This response to a story about Democrats' toxic brand is why Democrats' brand is so toxic

AP Photo/David Goldman

Yesterday Jazz wrote about an Associated Press story headlined “‘The brand is so toxic’: Dems fear extinction in rural US.” The gist of the story is that some Democrats worry their party could be wiped out in rural areas in states like Pennsylvania because the party has become so associated with far left views.


[Sen. Heidi Heitkamp] said Democrats are hurting themselves by not speaking out more forcefully against far-left positions that alienate rural voters, such as the push to “defund the police.”

While only a handful of Democrats in Congress support stripping such money from police departments, for example, conservative media popular in rural communities — particularly Fox News — amplifies such positions.

“We’re letting Republicans use the language of the far left to define the Democratic Party, and we can’t do that,” Heitkamp said. “The trend lines in rural America are very, very bad. … Now, the brand is so toxic that people who are Democrats, the ones left, aren’t fighting for the party.”

In response to this article, a left-leaning blogger named David Roberts wrote a Twitter thread which has been hailed as a work of staggering genius by quite a few aggrieved Democrats. Let’s walk through it.

His argument here is that rural voters are reacting to lies and conspiracies and definitely not to “real-life Dems.” Are Rep. Ocasio Cortez and Rep. Cori Bush real-life Dems?

Before you say I’m cherry-picking by pointing to the Squad as if they are representative of all Democrats, consider that there are currently 226 Democrats in the House and 97 of them are members of the progressive caucus chaired by Pramila Jayapal. That’s roughly 43% of House Democrats who are pushing for “climate justice” and universal healthcare. Granted they aren’t all Democratic Socialists like AOC but there are quite a lot of real-Dems who self-identify as being part of the left flank of the party.


He’s referring to the Senate which gives equal power to states regardless of size. Of course that’s not how the House works which is why some states lost representatives after the 2020 census and others gained them. Also, sorry to bring this up, but mockery of the constitution is probably one of those things that rural voters don’t care for very much. Maybe look into that with some other Dems. But he’s right that there are fewer rural voters these days. The problem is that even with that being the case, the country is pretty evenly divided. Joe Biden won the White House in 2020 but Democrats lost a bunch of House seats.

I’m not going to prove his point by jumping on him for stating this. I will say that I don’t think urban voters always have a more accurate view of the world. Democrats also sometimes believe things that aren’t remotely true. Just look at coverage of the Rittenhouse trial or the Michael Brown shooting or ask Democrats how many unarmed black men are shot each year by the police. Democrats, including urban and minority voters, have different blind spots but they do have them.


Sorry but that’s just wrong. If you go back to the original piece, it’s not faux populism written by people who are ignoring the diverse, urban population. Most of the commentary comes from concerned Democrats who are warning that their party is ignoring rural voters rather than making an effort to connect with them, i.e. doing retail politics. Roberts says (top tweets above) this effort is pointless because these voters will only hear lies about politicians like Fetterman, but the story actually says people cheered for him when he made the effort to show up. Have these people learned nothing? Go to Wisconsin, Hillary!

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a leading candidate in the Senate contest, insists his party can no longer afford to ignore rural voters. The former small-town mayor drove his black Dodge Ram pickup truck across five rural counties last weekend to face voters who almost never see statewide Democratic candidates…

“These are the kind of places that matter just as much as any other place,” Fetterman said as the crowd cheered.

As for the claim about the framing of this piece, Roberts is wrong about that too. Yes, I’ve seen mainstream media pieces framing the problem as Republicans having a toxic brand. Here’s one from the NY Times titled “N.Y.C. Was Once a Bastion of G.O.P. Moderates. Then Trump Came Along.”


Republicans are now outnumbered by Democrats in Manhattan by nearly eight to one, and some prominent New Yorkers like Joseph Lhota, the 2013 Republican candidate for mayor, have left the party.

“It had to do with Donald Trump, as head of the party,” Mr. Lhota said. “I just couldn’t deal with it.”

Here’s another from the New Yorker: “Trump Is Poison for Suburban Republicans—So Why Won’t They Turn on Him?

The shift from red to blue in places like Fairfax County started well before Trump arrived on the scene, of course. It is largely driven by demographic factors, including an influx of new voters who tend to be younger, highly educated, and more ethnically diverse. But the takeaway from Tuesday’s election confirms what we saw in last year’s midterms: Trump is accelerating these long-term trends and spreading poison for Republican candidates in the suburbs.

The pattern extends beyond Virginia. In Pennsylvania, which is crucial to Trump’s reëlection hopes, the Democrats took control of local governments in three leafy but populous counties north and west of Philadelphia: Bucks County, Chester County, and Delaware County. “There continues to be bloodletting and further erosion of suburban voters from the GOP,” Charlie Dent, a veteran Pennsylvania Republican who retired from a U.S. House seat in Lehigh Valley last year, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I just don’t know how Republicans will be able to offset the losses in suburban and exurban communities with increasing tallies from rural voters.”


The LA Times: “In California, Trump’s political poison spreads from top of the ticket to City Hall

There was a time, not even a decade ago, when Republicans held roughly half the 2,500 mayoral and city council seats in California. No more. Today, that number has fallen to just about a third while Democrats now hold a majority.

The GOP decline is “happening everywhere,” said Robb Korinke, who crunched the numbers for GrassrootsLab, a firm that conducts nonpartisan research on local government throughout the state. “The Central Valley. The Bay Area managed to get bluer than it was. L.A., places like the San Gabriel Valley and South Bay. Orange County, places like Irvine and Fullerton. The Inland Empire. San Diego.”

There are a lot more like this. Granted they often focus on suburbs, not just urban areas but it’s the same basic message, i.e. Trump is killing the GOP brand in these increasingly blue areas. I have to think David Roberts didn’t look very hard before claiming articles like this didn’t exist.

It’s just not true of course. If all of those groups had utterly written off the GOP then Democrats would have a nice supermajority in Congress and wouldn’t be facing a historic shellacking later this year. But give him points for pushing the smug button again. My recommendation: Democrats should definitely not send David Roberts into rural areas to drum up votes.


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