtq rights in the state. On the other hand, the various waves of back to the landers who moved to Maine, starting in Thoreau’s time, with another wave at some point in the first half of the 1900s (I forget exactly when Helen and Scott Nearing moved to Maine - maybe 1940s or 1950s? - but they were part of a small wave), and again in the 1970s, have included the whole gamut, from outright cults that have developed into very conservative religious enclaves, to far left people from anarchists to hippies to lesbian separatists. A Democrat isn’t going to have success campaigning in Hibbert’s Gore or the couple communities around the state where people regularly tack fire and brimstone messages to their local telephone poles for passing motorists, and you can definitely find racist as heck and all-round mean-spirited hardline Baptists (the suspicious of even just dancing variety, not the at least racial justice minded Southern Baptist variety) in Washington County. But you’ll also find the folks who subsist on seasonal labor who are highly receptive to an economically progressive or even anti-capitalist message, and wouldn’t be swayed from that by racial prejudice; folks who understand very well that drug addiction needs to be treated as a health issue rather than criminalized, because rural Maine (and Washington County in particular) was the second epicentre of the creeping OxyContin disaster (after Appalachia); and even though many rural communities now are dead-end places to grow up in, you’ll find elderly people who have wide experience of the world from working on trade ships back when their coastal communities were more prosperous or who have worked with a more diverse array of other labourers in fishing or forestry or farming when those industries were more profitable, and thus have a less myopic perspective on cultural differences. Those folks have elected progressive politicians in the past, and there are still enough of them that they could do so again with adequate organizing, or continue to do so when there is a local candidate who can steer sentiment in a more progressive direction.

In summary, rural areas, like urban areas and suburban areas, vary and can be quite a complex mix of people. In my experience living in both rural and urban areas (East Coast and Upper Midwest), most people in urban areas don’t really think about rural areas one way or another. But pundits who do comment in ways that get back to rural areas (and rural areas have to pay more attention to more populous areas, for economic reasons, so you don’t usually find people in rural areas who just don’t think about urban areas much one way or another) absolutely tend to be oblivious and condescending toward people in rural areas. At the same time, it is absolutely a problem that land votes more than people in some cases in the US federal system.
posted by eviemath at 6:41 AM on May 4 [33 favorites]


The article, and especially the comments in this thread remind me how utterly feckless the Democratic Party is, and how thoroughly it's doomed. It's goddamned depressing.

The Democrats have forgotten that the _entire_ point of elections is winning them -- and becoming the party in power. I haven't yet figured out what the Democrats are actually trying to do, but whatever that is, it certainly doesn't involve winning elections. "Oh my god, we can't possibly try to win the votes of people who might disagree with us on some issues!" Handwringing bullshit. How about instead just doing what it takes to win the fucking elections, and then worrying about purity later. Or, even better, fuck purity.

It's also amazing to me that the Democrats stood by like wallflowers for THIRTY YEARS while the Republics executed their STATED INTENTION to take back as many State Legislatures as they could. I mean, what the fuck? The Democrats must have forgotten who draws Congressional District boundaries. There's no other explanation. Well, none other than Democrats in general don't seem to give a single fuck about down ballot elections.

In summary, we're fucked.
posted by smcdow at 6:42 AM on May 4 [26 favorites]


I grew up in a a rural area outside Baltimore, and when I was a kid it was already the beginning of it transitioning from true rural (i.e., a lot of farmers) to a much more wealthy exurb. That patterns has continued for the last thirty years, and it's now solidly wealthy and reliably republican. So when people talk about the "rural voters" here, they aren't salt of the earth farmers, they are rich white folks who wanted to get as far away from the "city folk" as they could. Their "values" mostly consist of trying to hurt Baltimore as much as possible, and getting their taxes cut. If a Democrat needs to connect with these voters on those values, I'm pretty sure it would entail giving up most of the values that would make them a Democrat.
posted by Zargon X at 6:46 AM on May 4 [14 favorites]


The main trouble with the Democrats' messaging is that it is the de-facto party of sane people. It is one graduation-sized tent trying to keep in every fair-minded person from what Europeans would call the center-right to the progressive left. Don't want a death cult in charge? You got the Democrats, and that's it. The GOP, by contrast, is a katamari of madness, single-minded, free to roll where it will and destroy what it pleases. The Democrats are trying to represent every decent American; it is too heavy a lift. But thanks to our first-past-the-post system, they have to try.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:48 AM on May 4 [19 favorites]


I'm increasingly of the opinion that one of the key differences between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats trust that institutions will function as designed, the actions of individuals be damned, while Republicans trust in the actions of individuals will function to the party's goals, institutions be damned.

We can see which of these are more effective in terms of getting things done.
posted by SansPoint at 6:49 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Call me a vulgar Marxist, but this trope of "listen, just really genuinely listen..." as an effective political strategy is inane. The Democratic Party situates itself to the left of a morally bankrupt, fascist threat on the right, but are institutionally limited by their funders and structure from delivering major wins for working people, and instead they can only play "hardball" (sort of, sometimes) around identity & social issues. In the few moments that political parties deliver universal benefits, they gain support.

Stop this game of psychologizing everything political. Democrats are not "wimps" or somehow bad at politics - they are consciously positioned to win about half of national elections and perpetually raise money by talking about the threat of the Republicans. Certainly, there could be social movements and organizing that pushes the Democrats into a more effective and dominant party nationally... but its not b/c they are currently tripping over their feet or not "listening." That's nuts and has zero historical basis. Its a right wing talking point, really (liberal elites that live in the Beltway are OUT OF TOUCH.)

So, I don't know Chloe Maxmin from a hole in the wall, so I don't know if she's more naive or more politically calculated (why not both), but this particular theory of change is... wrong.

(I am not saying you shouldn't vote Democratic or spend time doorknocking or whatever. I am not saying the Ds and Rs are the same.)

posted by RajahKing at 7:00 AM on May 4 [10 favorites]


Yes, doorknocking has concrete benefits. The last time I did it, half the conversations (when there were conversations) were about arranging rides to the polls.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:09 AM on May 4 [8 favorites]


I am born and raised in Oakland, California, grew up in the segregated crack-shocked 80s and live here now amidst the greatest homeless crisis in a century. I'm an urban person and urban problems are the most 'important' because most people are here in the city. But... every time I visit rural California I am struck by how our Democratic state government conveys utter disregard for rural people. It seems relatively easy to improve living conditions in rural areas: Beef up school funding, modernize and expand services at the local community centers and social services, do some kind of public works programs like solar-fication, expand health center funding and do incentive programs for skilled workers in rural areas. Put some money into recreation programs. But the message is a loud we don't give a fuck. If I was a Democratic strategist, my idea would be to actually give good services to the people you want to vote for you. Well, that applies to urban settings too: California is likely about to just hand money back to residents instead of putting our surplus (!!) back into schools, healthcare, transit, and urban (and rural) planning initiatives. A totally achievable project in California would be a big but time limited public works infrastructure program where we renovate the HVAC systems and add cooling and solar to every school, community center, senior center and library in the state. Would provide good jobs and also help mitigate the suffering we are absolutely certainly going to keep suffering with airborne disease and wildfire smoke. In short, my One Neat Trick for the Democratic Party is to fucking do good policy.
posted by latkes at 7:12 AM on May 4 [24 favorites]


It occurs to me that I didn't give a concrete example of how Democrats are campaigning in rural areas in Georgia. Stacey Abrams is making the Republican failure to expand Medicaid and the subsequent destruction of rural hospitals one of her biggest issues. I can think of few things that devastate rural communities and destroy their likelihood of continued existence quite like the closing of small rural local hospitals so that people have to travel some distance for any healthcare at all (9 counties in Georgia don't have any doctors at all) and even further for an ER.

Stacey is the only candidate for governor talking about this issue, the kind of thing that actually affects real rural voters. Brian Kemp and David Perdue are too busy arguing about who loves Trump more and hates immigrants more. Guess who the white rural (and suburban) voters still prefer?
posted by hydropsyche at 7:14 AM on May 4 [26 favorites]


oh my god what a 40 million word load of gobbldygook. door knocking, empathy, listening to people.. cmon. that is not what dems need, especially not in places that are heavily white and rural.

Tell me you’ve never run for office without telling me you’ve never run for office.

Just what exactly do you think gets people to vote for you who are otherwise not inclined to vote for you? TV ads? Flyers? Signs? People - most people - vote for the person they like. Not the policy they like, the person. You want someone to like you, introduce yourself, talk, and listen. The extra 50, 100, 1000 votes you get may make the difference.

LGM’s “takedown” is condescending bullshit and they should be ashamed.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:23 AM on May 4 [22 favorites]


maybe I should work for an idea like fully automated luxury pansexual space communism?

I'm a Trekkie, so duh. In the meantime, though, gotta eat.


Keep doing what you gotta do to eat and always be probing for work assignments under fully automated pansexual space communists.
posted by otherchaz at 7:32 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


I thought "Green New Deal" was bad branding, even though I agree with most of it. We need a Fair Deal.

Our society disproportionately favors the wealthy? That's not fair.

The Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half. That's not fair.

And so on.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:40 AM on May 4 [7 favorites]


I grew up in rural America. I don't want rapproachment, I don't want peace with those scum of the earth. I want everything they've done to women, minorites, marginalized communites returned tenfold. I want their racist fascist faces ground into the dirt where they belong.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:53 AM on May 4 [10 favorites]


The Democrats are trying to represent every decent American

There's that old anecdote about Adlai Stevenson, where someone in a rally crowd shouts at him "Every right-thinking American supports you", and he replies "Thanks, but I need a majority".
posted by gimonca at 7:58 AM on May 4 [19 favorites]


There's also the demographic of people engaged in Country Cosplay to consider, too. People who are in reality probably upper-middle-class, comfortable, managerial, live in fourth-ring suburbs, but drive monster pickups, follow pop country music, might keep more guns than usual around the house, might attend a megachurch, and dead sure of themselves in their delusions. Those are the people who actually had the resources to take time off from work and fly to DC on January 6 to continue their delusionary habits. They haven't been near an actual farm in years, but they'd like you to think that they're "real Americans".

