Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Populists Can Win In Rural America-- Too Bad The Democrats Insist On Running Corporatists

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Aside from having pursued moderate suburban Republican women instead of working class Democrats, one of the reasons for why Hillary lost was widely believed to be the Democratic Party's abandonment of rural America which was almost entirely won by Trump and by Republican candidates for... well, for just about everything. We took a little stab at understanding that last month but an old friend, Jane Fleming Kleeb, who was just officially named the chair of Nebraska's Democratic Party on Saturday, did a much better job in explaining it in a post called Let’s Get Rural: Middle America Wants Less Establishment, More Populism. One can only prey the brainiacs at the DCCC, DSCC and DNC reader it and take it seriously enough to stop repeating the mistakes they're so firmly wedded to.

In fact, if Keith Ellison wins the DNC chair, it's only the DCCC and DSCC I'll have to worry about. That picture up top is Jane with her husband, rancher Scott Kleeb, and Keith, when he was in Nebraska on a party-building mission a few years ago. Most Democrats don't bother. Keith did and so did Bernie. In fact, Bernie held his own there, winning 14 delegates to Clinton's 16 and taking 37,714 caucus votes to her 41,829. "As a proud Democrat in a 'red' state," wrote Jane, "I support Rep. Keith Ellison for the DNC Chair. It’s not just that he’s the only DNC candidate to visit Nebraska for party-building this year. It’s not just that he led with a small handful of heroes on the Hill the opposition to both Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines on grounds of climate change but more importantly to us in the Heartland property rights of ranchers and Sovereign rights of Native allies. It’s not just that he has, time and time again in his role on the Financial Services Committee, stood up against Wall Street when Republicans (and many fellow Democrats) would not. It’s because he actually understands our rural identity and gets how economic populism can help Democrats win in all states including the Heartland."
While the middle of the country looks very red on all the electoral maps, we are fighters here on the prairie. We look to our neighbors to help get cattle back when a fence breaks or pick up our kids at daycare if we are running late. Our sense of community runs deep. We hate Big Corporations. Water is cherished. Families have a tradition of hunting. And while cliché for some at this point, reality is many rural voters simply do not trust Democrats will protect Second Amendment rights and yearn for stiffer backbones when standing up against the establishment.

There are a couple of things about my home that most of my friends in blue areas don’t quite get. I sit in lots of meetings with national groups. Nebraska and other red states are rarely on the short list for resources for candidates or issue campaigns. Folks in DC usually look at the surface for check boxes like registered Republicans or Democrats or can a candidate “self-finance.”

What establishment types don’t get is in rural America, we deeply believe when you stand up and fight, you win.

Nebraska is the birthplace of the modern Democratic Party. It was William Jennings Bryan in 1896 that introduced populism into the Democratic Party, fought the banks, and laid the basis for the New Deal and the 20th century’s strong American middle class. Farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and community banks built the Democratic Party. It was a movement of populists, a movement of people who went to the farm auctions run by Big Banks during the Great Depression and figured out a way to save the family farm together. Willie Nelson did something similar in the 1980s with his first Farm Aid showing how Big Banks were screwing family farmers. It’s time for the Democratic party to do our part and to start building political power in rural America.

A movement of We the People, in the Heartland of America, still exists and is one of the big reasons we stopped a pipeline while everyone in DC told us we would fail.

At a basic level, people vote for those who offer them something. In Nebraska, we have a lot of farmers and ranchers. Democrats simply do not do enough to protect our water and property rights--  an area where Republicans are chosing Big Oil over families. Michael Moore recently pointed out, in our rural towns baseball caps are part of our uniform. We like to vote for people who can come out here and not look awkward in a ball cap or boots. Some farmers turned to Trump, not just here, but everywhere. There still is a chance to bring rural voters into the blue column by showing up in our small towns, standing up for our property rights and basically telling us you give a damn about us even though we are “red” and “small” in numbers compared to the coasts.

Over the years, Democrats have unfortunately been offering unequal politics. Identity is not just your gender or race, it’s how you engage in commerce, it’s your economic relationships, and your job--  whether that is climbing into a combine or putting on a suit. When Democrats sneer at farmers or rural areas, it’s an attack on our identity. An attack on who we are as people. You may not believe that party leaders sneer at farmers or rural areas (think about the campaigns against beef or ethanol), but they do all the time, and we hear it loud and clear.

I beleive if Democrats stood up and fought alongside us to protect our land and water, you would see a more purple rural America. A quick reminder for anyone naysaying this is possible. Democrats once held statewide and national offices in places like Nebraska. Moderate Democrats like Ben Nelson and populist, progressive Democrats like Bob Kerrey. Both ensured the state’s economic base was equal and that urban voters had just as much say as rural voters. Folks who live in small towns were not told to go sit at the kids’ table, we were at the main table treated as equals.

To win, Democrats must reform and expand our party. Yes, we have to compete everywhere, and put up candidates at every level. Yes, we have to organize. But it’s more than that. We simply cannot win if people at the top of the ticket ignore something that cuts across all identities--  economic populism. We cannot win if the same circle of consultants and pollsters that live on the coasts tout the same tired messages and the same tired tactics of TV ad buys. We cannot pass off the governance failures as messaging or candidate failures. The big tent that Democrats talk about has to be accessible for those of us with cowboy boots on instead of Prada heels.

