Alec MacGillis has a suggestion for all those Democrats who want to win races outside the major metropolitan areas: Move there.
In a good New York Times column, MacGillis notes that Democrats over the past few decades have packed themselves into the nation’s most populous counties. Oh, Democrats like to blame gerrymandering for the failure of their party to win more seats in Congress and state legislatures. But MacGillis notes that a “bigger problem” is that “Democrats today are sorting themselves into geographic clusters where many of their votes have been rendered all but superfluous…”
There are loads of reasons for this clustering, MacGillis writes, but there is also a “basic cultural element: Democrats just don’t want to live where they’d need to live to turn more of the map blue.”
So, hey Democrats, if you want to turn Iowa blue, get thee to the Midwest.
Democrats have about half the votes in the country, but have trouble hanging on to majorities in the Senate or House. “Clustering is part of the problem,” MacGillis writes. “All those Democrats gravitating to blue strongholds like New York and California get the party no more Senate seats than Republicans get from Idaho and from Wyoming, a state with a population of about 580,000, slightly more than Fresno, Calif. If the Democrats are going to gain a lasting hold on the Senate, they have to win seats in swing states. But that gets harder the more that Democratic-leaning voters flock to big, blue states, abandoning swing states like Ohio, where the Republican Rob Portman is gliding to re-election, or smaller red states where Democrats might still have a shot at holding Senate seats, like Montana, Indiana or North Dakota.”
Will Democrats move out of their urban strongholds? Not likely. There are more jobs in the cities — the economies of cities are more vibrant than rural areas — and, besides, people want to live around those who think, act and live the way they do.
“And this sorting out is self-perpetuating, too. The fewer people you encounter of the opposite political persuasion, the more they become an unfathomable other, easily caricatured and impossible to find even occasional common ground with. By segregating themselves in narrow slices of the country, Democrats have also made it harder to make their own case. They are forever preaching to the converted, while their social distance also leaves them unprepared for what’s coming from the other end of the spectrum. Changing that would mean adopting a broader notion of what it means to live in a happening place, and also exposing themselves to discomforts that most people naturally avoid, given the human tendency to seek out our own kind.”
Now, more news from the campaign that is fast approaching its conclusion:
ABC News reports that most people who say they are voting for Trump do so because they dislike Democrat Hillary Clinton — except among rural voters. “In no group, save rural voters, does a majority back Trump affirmatively,” ABC reports.
The Cook County Record reports that Election Day voter registration is easier in urban areas than in rural precincts.
The Chicago-based publication reported that Illinois residents will be allowed to register to vote on November 8 in precincts that are equipped to transmit registration data electronically to the state. If a precinct can’t do that, voters will have to go to their county clerk’s office.
“There are a lot of people not registered to vote and there are a lot of people that say we should make voting easier for people,” Nick Kachiroubas, associate teaching professor at DePaul University’s School of Public Service, told the Cook County Record. “What the state did when it created this voter program is it allowed it in certain areas and not all areas in the state, which disenfranchises some voters. If you don’t happen to live in one of those areas that are allowed the precinct voting you would have to go all the way to your county building or wherever. This particularly affects downstate and rural counties to do this.”
For up to the minute news about campaigns in Indian Country, check in frequently with Mark Trahant, here.
Memphis newspaper columnist Chris Herrington writes about the rural/urban division:
I’ve got a lot of admiration for our current president (Is it controversial now to admire the president? Is this where we are?): For his personal integrity, his good humor, his lack of drama, all of which acquire a greater glow in the context of the current election. (Much the same could be said for his 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, another of the political few who have been elevated by 2016.)
But one of the president’s weaknesses is that he evinces little feel for life in the rural stretches that make up most of our land and a sizable minority of our population, and whose denizens are facing economic upheaval and cultural alienation that is different from and often more profound than those in the cities.
One of the reasons that other Clinton, our neighbor born in Hope and raised in Hot Springs, was such a successful politician despite his flaws and obstacles, is that he conveyed an understanding and concern for both urban and rural. He could inhabit both worlds. That duality is missing lately. And in the absence of a national politics that responds to the needs and concerns of rural areas and small towns, the void is filled by pandering to and exploiting its resentments.
And Herrington points us to these musings by (the rock/country band) Drive-By Trucker’s Patterson Hood, in liner notes of his latest album:
“As America sinks into the 21st century, we are a very divided people. For all the talk about a red-state/blue-state divide, I think it often comes down more to an urban/rural division. ‘Gun culture’ means something very different in the big city and country folk often feel like their needs, wants and ideals are being compromised and infringed upon by some force that they neither know nor understand. The reddest states tend to have one or two metropolitan areas that are pushing progressive change. I (now) live in one of the most liberal cities in America but I can get into my car and drive 20 minutes in any direction and culturally be back in Alabama. Perhaps we could call this the new (?) duality of America. Maybe it’s not so new but with modern communication being what it is, it appears that we, as a people seem to be having a tougher time than ever dealing with the differences and needs of the other side of the cultural landscape.”