Genuine rural people can be toxic and awful too--just wanted to pull out that there are two different subspecies in the mix here.
posted by gimonca at 8:05 AM on May 4 [17 favorites]


I lived in central Jersey for a bit, and understand that it, like much of Maryland, was indeed actually rural as recently as the 1970s. But I wouldn’t describe anywhere in Maryland, Deleware, or New Jersey as actually rural in the present day. Exurbs yes, but not rural.

(There’s an additional distinction, geography-wise though maybe or maybe not politically, between industrial-rural (giant Midwestern farms or forestry plantations in some other parts of the country) and wild-rural. That’s probably a derail for this thread though.)
posted by eviemath at 8:13 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


The choice for candidate with the most energy and the greatest likelihood to succeed is Fetterman.

You mean the guy who literally pulled a gun on an unarmed black man for no reason on camera? This statement illustrates the issue that people are having with all this, because a Fetterman campaign is going to have to ask black Pennsylvanians to hold their noses and vote for a man who has publicly engaged in the behavior they are demanding end. But no, he's the "electable" one because (as another LGM commentor put it) he "speaks fluent meathead."

LGM’s “takedown” is condescending bullshit and they should be ashamed.

Campos' point is that we need to stop wrapping the argument that we need to work on contesting rural areas with bullshit paeans to the "character" of rural areas, because they are intellectually indefensible and illustrate how the rural areas get coddled by our system that grants them oversized political power.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:25 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


The main trouble with the Democrats' messaging is that it is the de-facto party of sane people. It is one graduation-sized tent trying to keep in every fair-minded person from what Europeans would call the center-right to the progressive left.

This is pretty accurate, but I don't think it goes quite far enough. The problem with the Democrats is that, as a result of their big tent policy, as a party they don't really stand for anything, other than "be a Democrat." This is why Joe Manchin, who refuses to sign on to most Democratic policies, can be a Democrat. This is why Nancy Pelosi can spend this week campaigning for Henry Cuellar, an anti-choice Democrat who votes with the party less than half the time. The party is too wide in its focus to have any ideological message beyond the most banal cliches that won't offend anybody, and a lot of people have quite rightly decided that the party doesn't have any core beliefs as a result, because the Democrats are for labour so long as they don't have to do anything, and abortion rights so long as they don't have to do anything, and civil rights so long as they don't have to do anything, because doing something might anger some Democrats.
posted by mightygodking at 8:28 AM on May 4 [15 favorites]


I don't think we can win in 2022 or 2024 by knockin' on rural doors. But where would we be today if the DNC had invested time, money, and empathy into each and every county nationwide for the last 20 years? Who knows. Where might we be in 2050 if we start now? Or don't.
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:33 AM on May 4 [13 favorites]


how the rural areas get coddled by our system that grants them oversized political power.

Well, no shit. Rural areas are coddled because if your party wants to be in power, then you need their votes, full stop. There is absolutely no getting around that reality. It's baked in to the Constitution.

Also, spoiler: If you want to change the system, then you'll need to amend the Constitution. Which of course means that the votes of those coddled areas are even more crucial toward that end.

The fact that the Democrats are so disinterested in winning those votes is yet more proof of the party's fecklessness. It is exactly the reason why we have minority rule in this country.
posted by smcdow at 8:36 AM on May 4 [9 favorites]


It doesn't matter. One side has to tell mostly the truth. One side gets to lie. And they can lie as loud as they want via Fox News streaming into every diner, hair salon, autobody shop, and medical office in most of America. Their lies are tied into damn near every church in the nation where anti-abortion rhetoric has been tied to their immortal souls every week (or more) of their lives.

Don't try to play fair. Extend them the courtesy they've always shown you. This is a fight. Fight them. Hurt them. Do not give them a goddamn thing ever.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:39 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


Beto O’Rourke campaigned in every fucking county in Texas (254!) and they still elected Ted Cruz.

Giving a policy sound bite to the opposition seems to be a point being made in the original post. When O'Rourke bombastically declared his intention to "take" away assault rifles in a national debate, he instantly shot himself in the foot with most rural voters from the attitude alone. O'Rourke basically verified the content of the conservative lie machine about guns, which raises a very disturbing thought that the left is often tethered to a right wing public relations campaign without knowing it, allowing conservatives to dictate policy with obverse mind control by prompting liberals to repeat the lies, though not with denial, but with a policy written for the lie. To be clear, O'Rourke even phrased it in a way that ignored his own buyback plan or any proposed restrictions being debated, and gave himself and his party full credit for being able to confiscate guns after elected.
posted by Brian B. at 9:51 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


You mean the guy who literally pulled a gun on an unarmed black man for no reason on camera? This statement illustrates the issue that people are having with all this, because a Fetterman campaign is going to have to ask black Pennsylvanians to hold their noses and vote for a man who has publicly engaged in the behavior they are demanding end. But no, he's the "electable" one because (as another LGM commentor put it) he "speaks fluent meathead."

Fetterman has far, far more Black support in Pennsylvania than centrist empty vessel du jour Conor Lamb, for what it's worth.
posted by Gadarene at 9:52 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Well, no shit. Rural areas are coddled because if your party wants to be in power, then you need their votes, full stop. There is absolutely no getting around that reality. It's baked in to the Constitution.

Also, spoiler: If you want to change the system, then you'll need to amend the Constitution. Which of course means that the votes of those coddled areas are even more crucial toward that end.

The fact that the Democrats are so disinterested in winning those votes is yet more proof of the party's fecklessness. It is exactly the reason why we have minority rule in this country.


This is one of those arguments which is correct in the letter but fails in the spirit, because many people who are "disinterested in winning those votes" perceive - not unfairly - that winning those votes frequently involves compromising core values. If Democrats have to pander to bigots in order to create change, it's entirely fair for people who, say, want laws implementing less bigotry to say "this makes no sense" because it absolutely doesn't make sense to pander to bigots in the service of less bigotry.

I know that this is not the whole of the argument and part of it is trying to appeal to moderates and Democrats living in rural areas to try and excite and activate them. It is absolutely fair to say that the Democrats should be working harder at that. But a lot of people have quite correctly pointed out that the rural moderates and Democrats are outnumbered by the rural bigots, and taking a deep breath and saying "welp we gotta get more racist" in order to deal with that is a plan many people will refuse to get on board with, because it's wrong.
posted by mightygodking at 9:59 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Fetterman has some baggage, but he's walking the walk. He's visiting every county, he's meeting people, and he's speaking to them and listening to them. He's open about what he believes in and what he wants to do if he gets there.

Every rural county in America has some people in it who are reachable. They may be vastly outnumbered, but they're out there. The return on that time and effort investment may be low, but low isn't zero, especially in a statewide race.
posted by delfin at 10:19 AM on May 4 [9 favorites]


... because many people who are "disinterested in winning those votes" perceive - not unfairly - that winning those votes frequently involves compromising core values.

I submit that these people are not, in fact, interested in winning actual elections.

That's fine as far as it goes, but I think it's severely disingenuous for these people to pretend that they want their party to be the one in power. The reality is quite the opposite.
posted by smcdow at 11:38 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I live in an area that's probably demographically similar to the district Chloe Maxmin represents. Her strategy appears very sensible. Thank you for posting this.
posted by riruro at 11:49 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


Maybe the first ten years I lived here in Texas it was quite common to see a lot of pickups (cars also but pickups for sure) with bumper stickers "Texas Democrat."

I haven't seen one of those bumper stickers in a long, long time.

Here in recent years I've read some about JFK, and watched some documentaries, and it's given me a bit of perspective on that. LBJ and JFK, they didn't love each other, or even like each other, and RFK had Johnson pegged as a big piece of shit, and was infuriated when JFK selected him as running mate.

But Kennedy didn't see himself getting the south without LBJ. Democrats were the party of racism, Jim Crow, the KKK. Learning this was a huge surprise to me. Huge. And while JFK was a Democrat, southern Democrats didn't trust him, with good reason. LBJ tipped the scale just enough for Kennedy to get to sit in the big chair.

And that appears (to me, anyway) appears to be the reason that there is no longer any "Texas Democrat" stickers on the back of pickup trucks. JFK and then LBJ, what they did pretty much flipped the Democratic party upside down and inside out. The fact that it happened so fast, it's just amazing to me.

Mind, I'm no political historian, what I've written here is what I've picked up on my own. But I've come across it enough to believe that there is at least some truth in it.

How the Republicans became the party of the blue-collar person, it's beyond me. But it does appear that is the case.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:51 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Oh and Chloe I get that you’re a young woman on the make and again I wish you nothing but the best

Well, hot damn.


Wishing someone nothing but the best is the Northern, non-rural version of "bless your heart."
posted by fuse theorem at 11:54 AM on May 4 [10 favorites]


How the Republicans became the party of the blue-collar person, it's beyond me. But it does appear that is the case.

This is not the case; it's been consistent for years that the more money you make, the more likely you are to vote Republican.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:05 PM on May 4 [8 favorites]


Brian B, the election O’Rourke lost to Cruz was before he said much about guns. His statements were made after the El Paso mass shooting during his unnecessary presidential campaign.
posted by Selena777 at 12:08 PM on May 4 [5 favorites]


So here we are, traumatized and in emotional agony by the fall of Roe and the blueprint for the roll back of every civil rights gain for the past 70 years.

