WaPo Columnist Clueless About the Reason Rural Voters are Rejecting Democrats

AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Democrats have a problem with rural voters. Yeah, there was that recent Fox News poll showing Joe Biden beating Donald Trump by two points among rural Americans, but I don't know too many folks who believe that survey accurately reflected the state of the race in rural counties. History professor Jeff Bloodworth certainly doesn't buy it. In a new column for the Washington Post, Bloodworth says Democrats aren't even attempting to woo voters outside the cities and suburbs, and they're paying the price. 


“The Democratic Party doesn’t give a sh-- about what voters have to say.” Eva Posner, a Virginia-based Democratic political consultant, is furious. She fears that the progressive establishment will pay in 2024 for snubbing rural voters.

Forsaken by the Democrats, rural America has offered its soul to the MAGA movement. Donald Trump took 65 percent of the rural vote in 2020, up from 59 percent in 2016. The 2020 figure was even higher among rural Whites at 71 percent. The resulting polarization between blue cities and red countryside is a “byproduct of the Democrats,” says Matt L. Barron, who specializes in rural Democratic races as the principal at MLB Research Associates. “They don’t even try to compete in rural America.”

Bloodworth thinks he has the answer, however. It's not that the Democrats' message itself is toxic to rural voters, especially on issues like gun control. No, Bloodworth believes it's all about the messaging.

The trouble is that rural voters are difficult to reach. In the 1990s, liberals all but ceded talk radio to conservatives, an act of foolishness, given the platform is crucial to connecting with a car-loving population. Soon after, the internet transformed the economics of newspapers: Nearly 3,000 American newspapers have folded since 2005. Rural newspapers were hit especially hard. Today, more than half of all U.S. counties have very limited, if any, access to local news. On top of this, nearly a quarter of rural Americans lack broadband internet. How can they keep up with Washington politics while living in a media vacuum? 

Despite these obstacles, Democrats can move the electoral needle in rural America. They don’t even need to win a majority of the rural vote — just reduce the margin of defeat. Barron points to Arizona’s 2020 U.S. Senate election: In a race in which Democrat Mark Kelly spent nearly $100 million, compared with Republican Martha McSally’s $72 million, Barron says it was a $20,000 rural radio advertisement that turned the tide. Unlike many Democratic candidates in the past, Kelly took more than 30 percent of the vote in every rural Arizona county, bar one. This turned out to be vital in a race decided by about 78,000 votes.


Now, I'd say there were a couple of other factors that led to Kelly losing less badly in rural Arizona than some of his Democratic predecessors. First, McSally was simply a bad candidate on the stump. Then there's Kelly's fame factor; a former astronaut who's married to a former congresswoman. 

But perhaps most importantly, Mark Kelly did not make gun control an issue in his Senate race, despite co-founding the gun control group Giffords with his wife Gabby. Instead, he ran as a Second Amendement supporter who claimed to own "more firearms than your average Arizonan." McSally (did I mention she was a bad candidate?) ham-handedly tried to raise the issue late in the race, but she went after Giffords' support for far-left candidates like Ilhan Omar in Minnesota instead of talking to voters about all of the new restrictions he'd like to place on their Second Amendment rights. 

Even then Kelly couldn't win over most rural counties, because rural voters aren't the stupid hayseeds so many D.C. campaign consultants seem to think we are. When we hear a Democrat say "I'm a Second Amendment supporter", we know that there's a "but..." involved. And we know that whatever comes after the "but" is gonna be bad news for our right to keep and bear arms. 

"I'm a Second Amendment supporter.... but I also support charging you with a crime if you sell your neighbor a gun and you don't put her through a background check." 


"I'm a Second Amendment supporter.... but it should be a felony to possess the most commonly sold rifles in the country."

"I'm a Second Amendment supporter... but I don't support you carrying a concealed firearm in public." 

It's not a messaging problem, despite what Bloodworth contends. The fundamental problem that Democrats have in rural America is their hostility towards our Second Amendment rights. And as long as that's a part of the party platform, rural voters are going to overwhelmingly reject Democrat candidates. 

Eve Posner's right. The Democratic Party doesn't give a s*** about what rural voters think. Or rather, they care more about maintaining their close ties to the gun control lobby and its steady supply of Bloomberg Bucks than listening to rural voters who tell them that support for gun control is a dealbreaker. They've made their choice, and they're deluding themselves if they think a few ad buys on small-town radio stations is all it takes to revive their party in rural America. 

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