In the aftermath of an election that failed to deliver the big legislative gains they were predicting, some Democrats are speaking up about the party’s inability to connect with rural voters and the need to change. In a new piece at The Hill, Kal Munis, a postdoctoral researcher in the P3 Lab at Johns Hopkins University’s SNF Agora Institute and Robert P. Saldin, a political scientist at the University of Montana’s Mansfield Center and College of Humanities and Sciences, argue that if Democrats want to create an “actual governing majority,” the party needs to “reverse their rural freefall.”
Unfortunately, the pair offer mere lip service to one of the biggest issues for Democrats in rural areas; their party’s embrace of an anti-gun agenda that demonizes law-abiding gun owners and the Second Amendment while going light on actual criminals.
Democrats running in rural areas need to combat the nationalized political environment in obvious ways like actively rebranding themselves on mainstay political issues like the Second Amendment, but also by creatively localizing their races by adopting popular positions on issues that don’t cleanly map onto our partisan cleavages.
That’s all Munis and Saldin have to say about the issue of the right to keep and bear arms, preferring instead to focus on things like access to public land and taking on “Big Agriculture.” A simple rebranding on issues like the Second Amendment may be enough for the political scientists, but they don’t bother to explain what that rebranding would look like.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, Democrats are also sifting through the aftermath of a disastrous election. Democrats lost two House seats, failed to dislodge GOP senator Joni Ernst, and Biden ended up losing the state by eight points. Now the state party is having trouble recruiting candidates to replace the outgoing chairman.
It’s a thankless job. Few Democrats expect the state’s fortunes to improve in the midterm elections, when the president’s party traditionally faces headwinds. And as in other states, the party is riven with internal conflict — what one prominent Democrat called a “psychiatric ward right now in terms of the battle between progressives … and the moderates.”
Politico‘s report on the damage done to Democrats in Iowa focuses largely on how the dismal election results may impact the Iowa caucuses in 2024, rather than how gun control helped to create the problems that Democrats are facing in the state, but the quote from the unnamed “prominent Democrat” highlights the problem for the party.
First off, the current fight isn’t between “progressives” and “moderates.” It’s between socialists and progressives, and unfortunately for Democrats both wings continue to embrace policies that turn the Second Amendment into a second-class right. Even “Defund Police” supporters like Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who believes that today’s law enforcement is linked to slave patrols in the pre-Civil War South, is still on board with giving police broad leeway in determining which Americans should receive permission to exercise their constitutional rights.
It’s a completely inconsistent position, and the socialist wing of the Democrat Party should be the ones demanding an end to traditional gun control measures that rely on the heavy hand of police for enforcement. That won’t play well with their base of support in large cities, however, so they continue to hold firm to the idea of putting more people in jail by criminalizing our right to keep and bear arms, even as they demand an end to over-incarceration.
The slightly more moderate progressive wing of the Party, meanwhile, has been beholden to the anti-gun lobby for decades, and show no signs of rejecting Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda in favor of policies that aim to reduce crime by targeting violent criminals instead of the Second Amendment itself. “Rebranding” isn’t going to be enough to win back those rural voters who care about their right to keep and bear arms. It’s going to take a full rejection of the anti-gun policies put forth by both wings of the Democrat Party in order for the party to be competitive in rural areas, but that appears to be a bridge too far for the politicians who want to win elections while treating gun-owning voters with contempt.