How, precicely, did the author of that piece decide that **NOW** is the time to pen the ten trillionth article snidely informing eveyrone that the only way forward for the Democrats is to toss everyone who isn't a cis het white male Chrstian conservative under the bus to continue futilly chasing after the mythic "Reagan Democrat"?

It feels not so much tone deaf as actviely malicious, actively seeking to inflict as much extra pain on us as possible.

"Hi Democrats, feeling bad about hte end of Roe, well let me tell you why you should abandon all your principles and go grovel before rural white supremacists begging for their votes becuase you damn sure don't matter!"

Thanks. I was feeling bad already, I really needed that extra kick in the teeth to make my day that much worse.
posted by sotonohito at 12:10 PM on May 4 [13 favorites]


Rural bigots have proven that they will vote against their interests, and the world's, so in theory there's a way to not be bigots and get their votes. Education, jobs, the usual. I don't know.

It's equally possible that bigotry is purely the point, of course, and dear friends, I hate this timeline
posted by Jacen at 12:18 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]


How the Republicans became the party of the blue-collar person, it's beyond me. But it does appear that is the case.

Racism mostly but homophobia and lately trans-phobia too.
posted by octothorpe at 12:31 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


I submit that these people are not, in fact, interested in winning actual elections.

That's fine as far as it goes, but I think it's severely disingenuous for these people to pretend that they want their party to be the one in power. The reality is quite the opposite.


"These people" came out in record numbers in 2008 and in 2016 and then came close to a new record in 2020 (and 2012 for that matter). They delivered the Democrats both Houses of Congress and the Presidency not once but twice without compromising their values, and the first time they managed to give the Democrats a supermajority in the Senate to boot, and the Democrats not once but twice mostly wasted it despite having the opportunity to implement institutional change to make elections fairer and benefit their own party, despite the left begging and pleading with them to do so.

The Democrats are, right now, campaigning on abortion rights again, despite Joe Biden being literally the third Democratic president in the last thirty years to promise to codify Roe into law and then not do it. Why should anybody take them seriously? Why should anybody take any Democrat insisting that the only way to win is to compromise their principles when A) they have won without compromising their principles before B) the route to long-term electoral victory is systematic change and C) the Democrats aren't willing to enact that systematic change? What the fuck good is campaigning on abortion rights when the Supreme Court will cheerfully overturn any federal abortion rights law for the flimsiest of reasons and the Democrats have looked at court reform and decided they're not interested?

I have said before and will say again: you can only say "the other side is worse" and expect to get votes for so long before voters look at you and say "and what the fuck have you done, exactly, to make my life better?" Blaming the voters for being unenthusiastic about a party that is, by all appearances, disinterested in helping them is blaming the wrong people.
posted by mightygodking at 12:49 PM on May 4 [12 favorites]


I have only scanned the thread, having seen TFA (and the LG&M takedown of it) yesterday.

All of the people who are saying that maybe we should pay attention to the lesson of Ms. Maxmin's win, consider this: the lesson is that even a Democratic woman can win a local election with no exposure to national political concerns, as long as she's white and takes pains not to offend the sensibilities of people who have no generosity or compassion or even pity for anybody who's not exactly like them. If the seat had any significance in national politics, or had Ms. Maxmin been any less assiduous at being inoffensive toward people who are offended by the very existence of people unlike themselves, Ms. Maxmin would have lost to a bog-standard hatemongering Republican lackwit.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 12:54 PM on May 4 [9 favorites]


As someone who lives in a small community far from the urban center of my state, and as someone who is trying with very limited success to revive a nearly-dead Democratic party framework here, I'd appreciate if those of you who have apparently internalized the message that all rural white voters are inherently bigots could shut the f*ck up.

Believe whatever you want, if you must, but shut the f*ck up with the condescending stereotyping. Because whether you intend to or not, you are reinforcing a framework that the Republican party has spent decades and billions of dollars to build and it is hard enough to chip away at it without you spewing crap all over the place.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:02 PM on May 4 [39 favorites]


Blaming the voters for being unenthusiastic about a party that is, by all appearances, disinterested in helping them is blaming the wrong people.

Well, then, my original thesis stands: We're fucked.
posted by smcdow at 1:20 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]


all rural white voters are inherently bigots

Is it the "inherently" you object to? Because the recent voting record is clear (for openly bigoted candidates), and also which attitudes are most correlated with that voting record (being bigoted).
posted by praemunire at 1:24 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]


I think "all" is pretty patently incorrect also. Which, as noted, matters, especially when you're talking about statewide elections.
posted by Gadarene at 1:26 PM on May 4


I didn't say that all rural voters were racist but that the Republican party has become the majority party in most rural areas largely because of their racist policies and effective use of dog-whistles. You can draw your own conclusions as to why rural voters find that appealing.
posted by octothorpe at 1:44 PM on May 4 [5 favorites]


I didn't say that all rural voters were racist but that the Republican party has become the majority party in most rural areas largely because of their racist policies and effective use of dog-whistles


Los Angeles City Council District 11 candidate panel question . LA is majority renter, including this district. Are none of these people Democrats? Per the thread, the only black guy running actually did raise his hand yes. Still pretty weak, but people rain so much scorn on rural people for the exact same policy outcomes.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:11 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I didn't just say all rural white Georgians are racist, I said all white Georgians are racist. Because we are. All the white people in your state are racist, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:11 PM on May 4 [4 favorites]


every time i read an article like that, i think of this.
"I’m apolitical, but I do vote Republican more often than not locally, because I know the people personally."
like, okay, maybe it is personal. but that dude is a guy with a trans daughter, and he doesn't understand why the republicans are working to extinguish his daughter.

but he'll keep voting for them.

knock on doors, i guess. shake hands with them, have conversations with them. maybe it'll work.

i hope his daughter lives long enough to escape alabama.
posted by i used to be someone else at 4:01 PM on May 4 [8 favorites]


But a lot of people have quite correctly pointed out that the rural moderates and Democrats are outnumbered by the rural bigots

This is far less correct than you seem to believe, in a number of important details.

First, the framing that people can be sorted as bigoted or not bigoted is bullshit. More accurately, almost everyone holds bigoted beliefs on at least some issues and to varying degrees. And a large majority of people also hold some more pro-social beliefs or values on some issues to varying degrees. Which values or beliefs they are activated to vote based on depends, in the majority of cases, on a variety of factors from the social/political/media environment that people are surrounded by.

Second, it is majorly inaccurate to speak of all rural areas of the US as being politically (or in any other way) identical. I see from your profile you’re in Toronto: for a Canadian comparison, that’s about as dumb as lumping Iqaluit and Fort McMurray together because they’re both population centres in northern Canada. Yeah there’s going to be a few similarities based on that geographic detail, but very few.


Rural bigots have proven that they will vote against their interests, and the world's, so in theory there's a way to not be bigots and get their votes.

It’s not that the main idea expressed here is wrong, so much as the “rural” modifier is an extraneous nonsequitor with regards to the general point. Democrats do need to target voters who may potentially vote Democratic. For the current Democratic Party, that means that there are indeed voters whose values and beliefs are too far afield in the anti-progressive direction that they aren’t worth the resources to reach out to. The majority of the US is fairly purple, and the geography of such voters is notably broader than the campaigning focus of the national DNC for the last couple decades has acknowledged, however. Based on personal experience, this seems very likely to me to be a classism issue.
posted by eviemath at 4:11 PM on May 4 [11 favorites]


I think from a resources standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for the national Democratic party to focus on urban communities... it's easier to knock on doors, they are more likely to be liberal voters. But that doesn't mean that rural communities and their members can't be reached out to, or that people can't change.

I do think there is an issue with many Democrats, where they focus on policy or high-level ideas or programs that you need to apply to instead of creating something they can point to that affects everyone or creating a durable institution that can be built upon. That's why Republicans are scared of Medicare expansion and the ACA and teaching kids to be kind, why the Republicans are talking about inflation.

The thing is the Republicans sell fear of things getting worse, and things still get worse. Democrats can sell the hope that things get better. Union organizers feed workers they are trying to organize, so that people come and listen and begin to think about how things could change.
posted by Chrysopoeia at 4:19 PM on May 4 [5 favorites]


I don't see where finding common ground with people automatically equals pandering to their negatives.

I know a PA rural county commissioner who is republican, hates Trump, did a class presentation on how to convince people that the US should admit far more refugees, and was very concerned about administering the county prison humanely.

I know long term very rural upstate NY dairy farmers who have always been democrats.

Lancaster PA enthusiastically settles and embraces one of largest numbers of refugees per capita in the county. It's also very religiously conservative in many ways.

Rural PA has a lot of solar panels on houses and businesses. Farmers have done lot to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Selling them on the benefits doesn't mean you also need to talk about the parts we disagree on.

There was a recent court challenge to the school funding formula in PA. Rural and urban school districts worked together on it.

Malcolm Kenyatta, the third PA Democrat senate candidate no one has yet mentioned, the Black gay candidate from North Philadelphia, is a state house rep now and has cosponsored bills with state republicans on topics like making it easier for people reentering society after prison to get jobs.

