Yesterday, Andy Kroll at Rolling Stone published an article focused on the work of rural progressive activists in the 2020 election. The piece highlighted the grassroots work of many of our colleagues, including Brigid Flaherty from DownHomeNC, the important role of the Rural Democracy Initiative contribution and input from the Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org, Matt Hildreth. The answer to the question posed in the title of Kroll’s piece is yes, if Democrats do the work.
There’s early evidence that these efforts, in combination with the broader surge in energy on the left during Trump’s first term in office, can make a difference in rural America. Much has been written about how the suburbs powered the Democratic blue wave in the 2018 midterm elections, but the biggest shift in voters who supported Democrats two years ago after backing Trump in 2016 happened not in the suburbs but in rural areas, according to the left-leaning analytics firm Catalist. As Hildreth likes to say, rural voters are swing voters, even if they’re rarely talked about that way by pollsters and pundits.
Those swing rural voters could not only decide the presidency this year, but also control of the U.S. Senate given the political map in 2020. To win them over — or at least enough of them to deny Trump the staggering margins he recorded in ’16 and flip the Senate — liberal donors are pouring money into rural organizing efforts like Hildreth’s and dozens of others across the country. From distributing tens of thousands of Biden-Harris yard signs to employing cutting-edge canvassing tactics to funding hyper-local organizations built to last beyond one or two election cycles, this renewed focus on rural voters could not only prove to be key to defeating Trump but a critical part of stitching together a fraying nation.
The full article can be read here. Matt Hildreth is available for interviews.