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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Struggling Communities and the 2020 Election

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Trump’s re-election prospects depend importantly on how he fares in the struggling rural and small town communities where he did so well in 2016. If he can duplicate that performance, he’ll have a good shot at a second term.

First of all, are these communities still struggling? If not, that would perhaps help him retain these voters. But it looks like recovery has been slow. From a Brookings report on the geography of employment growth:

“[W]e compared job growth across places since the depths of the recession, grouping places by how economically successful they were prior to 2011. We find that employment is growing faster in thriving places than in struggling places, but it is particularly lagging in struggling rural places.”

So, the Democrats logically should have an opportunity here. Will they show up? The 2018 election might be a model. From an interesting article on political behavior by dollar store concentration in Congressional Districts:

“Very few districts moved towards the GOP in 2018. Those that did were almost entirely in (and remained in) Democratic hands. Rather, even in districts with many dollar stores, congressional votes totals moved somewhere between a little and a lot towards the Democratic candidate.In fact, in 2018, Democrats improved their vote share as much in high-dollar-store districts as they did in ones with the fewest stores. The party’s vote share improved most in the mid-to-high dollar store districts in between. They even managed to win in VA-02.

Up through the 2016 elections, the ongoing geographic concentration of prosperity drove a widening political divide. Democrats were positioned as caring about the kinds of people who live in urban areas, and the kinds of poverty and inequality they face. That left Democrats vulnerable to Republican claims that they didn’t care about the kinds of people who live in small town and rural areas or the hardships they face. The social infrastructure through which Democrats once made their case in dollar-store country, like unions and working-class churches, was battered by the same grim trends that favored dollar stores’ arrival.

So how did Democrats make a comeback? In place after place, in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, local progressives decided they could no longer wait for someone else to fix a political system they saw as broken. They stepped forward, found each other, created and used online resources, and took hands-on political action. Where Democrats’ local infrastructure had most atrophied, the new presence was most impactful.”

Hope the article’s authors are right about the salience of local activism. We’ll see.

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