At the same time I don't see anyone here arguing that we can never talk to the construction unions, despite their significant racism problems. There are plenty of racist urban democrats, and plenty of rich capitalist urban democrats. If we can work with them on things we agree on, we can work with rural voters on things we agree on. Single party places can hold a lot of variety within those names.
posted by sepviva at 4:52 PM on May 4 [26 favorites]


Getting a rural voter to vote Democrat also takes a vote away from the Republicans, which is a double bonus. Rural voters usually always vote. They might even realize afterwards that voting Democrat is no moral dilemma that endangers one's soul, since it's mostly about family support and healthcare and stuff that doesn't come up in church that often. Contrast this with choosing to convince a disinterested but like-minded urban dweller to vote, who is often not registered, nor knows where to vote in their district because they move around. Even if you do all that and drive them to the polls for this one time occurrence, they might only vote for the third party candidate, who they know least about and is therefore least flawed to them.
posted by Brian B. at 4:55 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I have read the article & I think there are some good ideas in it. (I thought her work in setting up a mutual aid network for community members during the COVID pandemic was brilliant.) However, I'm still trying to figure out why the sentence "The choice to prioritize turnout in Democratic strongholds over persuasion of moderate voters has cost the party election after election." bugs me so much. I'm not even sure it's empirically true. If anything, I would argue that the Democrats have underperformed at both turnout mobilization and persuasion. The author may have a point that Democrats have under-prioritized persuasion of non-base voters, but that state of affairs is not because Democrats are spending too much on mobilization. If anything, I suspect there's a lot of false dichotomy and "Why not both?" going on here.

On the other hand, on some level, the right balance between mobilization and persuasion should probably be viewed as more of a math and demographics problem than as a "struggle for the soul of the party" proxy fight. If you are running in a jurisdiction with a lot of mobilizable voters but not as many persuadable voters, you should spend more on mobilization of your base. If you are running in a jurisdiction with few mobilizable voters, then you should spend more on persuasion. And in other jurisdictions, the combination of mobilizable & persuadable voters might never get you close to 50%+1. So, in those races, you pick whatever strategy works best for the long game.
posted by jonp72 at 6:23 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


They might even realize afterwards that voting Democrat is no moral dilemma that endangers one's soul, since it's mostly about family support and healthcare and stuff that doesn't come up in church that often.

I'm begging you, look at the "front page" of the New York Times website today. Observe the issue dominating the headlines, as it has all week. Ask yourself, is it possible that this issue is ever touched upon in church? Perhaps? Maybe, from time to time?

Every single one of you talking about accommodating and persuading and the like: you are talking about selling out Roe. Just be very clear and explicit in your minds that you are cool with that, because conservatives are very clear and explicit that they're about to destroy it. No dogwhistles here. Your "good" Trump-hating Republicans? Are glad to give Roe away.
posted by praemunire at 6:38 PM on May 4 [8 favorites]


My hot take: whomever kneecapped Howard Dean can die in a fire, thank you.

I'm afraid Obama's to blame for that.

After Howard Dean recaptured the White House, the House, the Senate, seven governor's mansions, and eight state legislatures by the end of 2008, what did Obama do? He replaced Dean with Tim Kaine as head of the Democratic National committee without even inviting Dean to the press conference announcing Kaine's appointment (cite).

In addition to relying on his background as a community organizer to win over Democratic primary voters, Obama created the campaign mobilization juggernaut, Obama for America. After his 2008 victory, Obama and his team contemplated converting Obama for America into the lobbying vehicle, Organizing for America, but instead of keeping it independent, they effectively neutered it by turning over all its resources to the Democratic National Committee (cite). One cruelly ironic part is that Tim Kaine presided over the dismantlement of Organizing for America while he was head of the DNC, but if Obama's 2008 mobilization machine had still been in place in 2016, he might have become Vice President, instead of Mike Pence.
posted by jonp72 at 6:38 PM on May 4 [14 favorites]




Is gaining a foothold in rural areas more or less achievable than successfully contesting the electoral college?
posted by Selena777 at 6:59 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


@jonp72. Thank you for that. I remember he showed Dean the door and I was pissed. Dean the candidate got bodied and tossed and then again in the manner you described.

I agree that Obama ignored the party and gave back not much. I think Obama and Clinton felt that digital was enough. (Clinton failed to visit Milwaukee - forget the dairyland) Groundwork takes data that is hard to buy - the comments from canvassers in VAN (dem voter turnout and turf db) The Clinton/Obama brain trust was ready to defeat that too. VAN is built on the backs of losing as well as winning campaigns, and when Wasserman attacked Bernie for the vendor glitch she broke every rule for a cheap 12hr media burn. It was gross.

I see some light out there though, Abrams obvs, even the Pod Save crowd has been putting in a lot of work on trainings and highlighting people who do the work. DSA is out there competing. But we need storefront offices in every town again, I am eager to see who can do that again.
posted by drowsy at 7:23 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


Selena777 Interesting question and I don't know of course. My gut feeling says "probably about the same, with maybe the National Popular Vote Interstate Project making EC reform slightly more achievable"?

Rural areas....

If you've never lived in a rural area its really hard to explain just how intensely tribal it gets, how homogenous, how scared of outsiders and change and difference.

In part it's because rural areas really are under siege economically speaking. Small town America isn't dying, it's a shambling corpse waiting for the final blow to end its suffering. Blame farming automation. Back in the 1790's about 70% of Americans lived and worked on farms. In the 1950's it was around 40%. Today? 0.5%.

People talk about "revitalizing" or "reviving" small town America but it's all bullshit and the people there know it is and often feel really fucking resentful about it. There's no saving small town America because there's no need for small town America any longer. It existed to serve a large population living spread out on farms and that population no longer exists.

They see their kids flee to the cities and they resent it. They want to leave themselves but don't have the money to make the jump. They depend utterly on what little tourist trade they can eke out, which isn't much in most places, and a the hotels and gas stations that serve people driving from one city to the next who have to stop in their small town on the way.

Rural America is the heart of the meth and opiate epidemic largely because of the despair that is as much a part of the landscape as the trees and grass. There's no hope, nothing to do.

And in a situation like that people look for scapegoats. It's the fault of the liberals. The ecofreaks. The hippies. The tree huggers. The foreigners. The Muslims. The Jews. The college elites. The cities. The Democrats.

And Republicans are really, really, really, good at exploiting that sense of resentment and sullen anger at everyone doing better than they are.

I lived in Amarillo TX, which ain't exactly rural, but I worked in every two bit little nowhere within 150 miles of Amarillo for a couple of years, and I taught at a nearby rural school for a year.

They're Republican because the Republicans will lie to them, will tell them that they're the most important, that they **CAN** save their small town, that their small town way of life is morally superior, that all the people they hate really are responsible for their problems and that the bold brave Republicans will stand up and hurt those motherfuckers who dared to mess with you good rural people!

Winning rural America would mean being able to convince the people there (or, rather, the majority of the people there) that the Democrats aren't actually demonically possessed pedophiles. It'd require either lying to them just as much as the Republicans do, or more, or it'd require getting them to accept the truth that they are so desperate to avoid admitting.

Basically all they've got is a lot of resentment and an unearned sense of moral superiority. What can the Democrats offer them to give that up?

Worse, they've been convinced that accepting the only real help that can exist (welfare, relocation and retraining money) is a "handout" and that they need a "hand up" (fantasy revitalization projects, the return of some long lost industry or resource extraction facility).

Hillary Clinton famously tried to be honest with some coal mining rural types and the Republicans quite successfully presented her honesty and genuine offer of help as her mocking them and insulting them.

I think Clinton did the absolute best outreach to rural America we've seen in a long time from Democrats, and you see how successful it was. They hated her for it. And yes, the Clinton name has some baggage, but that alone doesn't explain the vitriol and hate that she got for telling rural Americans the truth.

TL;DR I don't see any way the Democrats can capture any significant fraction of the rural white vote.
posted by sotonohito at 7:23 PM on May 4 [27 favorites]


being unenthusiastic about a party that is, by all appearances, disinterested in helping them is blaming the wrong people.

That's not exactly true. Obamacare helped a lot of them. Democrats create the majority of programs to boost education. They have tried all kinds of programs to incentivize bringing tech companies to rural areas and training programs for people like coal miners whose jobs are obsolete. Food aid programs benefit the poor in rural areas too.

Trump's feuding with China damaged farmers' finances. Republican technocrats made rural internet harder to get and more expensive. The Republicans were the ones that abolished the bureau of mines which had a lot of safety programs for miners.

Don't tell me that it's the Republicans that actually take care of rural voters. They just know how to weaponize culture wars, racism, homophobia, and hating that the education programs help everyone rather than just them.
posted by Candleman at 8:28 PM on May 4 [15 favorites]


If you've never lived in a rural area its really hard to explain just how intensely tribal it gets, how homogenous, how scared of outsiders and change and difference.

Again, this varies and is not universally true of all rural regions in the US.
posted by eviemath at 8:35 PM on May 4 [8 favorites]


Do folks making sweeping generalizations about rural areas also think that all cities are the same? No major differences between any of the cities on this list versus any of these cities?
posted by eviemath at 8:50 PM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Rural Youth Vote demographic

Like older voters, youth in rural areas also preferred Trump to Biden, but by a much narrower margin. Young voters in urban areas backed Biden, 74% to 24%, youth in suburban areas by 65% to 32%, and youth in rural/small towns supported Trump, 50% to 47%.
The main difference is youth of color who reported living in a rural/small town, 73% of whom voted for Biden and 24% for Trump. By contrast, white youth from rural areas or small towns backed Trump by a 60% to 37% margin that was nearly identical to the vote choice of rural/small town voters overall.


Op-ed by political scientist at a Christian college offering a warning to conservatives

Finally, Republicans have misread rural support for Republicans as support for limited government. That is wrong. Rural voters are fine with higher taxes and more spending if they think it helps them. Their current anti-government views reflect a belief that most government aid goes to urban areas.
posted by Brian B. at 9:10 PM on May 4 [7 favorites]


I think Clinton did the absolute best outreach to rural America we've seen in a long time from Democrats, and you see how successful it was.