Democrats are often out talking about the latest tech tool and how some voting algorithm is the silver bullet to winning elections. Technology is critical. So is old-fashioned relationship building with people at their doors and where they hang out. So is inviting people to come to the DNC and state party meetings we hold throughout the year so it is not some secret cabal. So is actually giving budgets to the College and Young Democrats and various caucuses so long-term organizing is happening that is also institutionalized and lessens the “hair on fire” plans to “target young voters” or target some other constituency group that a consultant writes a plan for and pays people who have no long-term connection to the party.

We have to look at the collapse of our party over the last eight years not as a repudiation of the values of equality, justice, and liberty, but as the American people firing us because they saw that we did not stand for those values. As Democrats, we have a lot of work to do. The first step is to recognize what went wrong (and no it was not just Comey) and then we must rebuild on fundamentally different foundations than what we have right now.

All of this starts with putting a genuine populist, an organizer, in charge of the DNC. That’s why I support Keith Ellison for Chair and see him as the only choice to bring our party together and forward. I encourage anyone who wants Democrats to win elections, and who wants a more progressive and populist America, to join me in the streets and in the voting booth because that is how we will show folks in rural America we are finally ready to give a damn.
Hillary's suburban-oriented strategy kind of worked for her in the two most populous counties in the state-- Douglas (Omaha), which she won 105,207 (47.9%) to 102,151 (47.5%) and Lancaster (Lincoln), which she won by 77 votes, 60,533 (46.6%) to 60,456 (46.6%). Obama didn't win either of those counties in 2012. Overall, statewide, Obama-2012 outpolled Hillary-2016-- 289,154 (38%) to 273,858 (34%) and that's because she lost the rural counties-- i.e.., the rest of the state-- by even greater numbers than he had. The Democrats lost the one congressional seat they had in the state, Brad Ashford's. Ashford managed to get more votes in Douglas County than Hillary did and won it 110,557 to 103,938. But his Republican opponent, Don Bacon, managed to run up a greater margin in much smaller and more rural Sarpy County, the only only other county in the district, 30,353 to 18,182, giving Bacon a 49.4% to 47.3% win over Ashford, about 5,500 votes out of over a quarter million cast. Ashford, a former Republican, had the single most conservative voting record for any Democrat in the Congress. Progressive Punch gave him an "F" rating and his 30.77 crucial vote score was actually lower than that of 4 libertarian-oriented Republicans.

But Ashford had an opportunity to lead on Dakota Access, KXL and TPP-- all issues in the important to the base and he did not engage on those issues. He needed the Democratic base to be excited and turnout for him; playing to the right-of-center was the wrong move for him.

Meanwhile, I asked Jane Kleeb if there was any hope for the Democrats in the unicameral state legislature (which is technically non-partisan, but just technically). She told me the Democrats had just flipped 5 Republican seats to Democrat-- two in rural Nebraska: Fremont (where a teacher name Lynn Walz won) and Grand Island (where a union member and family farmer won, a town will be close to 40% Latino soon). In two Dem v Dem races the more progressive-- both people of color-- won. Tony Vargas is now the first Democratic Latino to represent his community in the Unicam and Justin Wayne is a young African American. The Establishment opposed them both (though not Jane).

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6 Comments:

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last sentence first paragraph:

"One can only PRAY the brainiacs ..... READ (er) it and take .... "

JP

 
At 1:11 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Great story here's another one.

http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/12/14/1611095/-Congratulations-to-Chris-Reeves-on-a-Winning-Red-State-Strategy

 
At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

put the "party" to sleep; quit voting for *ALL* Democrap candidates. Make the D sect of the money party extinct and seek a truly progressive alternative.

If this doesn't happen, we'll ALWAYS affirm evil by electing the evil with a nicer face ... some of the time.

 
At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post & absolutely what Democrats need to do to win - become populist again. One quibble - Making Ellison head of DNC would be a disaster. Its the optics not his progressive orientation that is the problem. Selecting a black Moslem after this election would be a disaster, setting us up for 2018 elections in which every Democratic candidate running would be portrayed as aligned with the black Moslem Democratic leader with a Moslem skull cap. We'd do much better selecting a white, blue collar progressive that spits tobacco & has a home town touch.

 
At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have my doubts. In all the rural areas in my state and the one beside my state, they are devoutly and evangelically regressive racist fucktards. They would gladly see the LITERAL hitler elected as their irrational hatreds and warlike urges would then be affirmed. They went hard for drumpf and would gleefully do so again even if Lincoln or FDR were resurrected to save the union.

Even a pinhead like Palin, Bachman or the Nevada broad who wanted to barter chickens for heart surgery would take 66% against any D.

 
At 5:57 PM, Blogger Dad said...

Bam! Obama's renewable policies are creating a shit load of jobs. Scale it up!!!!!! And Own it!!! WTF?

'Due to the drop in costs for solar technology and increases in electric utility rates, solar photovoltaic-generated electricity is now less expensive than grid electricity, and adoption is rising rapidly throughout the U.S. In fact, Bloomberg reported that the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. As I previously wrote, the U.S. solar industry is now creating enough jobs (hiring new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy) that it could actually absorb all the coal jobs that would be lost if the coal industry was completely shut down.

And yet there’s room for even more industry growth, and more savings for American consumers: a recent study my team conducted found that antiquated regulations are costing the growing solar market an additional $70 billion..'

https://hbr.org/2016/12/solar-is-being-held-back-by-regulations-not-technology

 

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