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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Why Dems Must Address Lagging Economic Opportunity in Small Town, Exurban and Rural America

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Do people in small town, exurban and rural America really have anything to complain about or are they just lashing out because of the rise of diversity? A fascinating column by Ron Brownstein covers the diverging fate of these places and the faster growing cores of metropolitan areas. It would appear that folks in these areas really do have something to complain about and that they really are, in fact, being left behind.

In metro areas from Seattle to Chicago to Washington, DC, new data show that per capita incomes, education levels and the young adult share of the population are rising rapidly in downtown urban centers that were left for dead 30 and 40 years ago. Simultaneously…incomes, education levels and the age structure is failing to keep pace, or even deteriorating, in the small town and exurban communities at the metropolitan area’s periphery.

This widening geographic separation between town and country — reinforced by a strong urban tilt in such key measures as venture capital investment and new business formation — helps explain President Donald Trump’s overwhelming support in the smaller, mostly white communities that largely feel excluded from the economic recovery since 2009….. per capita incomes since 1990 have increased just three percent in communities 30 miles out, while rising fully 45% at the city center.

Like a river cutting through rock, these shifting economic currents are helping to carve the nation’s stark new political alignment. Along with unease about demographic and cultural changes, the sense of falling behind economically helps explain Trump’s dominance of mid-sized and small town America: he carried more than 2,600 counties last fall, more than any candidate in either party since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Conversely, the thriving economies, and increasingly youthful and well-educated profiles of the largest urban centers, help explain how Hillary Clinton carried 87 of the 100 largest counties by a combined margin of nearly 14.7 million votes, according to calculations by Pew Research Center senior writer Drew DeSilver (including Washington, DC, pushes the margin to nearly 15 million votes). Although few Democrats recognize it in their rhetoric or agenda, they are increasingly the party of the places in America that are succeeding the most in the globalized, post-industrial economy.

The moral of the story: if Democrats want to succeed with the voters they’ve been losing, they will have to make a very serious effort to spread economic opportunity more widely.

One comment on “Teixeira: Why Dems Must Address Lagging Economic Opportunity in Small Town, Exurban and Rural America

  1. Candace on

    Democrats arent losing voters to Republicans because of their superior efforts to spread economic opportunities. Republicans dominate the narrative and are able to get the attention of media. Democrats need to find their own way of doing that which should not involve trying to immitate the Republican focus, style or policies

    on what working class was upset about: I thought the post here on ” A Tale of Two Populisms” by Guy Molyneux was pretty accurate. The voters the democrats want back rage is directed at politicians not so much wall street.

    There is a problem of being able to trust politicians especially democrats and a belief that the only things that Democrats fight for are what they’re being told (on social media, news sites, commenting sections, newspapers) take down society. How are Democrats going to counter that message?

    It feels very military take over out there. Failure in war was because America was too nice to our enemies, failure in society because America was too nice to people who werent “real” Americans and those who made the wrong choices, or so they say. It also explain why working class had to get on welfare, or the biggest shame they can think of. It was the black president’s fault. Its the Jews. Their power is the reason why we’re losing the wars.
    White nationalism is supposed to give a purpose to the wars as well.
    How are democrats going to change that?

    Anyway, the conclusion of that study, which was about the fundmental shift in the geography of opportunity (higher percentage of college educated and economic rate of growth in large cities vs rural) was that Democrats and Republican, including Trump had their differences in who they blamed but both were both at square one in “finding ways to more widely disperse opportunity beyond well-educated workers in a few highly networked urban centers of clustered talent.

    I think Democrat party should put the left in their party in charge of finding those policies but the message advertising should be focused on as what is best for all families, if indeed it could be argued that it was.
    The left has the energy, they are the fighters. That is what this party needs.
    Even so, the democrats are going to be in constant competition with the attention grabbing and dirty fighting of the Republican party, as well as their control of the government and all things media, so creativity is needed as well.

    I have to add that there should be some thinking on how can the war industry and our involvement in the world be changed into something that enhances life on this planet rather than destroys it. That involves jobs. The corporations that are profiting from war should be encouraged to do something else in the direction of technological advances. Protecting the environment should be included in that. Star Trek it up.


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