Doesn't the above article literally say "the Clinton campaign had only a single staff person doing rural outreach from its headquarters, in Brooklyn; the staffer had been assigned to the role just weeks before the election"? If that's the best outreach to rural America we can muster, that's pretty pathetic.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:39 PM on May 4 [12 favorites]


So, I don't know Chloe Maxmin from a hole in the wall, so I don't know if she's more naive or more politically calculated (why not both)

Well, I do, having lived with her at the Dudley House Co-op at Harvard. We spent a fair amount of time together and I can assure you that she is not naive.

She also has an excellent track record of rallying people to progressive causes. She founded and drove forward a number of initiatives there, including the successful Divest Harvard movement which began with 10 participants in 2012 and grew to almost 70,000 by 2015. You don't get elected as the youngest female senator in a Republican stronghold because you don't understand the deeper nuance of political campaigns.
posted by ananci at 7:22 AM on May 5 [24 favorites]


For every one of Trump's deplorables, there has to be at least one person in their community who's like, "Can you believe that asshole?" That's how campaigns like Chloe Maxmin can win. The problem is finding them, which is a very labor-intensive process.
posted by jonp72 at 7:57 AM on May 5 [6 favorites]


Doesn't the above article literally say "the Clinton campaign had only a single staff person doing rural outreach from its headquarters, in Brooklyn; the staffer had been assigned to the role just weeks before the election"? If that's the best outreach to rural America we can muster, that's pretty pathetic.

I suppose we’re talking about Clinton 2016 here but isn’t Obama noted as having done fairly well with rural white voters? Relatively speaking, but he did better than Kerry and certainly better than anybody since. Obviously the decline since then has a fair amount to do with the way the right wing media machine spun up against Obama but one could consider that the point - they have a strategy, and it’s pretty ugly. Do the Democrats have a strategy for opposing that?
posted by atoxyl at 8:16 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


You don't get elected as the youngest female senator in a Republican stronghold because you don't understand the deeper nuance of political campaigns.

Which, as a number of people have been pointing out, is the issue. Yes, part of her success was getting out and doing retail politics. But another part, which she is clearly aware of, is to push harmful arguments because those are the ones that coddle the rural populace that make up the district she's in. Things like "rural voters value things like independence (which as has been pointed out is a load of harmful bullshit, as will be discussed later) and authenticity", a message that always comes with a between the lines reading that these are things that urban communities don't value. It also means dodging the inconvenient reality that many rural areas are being propped up through outright transfer from urban communities, and that in many cases the best response would be to wind some of these areas down and provide the residents substantial transfer support. There's also the point made earlier that a portion of her success was not being on the radar of the right wing - with her now pushing a book, she's very much pinged now, and I do hope she has plans for dealing with a well funded opposition in her re-election, as the conservative machine enjoys crushing potential up and comers while in the metaphorical cradle.

For every one of Trump's deplorables, there has to be at least one person in their community who's like, "Can you believe that asshole?"

There does? This is falling hard into the just world fallacy.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:54 AM on May 5 [5 favorites]


2020's results (Biden with a substantial win, but notable Republican House gains and Senate wins) suggests that many people might have come out and voted against Trump, but then voted straight-ticket R down the rest of the ballot.

Which would jibe with this, a notion that not every right-of-center is a complete Trumpoid robot YET.
posted by delfin at 9:59 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]


If you've never lived in a rural area its really hard to explain just how intensely tribal it gets, how homogenous, how scared of outsiders and change and difference.

Again, this varies and is not universally true of all rural regions in the US.


It's mostly true in the South. I lived in Georgia, on the fringes of the Atlanta metro area, for over two decades, starting at age 9, after having lived in Florida and California (my father was in the US Navy); I never acquired a Southern accent in my time there (mostly because my formative linguistic years were spent elsewhere), and I would get "not from around here, are you?" pretty regularly.

Tangential, but marginally relevant: Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer explores the contributions of America's founding British colonial cultures and the continuing influence of same, particularly in the divergence of rural cultures--the New Englanders, mostly communitarian; the back-country Southerners, mostly strongly individualist from a culture that resented centralised authority (those differences persist; Utah was settled by the descendants of New Englanders, Texas by the descendants of Southerners).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 11:34 AM on May 5 [3 favorites]


Exactly. And Maine, the state relevant to the FPP, is in New England and has only relatively recently turned quite so Republican.
posted by eviemath at 12:32 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Exactly. And Maine, the state relevant to the FPP, is in New England and has only relatively recently turned quite so Republican.

In large part thanks to the exportation of the Southern rural culture to other parts of the US, hence the appearance of Confederate flags deep in old Union territory.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:44 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


….

My point was off in the other direction, if you were looking for it.
posted by eviemath at 1:15 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


My point was off in the other direction, if you were looking for it.

And I don't agree with it, which was the point of my comment. Perhaps at one time there were more distinct flavors of rural community, but thanks to the aggressive selling of Dominionism and Southern rural culture (it's worth noting that the classic TV shows famously given the ax in the Rural Purge were mostly set in the South), not to mention actual programs to change the population makeup like the Free State Project have caused the Southern flavor of rural identity to become the dominant one in the US - one sign of which is the appearance of Confederate flags in regions that were deep in the Union.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:32 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Well I guess I can say bless your heart for explaining my home state to me better than I know it myself, then. It surely has been an educational thread.
posted by eviemath at 1:58 PM on May 5 [5 favorites]


If you want to court rural voters maybe don't mention that part about "winding down" their communities for being insufficiently economically productive. Like, the attack ads almost write themselves: 'egghead technocrats in Washington DC want to dissolve your way of life because they only see you as a negative number in a spreadsheet'.
posted by Pyry at 3:31 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


Attack ads will write themselves no matter what. We have to stop being so scared of what the other side will say; they're going to say it anyway.
posted by Gadarene at 4:06 PM on May 5 [7 favorites]


I live in the Shenandoah Valley and worked with Rural Ground Game on the 2019 Brent Finnegan campaign. Most of the doors I personally knocked on were in my small city, rather than the surrounding county. But there were lots of story-sharing meetings around the table at headquarters.

the ten trillionth article snidely informing eveyrone that the only way forward for the Democrats is to toss everyone who isn't a cis het white male Chrstian conservative under the bus to continue futilly chasing after the mythic "Reagan Democrat"?

No under-bus-throwing was allowed. That was a lot of the point, actually. The campaign was very much about: what are your personal experiences, what values come out of that, how do you use this to connect with voters. Picture, like, a young blue-collar worker with a haircut that screamed 'dyke' (in a good way) talking about how great it is to have access to her kids again. Or the candidate talking about the pregnant woman sleeping on the street near his house. Two of the issues I liked to lean into were carbon dividends and a $15 minimum wage. I guess you could call those 'Reagan Democrat'-friendly, sure. They're also about social justice.

We lost, of course. But those connections with voters serve a longer-term goal.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:16 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


Attack ads will write themselves no matter what. We have to stop being so scared of what the other side will say; they're going to say it anyway.

Let's be honest. Republicans will -- in the absence of damning facts -- just make shit up. So there is every reason to NOT give a shit how they'll react to anything.

e.g.: Republicans are calling everyone they don't like a "pedophile groomer".
posted by mikelieman at 12:20 AM on May 6 [7 favorites]


I think it's kind of flattening to keep calling Confederate flags an export of "Southern rural culture". Is that the culture of Black Belt farmers? Is it the culture of Latin American immigrants in North Georgia? It's just straight-up Southern white culture. Rural, suburban, and sometimes urban. Working-class, wealthy, and especially petit-bourgeois.
posted by dusty potato at 7:57 AM on May 6 [5 favorites]


My sarcastic approach in my last comment yesterday is not sitting well with me today, both because I do know in the back of my head that it’s not a constructive way to participate in Metafilter threads (sorry, fellow Mefites), and because of that whole someone is wrong on the internet thing (which, I know! but I’m not that sorry, and that’s kind of what Metafilter comment threads like this are about, no?).

As mikelieman says, Republicans will just make stuff up, regardless. Nationally, that’s an advertising or messaging issue that I’m sure folks with advertising or public relations backgrounds could speak to far more knowledgeably than me. Locally, the defense against that seems to be to just live one’s values: rural progressives who are successful tend to run local campaigns that focus on what people in their communities need, ignoring what random people in other regions say about them (Republican or Democrat), baring outsized influence of outside money (though that’s an increasingly common problem, at least in Maine lately).

But the unfortunate reality is that most folks in rural communities have to interact with people in cities at some point in their lives while the reverse is not the case. And as I mentioned upthread, my personal experience is that your average working class person born and raised in a city doesn’t think much about rural areas one way or another; which is fine. I was just another random person from somewhere else for many such people I met when I moved to a more metropolitan area; the fact that I came from a rural area rather than a different urban area wasn’t particularly important in many such interactions that I had. But upper middle class liberals (eg. who have power within the Democratic Party at a national level) are way more prejudiced than they think they are (in a variety of areas - many non-white folks have noted this as well), and can be incredibly (albeit totally obliviously in many cases) condescending dickheads. This is my personal experience. I’ll let my history of contributions to Metafilter speak for my personal political leanings. … And don’t get me started on the myopia of the styles-itself-as-liberal and “all the news that’s fit to print” New York Times. As if NYC folks can’t also be “tribal” or “insular”.

In my personal experience, this prejudice against rural people that causes upper middle class urban-suburban-exurban liberals to dismiss and condescend to rural progressives who are even right there in front of them stems from and is a form of classism.

