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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Jon Tester Channels Woody Allen

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

Allen once said, “80 percent of success is showing up”. Want to win in rural areas? Try showing up, says Jon Tester. From an interview in the Times:

“I think showing up is a fundamental rule of politics, and I don’t know that we showed up. Because of Covid, we didn’t show up on the campaign trail. And in a state like Montana, you have to give people a reason to vote for you or they’ll vote Republican — they’ll default to Republican. And I think that hurt us greatly in 2020. The Republicans, for the most part, didn’t see the pandemic as near as a threat to health as some of the Democrats did.”

On going on the offensive in rural America:

“Democrats can really do some positive things in rural America just by talking about infrastructure and what they’re doing for infrastructure, particularly in the area of broadband. And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education. That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.”
On connecting with rural voters:

“I can go into the list of things that might be insane about this president, but the truth is that rural people connect more with a millionaire from New York City than they do with the Democrats that are in national positions.

So that tells me our message is really, really flawed, because I certainly don’t see it that way.

We do not have a — what do I want to say — a well-designed way to get our message out utilizing our entire caucus. So we need to do more of that. You cannot have Chuck Schumer talking rural issues to rural people; it ain’t gonna sell.”

Why Obama did relatively well in rural America:

“You know where Barack Obama spent Fourth of July in 2008?

Butte, Mont. He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up.

What has happened in Montana as far as losing Max Baucus’s seat, and in North Dakota and in South Dakota, I think speaks to the fact that we’re not speaking to rural America. And look, Steve Bullock lost [this year’s Senate race in Montana] for a number of reasons. One was they nationalized it. They totally nationalized his race. They tried to do it to me, too. What I had that Steve didn’t have was there wasn’t a damn pandemic, and I could go out. And we did, man. We showed people that I was not A.O.C., for Christ’s sake.”

Tester’s recommendation for a bumper sticker Democratic slogan: “Opportunity for everyone”

Not bad.

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