The Democratic National Committee is looking to hire an “Associate Director for Rural Programs” ahead of the 2020 election. The move appears to be a bid to win back Trump voters.

Democrats are aiming to woo Trump voters

Recently, a job posting went up on the DNC’s website with the full-time position. It’s no secret that any national electoral map, even when Democrats win, is going to look like it was splattered by a red whirlwind of paint. Republicans excel in urban areas where Democrats have their main pockets of voters in big population hubs like cities. When it comes to presidential races, Republicans, despite lacking an outsized presence in cities, have managed to be a thorn in Democrats’ side thanks to the Electoral College.

The Democrats’ rural outreach job description is mostly packed with generic buzzwords about “engaging” and “mobilizing” voters, coalition building, and helping “develop innovative partnerships with diverse allies, constituents, groups, and key stakeholders to both engage and invest them in critical outcomes.” A word salad, basically.

In fact, nothing in the entire job description (pictured below) specifically says what an “Associate Director for Rural Programs” actually does to help attract rural voters to the Democratic Party.

Is there a single person who knows what it means to “leverage resources, bring programs to scale, and encourage the full integration of constituency engagement efforts”? I certainly don’t. The job description mostly reads like the LinkedIn profile of a teenager trying to overinflate their credentials (which only comes to mind because a friend used to list his former employment as a “gas station attendant” as “petroleum transportation assistance specialist”). 

The only sentence that isn’t a complete word salad states that the Associate Director will “manage the associated DNC Caucus &/or council; recruit and develop effective surrogates for outreach; [and] work closely with the community/constituency groups and organizations for electoral and issue organizing.” But, again: Where are the specifics?

The rural/urban divide

There’s never been a question that there’s a political “rural/urban divide” in America, but never has it been so on display as with the recent presidential election. As the New York Times noted in the wake of the election: “The counties that swung the most drastically toward Mr. Trump, by 15 points or more, were nearly all in the Midwest.” The Times quotes political scientist Katherine J. Cramer, who interviewed many rural Republicans about their views. She summarized that they would say (and she’s paraphrasing here): “The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists.”

In many regards, the rural/urban divide is just as much about culture as it is about political policy.

The divide was also apparent during the recent midterms, with the only exception being Democrats flipping two suburban Chicago congressional districts. Aside from that, cities voted blue, and rural areas voted red.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of the divide is to simply look at a map of the 2016 election at the county-by-county level. The red areas are almost exclusively population-light rural areas, while the blue areas are almost exclusively cities and other population-dense areas.

What Democrats SHOULD Be Looking For

Missing entirely from the job description is any clear direction of how Democrats look to achieve their strategy. Had I been in charge of recruitment for the position, I’d task an outreach director with:

  1. Identifying the top political concerns and fears of rural voters.
  2. Identifying and advertising Democrat solutions to those rural issues.
  3. Studying and understanding why rural voters have historically voted Republican (and Trump specifically).

Personally, I think many Democrats have simply written off rural Republicans as “racist hicks,” hence the lack of desire to actually study why they vote GOP. But just as is the case with everyone else, there are specific policy issues that drive rural voters to the political right. According to an analysis of polling data from The Washington Post, rural voters are concerned with changing demographics due to illegal immigration, rural economic decline (the industrial and manufacturing sectors in particular), the belief that the federal government caters mostly to those in big cities, and the belief that Christianity is under siege.

While I’d usually take anything from The Washington Post with a grain of salt, that seems to be a reasonable summary of the issues rural Americans are concerned with.

And what have Democrats done to solve this issues? Not only have they ignored them, at times they’ve mocked them. Former President Barack Obama mocked President Donald Trump for promising to bring back manufacturing jobs, asking what “magic wand” Trump would use to do so. “Some jobs are not going to come back,” Obama said. That kind of talk isn’t very reassuring to rural voters, is it?

The same is true of other issues. The Democratic Party of the 1990s opposed illegal immigration, yet became the party of open borders in recent years to oppose the far-left factions in the party. Democrats can’t simultaneously appease the crazies in the social-justice left and the interests of rural voters in this regard.

And lastly, while the religion of Christianity isn’t literally under siege, there’s no question that Christian values have no home in the (mostly left-wing) media. And I don’t think rural voters are going to forget anytime soon the controversy from 2012 when Democrat delegates voted to remove God from their party platform.

Democrats have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to win over rural voters – and I don’t think they’re aware of even the first step they need to take.

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