From a living your values point of view, that should be a problem for the more progressive elements of the Democratic Party, or other more progressive national political groups that are similarly afflicted. In a more fairly democratic national political system, it wouldn’t be a strategic problem; but the also unfortunate reality of the US federal system is that rural areas do have more per capita power than urban areas. So the fact that urban liberals or nominal progressives who hold power within organizations like the national Democratic Party are prejudiced against and condescending toward rural liberals and progressives is also a strategic problem.

Back to the personal: if your reaction to someone saying that this is their direct experience is that your actions come across to them as condescending or prejudiced is to argue that it isn’t true (looking at you, NoxAeternum) or that only a MAGAhead bigot would make such a claim, go and sit and have a hard think about that for a while. Then read up on rural progressives and rural progressive organizing (for lgbtq and reproductive rights, racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice) before coming back to the conversation.

Returning to the organizational level: as several folks have noted, a very common authoritarian/regressive strategy is the “let’s you and him fight” strategy of setting groups with less power against each other in order to control them. Democrats naively buying into that and throwing lgbtq rights, racial justice, or reproductive rights under the bus is bad, and I’m certainly not arguing that there haven’t ever been Democratic politicians from (or, at least, running in) rural areas who are quite guilty of this. Doing the same thing just with a shuffle of which groups you throw under the bus is also bad. Make the effort to understand that rural areas are not homogeneous. They are not all the same across the US (as a reminder, Vermont is a predominantly rural state!), and they are not homogeneously composed within any given rural area. On a county-by-county level, rural counties have more political power than urban counties in the US federal system, and folks absolutely should be upset about that. However, political and economic power is very, very much not distributed uniformly within each rural county, usually. This is especially the case if you group all rural counties within a given state. Do understand and acknowledge overall trends, - I’m certainly not arguing the established data that rural areas are more conservative, more evangelical, etc. on average - but just as you wouldn’t (I hope) use “working class” as shorthand for a white, cisgender, primarily male demographic, or “urban” as shorthand for a Black, poor demographic, don’t use “rural Americans” as shorthand for a conservative/evangelical, white, cisgender, male, upper middle class and politically influential demographic. A more intersectional analysis is needed if one (a) wants to have an accurate political analysis both of the current realities and (importantly!) of the possibilities for change, and (b) wants to actually practice nominally progressive ideals toward everyone.
posted by eviemath at 8:15 AM on May 6 [8 favorites]


I'm a bit frustrated by the repeated messaging that the Democrats have to do better rather than that the Republicans have to recognize their results of their own actions. Repeatedly commentators here have said that they've gone out and they've talked to the cis white male het rural Republicans and these voters agree with LGBTQ rights and they're fine with certain aspects of abortion, and they in general agree with progressive rights and then they go off and they vote Republican - despite having just said that the Republican national party does not represent them and being given specifics about the local candidate who has stances specifically that do not align with their own.

So one of the things I'd be interested in hearing from the get out the vote organizers is what exactly should the messaging then be in these rural areas to these Republican voters.
posted by beaning at 8:51 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


A cis white male het rural Republican may well be okay with LGBTQ rights and progressive want-list items without viewing those as a priority, much less a single-issue voter red flag. If it does not personally affect them or someone quite close to them, an issue may not be very persuasive.

Ideally, a Democratic stumper should be able to point to their candidate and say, "a vote for X means fighting for these specific positive things that you want and need, and a vote for them means you definitely won't get that," no matter who the audience is. And if the candidate isn't up to that standard, they've got an uphill battle to make that audience view them positively.
posted by delfin at 12:57 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]


the repeated messaging that the Democrats have to do better rather than that the Republicans have to recognize their results of their own actions.

Maybe this is a question of audience? For a general audience, I agree: it sucks when people use this messaging to feel ok about voting Republican. For myself, or for party leadership: I can do better, especially when funding gets shifted to pay people like me, and to buy a decent voter database. (I've knocked on doors every year for fourteen years, and 2016 was by far the worst. One voter was listed at a house she'd sold and moved out of ten years ago, which should absolutely never happen.) Sadly, though, I can't make Republicans recognize the results of their own actions. If you have any tips, I'd be glad to hear them.

they go off and they vote Republican - despite having just said that the Republican national party does not represent them and being given specifics about the local candidate who has stances specifically that do not align with their own. So one of the things I'd be interested in hearing from the get out the vote organizers is what exactly should the messaging then be in these rural areas to these Republican voters.

That situation doesn't sound like it's about messaging. If it were me I would write up my notes, and hope the candidate sees them and has time to go knock on that person's door. This really is a thing. It was especially striking post-2020. Voters would tell me, a little condescendingly: "Oh yes, I'm voting for him! He came to my house, you see. He was standing right here."
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:35 PM on May 6


Pyry We can either lie or be honest.

The truth is that rural communities are dying and nothing will bring them back. We can either lie to the people there and tell them that we're going to do magic and make their small town thrive again, or we can tell them the truth and offer them help in getting out, getting job training, getting set up in a bigger place, and so on.

I think a rural departure support project would be a really damn good use of tax dollars.

One large problem, over and above the part where people quite reasonably don't like uprooting themselves and maybe switching an inherited or otherwise owned house for rent, is that we're also running into this right in the middle of automation killing jobs at an incredible rate, so "job retraining" is an even bigger joke today than it was 30 years ago, and it was pathetic 30 years ago.

But that's part of life.

Either way you cut it, we're going to see rural America continue dying off. We can either admit that and try to offer help to the people living there who want to leave, or we can lie to them.
posted by sotonohito at 2:15 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Or we can campaign on the issue of RURAL BROADBAND.
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:28 PM on May 6 [6 favorites]


Wow, sotonohito, that is a highly problematic sweeping generalization that ignores initiatives that have worked to revive rural communities in some cases, really really ignores the variation in rural areas in the US (I mean, you’re basically calling for depopulating Vermont or Western Massachusetts, for reasons unrelated to the local economies there?! And clearly have no idea what the local issues are in rural Maine; not to mention the whole host of problems with calling for a relocation policy for Black farmers or Native Americans), and ignores the parallel trend of concentration of wealth in the US that has also immiserated many urban communities. Are you also proposing that we go into certain neighborhoods of, say, Los Angeles and “tell [residents] the truth and offer them help in getting out, getting job training, getting set up in a bigger place, and so on”? Clearing homeless encampments in Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, or wherever would be hunky dory so long as we gave residents some cash and a job training workshop, and anyway it’s just “part of life”?
posted by eviemath at 2:36 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Gotta say, I’m incredibly disappointed with the outright class prejudice and major ignorance about rural racial and environmental justice issues on display here by a couple of you whose comments in other threads I’ve more often found relatively to quite reasonable.
posted by eviemath at 2:42 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


Like, “Let’s translate failed urban renewal via displacement of long term residents policies from the last century to a rural context” should be a clear and obvious nonstarter.
posted by eviemath at 2:45 PM on May 6 [2 favorites]


On the global scale, that’s no different from “gee, colonialism through neoliberal global capitalism has left us with some really poor countries. That’s life though. We should give them some scholarships to Western universities for the ones that want to get out and make something of themselves.”
posted by eviemath at 2:49 PM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Um... I think we're using really different definitions of "rural" if you're classifying Amherst MA (first town I saw when I looked at a map of Western Massachusetts) as rural.

As for the actual rural places, what do you want us to do?

We can't magic them into economic viability, so what's your plan? I mean, I'm into Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism, so I'm 100% down with people living in a way that's not economically viable. But regrettably we're not there yet and people will be going where there are jobs, which is to say: cities and suburbs.

And, frankly, I think comparing the preposterously over represented spiteful white supremacist people in rural areas to people in exploited nations is both false and feeding into the Republican lie of the wicked cities stealing all the money from the good country folk.

The reality is that urban America subsidizes rural America to a degree that rural white supremacist Republicans are desperate to pretend isn't happening. We don't need to reinforce their lies.
posted by sotonohito at 4:14 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]


There’s an hour plus drive farther west in Massachusetts beyond Amherst. And either you are arguing in bad faith, or you are fully ignorant of the racist as well as classist history of previous calls for policies of rural depopulation. Neither is a good look.

Also, make at least a half-assed effort to read some demographic data. That was the second link in my google search just now, not exactly obscure or hard to find. Here, I’ll even quote it for you:
The release of 2020 Census population data provided much-anticipated insight into the demographic trends reshaping our nation, but it also unleashed a wave of predictable headlines touting the demise of “shrinking rural America.” The familiar narrative of “two Americas”—one diverse, metropolitan, and successful and one white, rural, and declining—cropped up once more, often explicitly equating “rural” with “white” or, even more simplistically, with white Trump voters.

While this narrative provides an easy way to think about America in binary terms, it obscures the far more complicated trends shaping rural America: most notably, its growing demographic diversity over the last decade. While it is true that the population of nonmetropolitan[1] America fell by about half a percentage point between 2010 and 2020, the future of rural America is increasingly marked by growing diversity and expanding inequity within and across regions—creating an intricate picture that binary thinking can’t capture.

Here, we present three demographic trends from the 2020 Census that upend outdated assumptions about nonmetropolitan America and conclude with a call to embrace a more inclusive future for increasingly diverse and dynamic rural towns and regions.

1. Rural America became more racially and ethnically diverse over the last decade

Contrary to the dominant narratives that use “rural” as a synonym for “white,” 24% of rural Americans were people of color in 2020.[2] While rural America is still less diverse than the nation as a whole (42.2% people of color), it is diversifying as well: The median rural county saw its population of color increase by 3.5 percentage points between 2010 and 2020 (Figure 1).

Moreover, demographic diversity in rural America varies considerably from place to place: In 2020, two-thirds of rural counties consisted of at least 10% people of color, one-third were over a quarter people of color and 10% of rural counties are majority people of color (Figure 2).

