The remarkable thing is that his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, despite having lived in Arkansas, one of the most rural, impoverished and hope-deprived states for almost 20 years, came away from that experience utterly clueless about this ominous combination and its implications. Moreover, she very publicly insulted the voters who fell into this category. Her obliviousness proved the axiom that intelligence encompasses much more than being “book-bright.” The truly bright combine academic intelligence with situational, creative and social emotional awareness.
While the odds 10 months before the 2022 mid-term elections appear daunting for Democrats, it is far too early to write their chances off. There is still time to right the Democratic ship while simultaneously saving our precious (small “d”) democracy.
It will not be nearly enough to run against Donald Trump. He will not be on the ballot, although many of his fear-motivated acolytes will be. Having been largely banned from social media, he is becoming an afterthought.
Instead, Democrats need to acknowledge that, to win elections, they must be able to appeal to the core concerns of the rural, post-manufacturing voters and peel off enough of them to add to their meritocratic base. Here is a four-pronged plan that Democrats should implement:
- Accelerate the expenditure of funds under the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that will have the most impact on rural America--$65 billion for broadband so that every American will have high-speed access to the Internet; $55 billion to expand access to clean, safe drinking water; $110 billion to repair roads and bridges; $65 billion for upgrades to the electric power grid; $50 billion to protect against droughts, extreme heat, floods and wildfires, and for weatherization projects; $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned oil and gas wells.
- Re-institute the Obama Manufacturing Initiative that then-Vice President Biden oversaw, the centerpiece of which was 12 regional re-training hubs designed to prepare laid-off manufacturing workers for jobs in the “new” economy. President Obama did this via executive order, budgetary transfers and re-programming, all well within a president’s authority without having to go to Congress for funding. The constraints that hampered this program then—jobs far away from the hubs—would be considerably eased by universal broadband.
- Focus laser-like on “kitchen table issues” instead of becoming embroiled in partisan squabbling over cultural divides and obsessing about Trump. In addition, Democrats should stay away from appeals to voters to save democracy. Families who must worry day-to-day about putting food on the table and a roof over their heads have no energy to focus on other issues. Warning voters about democracy’s demise are wasted words.
- Pare down the Build Back Better bill now stalled in the U.S. Senate to those few provisions that Senators Manchin and Sinema could support, namely those aimed at family expenditures: extension of the Child Care Tax Credit; free universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds; and reducing child care expenses.
If Democrats institute an electoral strategy such as this, they would have a shot at retaining the Senate and House and winning state and local races that currently appear to be long shots, while also preserving our (small “d”) democracy.
January 15, 2022