Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about why Democrats fare so poorly in rural areas. It is particularly perplexing because the policies of the Democratic Party are much more friendly and helpful to rural folk than those of the Republicans.
Pretty clearly rural voters are responding to something other than actual party values. Likely it's perceived party values. Or, what I see here in Idaho, the voters reject Democrats based solely on the party ID. Idaho voters have so thoroughly internalized the idea that Democrat=Bad that they simply ignore everything else. Really. I believe the run of the mill Idaho voter wants to know nothing other that the party affiliation.
My perception is that these voters aren't voting Republican so much as they are voting anti-Democrat. Years ago Democrats got linked to "radical environmentalism" and the demise of logging. That really hurt Democrats in North Idaho. Best thing that ever happened to Republicans in North Idaho was the Spotted Owl. Republicans here still brand every Democrat as liberal, and it seems to work. Reality be damned.
As a thought experiment I've asked myself, What policy position could an Idaho Democrat espouse that would actually earn votes? I've asked other people this same question. The answer always is, nothing. Idaho Dems can't move any farther to the right, really. And even if they did, Idaho voters don't look at policies, they just look at D or R.
It's not policies that are the problem, it's the perception. And that's where I see a ray of hope. Dems are on their back right now, and everyone knows it. Perhaps if Dems embrace that and announce that they've seen the light, Idaho voters might take a second look. It could be that Idaho voters might be interested if Dems say "We've got big problems, we know it, and we're changing."
As the Army says, embrace the suck. Perhaps we have a rare and fleeting opportunity to get people to listen. I guess I'm saying right now it's more about messaging than actual policies. The election sent the message that Dems need to change. Let's announce that we got the message.