Narratives that erase the 24% of rural Americans who are people of color—as well as the many rural counties that are majority people of color—devalue the needs of rural people of color who face systemic barriers to opportunity, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, while giving rhetorical priority to the concerns of an imagined white rural monolith.

2. The distribution of people of color in rural America is complex and highly regionalized

The makeup of rural populations of color is shaped by highly regionalized variations in the concentration of Black Americans, Latino Americans, and Indigenous Americans across the nation. As Figure 2 demonstrates, rural counties in the South and West are particularly racially and ethnically diverse—with a substantial number of rural areas in these regions majority or near-majority people of color.

Black people are the largest population of color in almost all of the rural lowland South, where legacies of slavery and Jim Crow have had a lasting effect on economic mobility and poverty. Indigenous groups are the largest population of color in rural areas in eastern Oklahoma, the Four Corners area, much of the northern tier of the Great Plains, and in most of Alaska and have been found to have lower educational attainment, higher poverty rates, lower household incomes, and lower occupational attainment compared to Indigenous groups who live in metropolitan areas. Asian Americans are the largest population of color in rural Hawaii and in Kodiak Island Borough and the West Aleutians Census Area in Alaska. The large Asian American populations in these parts of rural Alaska largely consists of Filipino American communities that originally formed around jobs in the fishing and canning industries.

This regional variation also has political ramifications. As researchers at the Economic Innovation Group pointed out last fall, Trump won only three majority-Black rural counties in the U.S. and fared poorly among rural workers employed in the leisure and hospitality sectors, particularly in the rural West. Rural counties with recreation-focused economies were also more likely to gain population over the last decade, meaning the future of rural America is not only increasingly diverse, but not as conservative as many assume.

3. Latino populations continued to drive diversity in rural America

When examining changes in the rural Latino, Black, and Indigenous populations in America over the last decade, it becomes clear that expanding diversity is largely driven by growth in the rural Latino population.

As Figure 3 demonstrates, the rural Black population has stayed relatively constant in most of the United States, though it is decreasing as a fraction of the population in the Black Belt and increasing in areas that have seen rapid population growth in recent years, such as the shale gas fields of western North Dakota.

Figure 4 reveals that while the Indigenous fraction of the rural population rose in most areas that already had large Indigenous populations, it fell in the area of the shale gas boom in western North Dakota, presumably due to this area’s large influx of people from other parts of the country over the past decade.

The future of rural America requires policy choices that value its increasingly diverse population

While patterns of demographic change in rural America are complex and regionalized, the key takeaway is clear: The future of rural America is increasingly marked by demographic, regional, and economic diversity. In the last decade, rural population growth was driven by people of color (particularly Latinos) and by recreation-focused rural counties.

These patterns underscore the need to reject the idea of one-size-fits-all policies and programs for rural America and to acknowledge the importance of nurturing diverse, dynamic, and connected rural communities. Our colleagues at Brookings, as well as researchers at the Center for American Progress, have urged the federal government to support these aims by investing in grassroots strategies to bolster local assets and nurture racial and economic justice.

At the community-level, this means that rural local leaders must embrace intentional strategies to nurture demographic diversity and dynamic local economies—with our research demonstrating that many of them already are doing so by supporting clusters of locally owned small businesses that build community wealth, implementing built environment and quality-of-life improvements for vulnerable residents, strengthening social cohesion between neighbors, and nurturing new community-led structures to build capacity and advance community priorities.

Rural areas account for over 70% of our nation’s land. Rather than trying to pigeonhole them into an antiquated framework, our policies must value the diversity that is both their present and future.
posted by eviemath at 8:23 PM on May 6 [4 favorites]


As for what you can do for rural areas: frankly, given that the only difference between what you assert rural people are like and what someone like Tucker Carlson asserts that rural Americans are like is that you think the people you claim to be describing are bad while he thinks they are good, the most helpful thing you could do, at least in the short term, is nothing. Just avoiding piling on the extra ignorance and condescension so that there’s less that progressive rural folks have to work against would be an improvement.

If you wanted to actually do something positive, start by picking a specific rural region that you maybe have some reason to start to care about - eg. maybe you’re over-generalizing from your own negative experiences in some rural area, and so should pick somewhere else eg. where the demographic composition is less personally threatening to you given your negative personal experiences; or if you don’t have any personal experience then pick a region not too far from you. Then start following local news from that region, and search for progressive groups in the region to follow on social media - mutual aid groups, pride centres, unions or tenants rights groups, racial justice groups, etc. One of my earliest comments in this thread provided some keywords or directions for such a search for a couple different sub-regions of rural Maine, for example. You will hear that there are indeed problems and struggles, but you will also find that people have their own solutions for the problems they are facing. Educate yourself and lose this classist attitude you’re exhibiting that rural people are completely helpless and just in need of being saved by some external charity.

In our current economic structure, there is indeed more money going to rural areas than coming from rural areas, yes. Think for half a minute about how resource extraction works under capitalism, and whether that’s really an accurate accounting of wealth transfer, both annually and taking the full historical picture into account. Think especially hard about how that relates to the large rural reservations in the West and rural areas that are predominantly Black. How would that picture look different with reparations for slavery or even just for white terror and theft from the backlash to Reconstruction? How would it look different if we took treaties with Indigenous nations or reparations from the centuries of colonial harms seriously? How has historical classism and xenophobia from before non-British European ethnicities (Eastern European, Irish, Franco-Americans from Quebec, etc) were more fully assimilated into whiteness affected this wealth distribution?

Look into the distinctions between different rural economies, and the politics and economic inequality in regions where tourism is the economic base versus different types of farming (smaller scale or labor-intensive versus large factory) versus logging versus fishing versus ranching. Look, as I mentioned previously, at the distribution of wealth within rural areas, and find out what percentage of the population in a given rural area is actually employed in the industry that is, by standard economic measures, considered the economic driver of a given area, and notice how this is a high percentage in some cases (eg. economies based on tourism) but can be quite low in other areas (certain of the resource extraction industries). Find out where the legal residences of the capitalists who make their money off of all of the economic activity in urban areas are located.

None of this implies that rural areas have any superior moral standing or anything. Environmentally, we’ll be best able to sustainably provide for all humans as well as maintain ecosystems and ecosystem diversity with a majority of people living in cities, from what I’ve read. But there is no inherent reason why rural areas can’t be vibrant, socially health, economically sustainable, and politically progressive, even though that is not the current picture for a sufficient majority of rural areas to affect the averages in measures of each of those factors.
posted by eviemath at 9:23 PM on May 6 [5 favorites]


The reality is that urban America subsidizes rural America

It's not so clear. At least one study indicates otherwise. (Although the study is questionable: it was done by a branch of the USDA, who simply lumped all federal spending together e.g. defense industry spending was greater in urban areas, and income support was greater in rural areas.)

In any case, the question of who is exploiting whom is a political question. If you want Lounge Suite Gay Space Communism (hell yeah!), you don't just want to compare taxes to government spending, because that ignores class struggle. For example, around here, the main industry is poultry processing. It pays better than most jobs, but it's also abusive, as has became especially evident thanks to COVID. Masks were not provided by the plant, at least at first: instead they were sewn in the hundreds, maybe thousands, by local volunteers (Mennonites and refugees mostly) using materials donated by other locals. The donated materials and labor, and the crushingly exploitative work conditions, subsidize low prices for chicken, turkey, pet food, etc., in urban areas too, and create investor profits. When people receive government subsidies because they're not paid what their labor is worth, the government isn't truly subsidizing rural workers: it's subsidizing corporations and consumers. (Think Nickled and Dimed.)

Obviously worker and community exploitation happens in urban areas too. But that's kind of the point, right? Getting people to perceive their common interests. We don't need to pit urban against rural. That's the Republicans' game.
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:38 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Feeling hopeful today. My home county was one of the few in that State that did not vote for the Trump-endorsed candidate in the recent primary. I grew up in a rural farming area and have family and friends living there. These are "good" people--they organize fundraisers, vote for education, work in hospitals, start small businesses, and run farms. If I've ever implied anything otherwise, that was poor phrasing on my part. They started out voting centrists Republican and, as a community, have kept voting Republican for generations while the party drifted leftward and TV ads spun the Democratic arguments as those terrible 50's buzz words "communism and socialism" --and often elections didn't even offer a Democratic contender since the region was so Republican.

My own small part which maybe played a role? I've spent the last few years being the relative who posts progressive political memes on Facebook, and forwards articles by Rebecca Solnit and Lyz Lenz and Heather Cox Richardson, and supports the progressive side during the family group texts, etc. I know these get around because questions come back to me. Fingers crossed for lasting change of voting for candidates who align better with their actual views--and having such candidates run.
posted by beaning at 7:20 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


Yay! Thank you, Beaning, for your service.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:32 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


So one of the things I'd be interested in hearing from the get out the vote organizers is what exactly should the messaging then be in these rural areas to these Republican voters.

I am not an organizer of votes, but if I had unlimited resources to spend politically, I would send pairs of urban Democrats door to door in rural America asking them what they would like to see in a candidate, no mention of party, but clearly identify as Democrat if asked. If the subject comes up, I would ask if they would volunteer in writing to adopt the kids born from withdrawing abortion rights and contraception services (if the subject comes up). Ignore discussion about guns, which don't matter in those parts, and which are heirlooms to most rural families. End of visit. Compliment them on their lawn or dog or flag on the way out. The data is less important, apart from the address of the potential adopters, as a "keep your enemies closer" strategy. The point is that both sides have made contact and they have an impression of the people they have been taught to fear and despise.
posted by Brian B. at 10:17 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


eviemath I'll concede that I do think of rural areas mainly as enclaves of white supremacists, largely because that's been my own personal lived experience with rural areas in the Texas Panhandle.

