Has the Democratic National Committee Learned Much About Rural America Since 2016?

With a little over five months until the midterm election, I’m beginning to wonder if national Democrats have changed much from 2016. Missteps, alienating certain industries, and a dwindling advantage in voter enthusiasm should give them pause and push them to reach out to places like North Dakota. If they don’t put in the effort and continue to take persuadable voters for granted, they could be looking at an unexpected repeat of 2016.

Following 2016, I wrote about the plight the national Democratic Party places onto moderate Democrats in states like North Dakota. I urged them to travel to the Midwest and rural America. Rather than talking about us, they should be making efforts to talk with us. Five months out from the next election, I haven’t seen those efforts take shape. Their interest and desire appears to have waned.

Instead, the DNC has undertaken initiatives that alienate some rural moderate Democrats further. Take for example their decision earlier this month to reject fossil fuel company campaign contributions. Arguments can and should be made about campaign finance in America as a whole. Yet, to isolate this particular industry and their contributions underscores the DNC disconnect from places like North Dakota where energy development is a key pillar to our economy. In response, many North Dakota Democrats publicly denounced the DNC decision. Make no mistake, the opposing political machine will still use this national position against these local candidates regardless of their denouncement.

That DNC resolution was introduced by Christine Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi is perhaps the most polarizing figure who is repeatedly used against moderate Democrats during election years. That political tactic has been successful in places like North Dakota. Following the 2016 results, Congressional Democrats chose to maintain her leadership. This cycle, more Congressional candidates have come out publicly and declared they will not support Pelosi for leadership if they win in the midterm. Mac Schneider, the Democratic Congressional candidate for North Dakota’s lone seat is one of those candidates who declared he’d look elsewhere for leadership.

People are quick to point out the gains made since 2016. That should not be discounted. Yes, some of those pickups were in deep red parts of the country. Yet, many of those have been special elections. Voting turnout for special elections can look vastly different than those of a general election. Since then, the enthusiasm gap among voters has narrowed. What was once a thirteen point advantage for a generic Democrat on the ballot has dropped to approximately a four-point advantage. Will that hold through November? Democrats would be unwise to rely on a perceived advantage.

What I’ve seen is the DNC continue to be disconnected from rural America. Have they learned much about us since 2016? In the heartland of America, middle-of-the-road Democratic candidates have been forced to fight against the odds the DNC has built against them to win elections. Results since 2012 show how difficult that has been. Will that absence of understanding places like North Dakota impact candidates in those races? Or will the strength of these candidates overcome the political obstacles constructed outside of their control?

Tyler Axness
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