A debate, a new ad and a Winnebago show how Democrats can win in rural America
Did you know that of the 77 members of the House Congressional Progressive Caucus, all but five accept corporate PAC money as part of their campaigns? (And two of those aren’t coming back to the House next year.)
I have a story out today with Rachel Cohen about the tension inside the CPC over the issue of corporate money, as progressives know they’re under pressure to give it up, but have a hard time envisioning what such a world looks like.
The national Democratic strategy to take back the House has focused on flipping suburban districts, and polls show that they’re likely to pull that off in a lot of places. But that overlooks a huge swath of the country -- rural America. (And competing in these rural House districts also has implications when it comes to winning Senate races.)
The conventional wisdom is that these districts are irredeemably unwinnable. But in some of them, with novel campaigns, Democrats are making a real run. I emailed you earlier about Jess King’s unusual race in Amish country, where she’s taken a district Trump won by 26 points and made it competitive. She thumped her opponent in a debate this past week; here’s my dispatch on that.
And in rural Iowa -- not that hipster bastion of Des Moines -- J.D. Scholten, a former minor league ballplayer, is taking on white nationalist Steve King with a strategy of relentless engagement with voters and local press, and criticism of the banking, seed and pesticide monopolies destroying rural America.
Dave Dayen traveled in Scholten’s Winnebago with him and filed this great dispatch.
And then there’s Richard Ojeda, running in West Virginia in a district Trump won by 49 (!) points, and polls have him ahead, not because he’s running a Republican-lite campaign, but because he tells you exactly what he believes. (Here’s one interview I did with him, and it was like riding a mechanical bull.)
Check out this speech he gave on the trail recently. You won’t be sorry. Here’s one of his latest ads, based on an Intercept story by Lee Fang, that hits his opponent for owning stock in manufacturers of opiods that have devastated West Virginia. It’s raw progressive-populism and it’s working.
Iowa, West Virginia and Pennsylvania were all won by Trump in 2016 and four of the six senators are Republicans. Turning their rural districts from deep red to at least purple makes them much more winnable statewide, so there could be compounding benefits. And the message they’re running on resonates just as strongly with urban progressives as it does in rural counties, which means they’re trying to build a sustainable coalition. Seems worth a shot.
And I wanted to say thank you to the people here who spoke out publicly in the hopes of getting Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi released. But as I’m sure you’ve seen, it appears there was never a chance, and he was murdered immediately in the Saudi consulate. The Saudi response has been to claim it’s all one giant conspiracy.
I can imagine this ending a couple different ways that leave no justice for Jamal. Saudi Arabia gives Turkey and the U.S. whatever it is they want, and everybody agrees to pretend nothing really happened. And/or Saudi Arabia admits it happened, but says it was a rogue operation carried out by the dastardly deep state. And then everything goes back to normal. Though I don’t think they’ll be able to pull that off this time. We’ll see.
While I wrote this newsletter this morning, my twins made their own laptops using construction paper so they could play along. Not sure if this is something to be proud of or represents some kind of neglect. I’m gonna go with the former.