However, I think that's a distraction and a side issue.

The simple reality is that I'm not over here gleefully plotting to depopulate rural America, I'm just acknowledging the truth: it is depopulating itself.

Our policies can either acknowledge that reality and work to minimize the human pain that causes, or they can be rooted in the fiction that rural America can be revitalized. People have been trying to revitalize rural America for as long as rural America has been declining, about 70 years. And so far the attempts have been total failures.

I do disagree with you that rural America can be "vibrant, socially health, economically sustainable, and politically progressive" given our current tech and I'm not at all sure about the politically progressive part at any tech level.

Urban places aren't less racist and more conservative because the people who choose to live in cities are just inherently better, it's because when you live in a city you are forced into company with people who aren't like you and it becomes more difficult (though certainly not impossible) to maintain the various boogieman fantasies of people who aren't like you when you interact with them every day.

But that's beside the point.

The point remains that at our tech level rural America is demonstrably and provably **NOT** vibrant, economically sustainable" and I'll add environmentally sustainable to the list as well.

I would like to see most of the land in America depopulated and most people concentrated in a few dense urban areas because the presence of humans is harmful to the environment so the more people we can pull out of the more land the better from an environmental standpoint.

But, again, rural America is dying. That's a fact. The questions of why, or whether or not that's a good thing, are side issues. Rural America is dying, people are fleeing rural spaces, therefore to me the most important questions are:

1) How can we make that the least traumatic and harmful experience possible.

and

2) How can we change up American politics so the obscene and harmful over representation of the racist, bigot, population in rural America can be ended.
posted by sotonohito at 10:50 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


the presence of humans is harmful to the environment so the more people we can pull out of the more land the better from an environmental standpoint.

That works better as an argument for depopulating suburbs than for depopulating farmland. Corporate agribusiness is environmentally destructive and also a major driver of the downward spirals that do exist in many parts of the rural US.

*At least until the Gay Space Diamond Dog Hydroponic Skyscraper Syndicate can scale way up.
posted by feral_goldfish at 2:03 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


None of my rooting for rural ground game should be used to endorse this bit of TFA tho:

The choice to prioritize turnout in Democratic strongholds over persuasion of moderate voters has cost the party election after election.

GIven the polarized landscape, turnout is how the game is won. (Note that there's no advantage to confining GOTV to 'Democratic strongholds'. Once voting has started and you've identified your supporters, phone banking is pretty efficient.) Persuasion would be a disastrous top priority. And by a certain point in any campaign you always, always switch to GOTV: if it's the week before the election and someone is leaning Republican, you peace out and back off, so as to let sleeping dogs lie and not remind them exactly which day is Tuesday.
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:21 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]


Ooof. Read the link I posted, sotonhito - like, actually click on the link and read the original. There are quite a few additional links in the original that you should also click on and read. You are largely wrong, and over-exaggerating the parts that you are nominally right about. But clearly I’m not going to convince you of anything.
posted by eviemath at 6:06 PM on May 8


Clarifying a couple of things that matter only to me:

How precisely did the author of that piece decide that **NOW** is the time to pen the ten-trillionth article snidely informing everyone ...

That What Democrats Don't Understand About Rural America was published on the same day as the Roe leak meant that a lot of people read it when they were already hurting. But per the author bio, the essay itself is adapted from a book, which means that Chloe Maxmin and Canyon Woodward had to have started writing it long before May 2.

Oh, dear god, how many of these articles is the New York Times going to write?

This is cold comfort, probably, but nobody employed by the NYT wrote this essay. (See above.)

Sundry observations:

Chloe Maxmin's achievement is not as significant as one might infer from the fact that the NYT published her essay. She didn't turn a red district blue. She was elected in a district that has been flip-flopping between Republican and Democratic for a number of years. I am more impressed that a first-time candidate born in 1992 was elected to the Legislature in the oldest state in the US, and I'm pretty sure that her door-knocking helped disarm voters whose only prior contact with millennials had been Faux News alarmism about avocado toast.
posted by virago at 7:33 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


The Ties that Blind: Misperceptions of the Opponent Fringe and the Miscalibration of Political Contempt

https://psyarxiv.com/cr23g/

Abstract

Americans’ hostility toward political opponents has intensified to a degree not fully explained by
actual ideological polarization. We propose that political animosity may be based particularly on
partisans’ overestimation of the prevalence of extreme, egregious views held by only a minority
of opponents but imagined to be widespread. Across five studies (N= 4993; three preregistered),
we examine issue extremity as an antecedent of false polarization. Both liberals and
conservatives report high agreement with their party’s moderate issues but low agreement with
the extreme issues associated with their side. As expected, false polarization did not occur for all
issues. Partisans were fairly accurate in estimating opponents’ moderate issues (even
underestimating agreement somewhat). In contrast, partisans consistently overestimated the
prevalence of their opponents’ extreme, egregious political attitudes. (Over)estimation of
political opponents’ agreement with extreme issues predicted cross-partisan dislike, which in
turn predicted unwillingness to engage with opponents, foreclosing opportunities to correct
misperceptions (Studies 2-4b). Participants explicitly attributed their dislike of political
opponents to opponents’ views on extreme issues more than moderate issues (Study 3). Partisans also reported greater unwillingness to publicly voice their views on their side’s extreme (relative to moderate) issues, a self-silencing which may perpetuate misconceptions (Studies 1, 2, 4a&b). Time spent watching partisan media (controlling political orientation) predicted greater
overestimations of the prevalence of extreme views (Studies 2, 4a&b). Salience of opponents’
malevolence mattered: first reflecting on opponents’ (presumed nefarious) election tactics made
partisans on both sides subsequently more accepting of unfair tactics from their own side
(Studies 4a&b)

posted by Brian B. at 8:56 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Rural America Lost Population Over the Past Decade For the First Time in History (report from University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy), but:
Some Rural Regions Grew, Others Continue to Decline

Nonmetropolitan America spans nearly 70 percent of the land area of the United States. Demographic trends in this broad expanse are far from monolithic. Some rural regions experienced widespread population declines, while other rural regions continued to gain population—though at a slower pace than in prior decades (Figure 2). Population gains were widespread in the West and parts of the Southeast. Growth was also evident in many recreational areas of the upper Great Lakes, the Ozarks, and Great Smokies and in northern New England. There were also modest gains just beyond the periphery of some large urban areas in the Northeast. In contrast, population losses were common in large segments of the agricultural heartland of the Great Plains and Corn Belt, as well as in the Mississippi Delta, parts of the northern Appalachians, and in much of the mixed agricultural and industrial belts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
Additionally, there were average gains still in some later years in the 2010-2020 decade, as the 2019 report Rural Populations Growing, Slowly from NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) describes.

Rural depopulation, like urban depopulation, does present challenges. One of these challenges relates (paradoxically, given lack of housing across the US) to vacant buildings (an essay/opinion piece discussing the political and economic context of urban vacancies that has some clear relevance to the rural context in terms of its overall approach to analyzing the political and economic context: Vacancies are overwhelming neighborhoods. To tenants and advocates, they seem deliberate). The article Rural Blight, appearing in the Harvard Law & Policy Revue in 2018, discusses the nuances of this issue in rural communities and suggests options to address the problem, with an eye toward how the different contexts in different regions affect things, and the need to recognize racial diversity in rural areas and avoid discriminatory policies such as characterized urban renewal in the later half of the 1900s.

Immigration has been key to population gains in some rural areas (see also my previous link upthread, which discusses the widely varying racial make-up of rural US, including the note that overall about 1/4 of rural US population is non-white). Revival and Opportunity: Immigrants in Rural America is a report on this by the Center for American Progress.

Natural gas extraction has also been a factor in some rural regions that experienced population growth: U.S. Energy Boom Fuels Population Growth in Many Rural Counties; though this brings its own problems (links for another post, but on top of the environmental issues, Native American groups eg. in North Dakota have raised serious concerns about increased violence, especially against Indigenous women, from the influx of oil field workers - a case where increased rural population has led to less progressive local political outcomes).

Another comprehensive look at the demographics: America’s Urban-Rural Divide: Myths and Realities

My previous link: Mapping rural America’s diversity and demographic change.


Comparing to north of the border: Population growth in Canada’s rural areas, 2016 to 2021. Canada’s population is largely concentrated in urban areas (more so than the US population), and the population growth of urban areas is higher than the population growth of rural areas in Canada, but (from one of the section headings) “Rural population of Canada [is] growing faster than in other G7 countries”. While the StatsCan report linked is primarily focused on demographics, the economic and political outlook of rural Canadian communities also varies quite a bit between different regions of Canada (with the primary divisions being: rural BC, prairies, northern Ontario, rural Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and the far North; with smaller but still important divisions between the three prairie provinces, between Nunavut and the northern territories, and between the four Atlantic provinces). Overall, support for “liberal” policies such as single payer health care and other social safety net policies is very high across all regions of Canada, and although support for abortion, gay marriage, and similar policies that are wedge issues in US politics is not as strong, in many (though not all) rural areas of Canada support is still as strong as in a number of areas of the US that are counted as liberal. Different provinces have taken a variety of different approaches to maintaining the economic stability of rural areas, as well, with most having a stable future economic outlook (though there will most certainly be issues in the future for rural Alberta as a shift away from fossil fuels becomes more and more urgent). This has not always been the case, of course: Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are only recently/still in the process of climbing out of a long economic slump from the collapse of economically important fisheries, for example. But they are building new, more stable economies; they were not hopelessly lost causes.
posted by eviemath at 1:59 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


The Intercept has a serious takedown of Maxin's new book.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 3:00 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


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