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Hullabaloo


Sunday, May 06, 2018

 

"You can’t compromise with demography"

by Tom Sullivan

There was a time you couldn't find a Republican in his county, Bob Kuppers told me last night. They existed in the western mountains, but wouldn't admit to it. Now Democrats like him are the ones fighting to re-exert themselves. They won't be cowed. Kuppers is running to reclaim the NC state senate seat lost in 2010 after Art Pope, North Carolina’s own mini-Koch brother, injected nearly a million dollars into the district, personally and through his independent political groups. It was "a huge amount in a poor, backwoods district," Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker in "State For Sale."

The district's red shift is in part a reflection of the rural-urban divide. But that tension exists in part because, not unlike adopting abortion as a political weapon, conservatives see exacerbating the "divide" as electorally useful. Wherever they can drive the wedge deeper, they will so long as it wins elections.

I have argued abandoning rural America out of spite over Trump's election is counterproductive. The map is the math. So long as state legislatures control decennial redistricting, Republican majorities there will have the power to cement themselves in power, privatize public infrastructure and schools, enact voting restrictions on minorities, and rig the rest to render government of, by and for the people a phrase reserved for talking mannequins in the Hall of Presidents. And they will control Washington, D.C. too.

There are only so many urban areas for the left to win and, in many states, not enough seats there to form a governing majority. Ignoring the rest is not an option. The alternative is not moral compromise, but victory.

Leonard Pitts is of no mood to invest energy in understanding Trump voters in such places. It is a mistake to try, he believes:

Long before Trump even existed as a political force, many of us noted with alarm the rise of a backlash among right wingers deeply angry and profoundly terrified by the writing on the demographic wall. Said writing foretold — and for that matter, still foretells — the declining preeminence of white, Christian America. As several studies now show, a sense of alarmed displacement among white, Christian America is the soil from which the weed of Trumpism grew.
A reflex for understanding opponents "bespeaks a great generosity of spirit," Pitts writes. And in normal times, it might have merit. But these are not normal times.
No compromise is possible here for a simple reason Trump followers seem to understand better than the rest of us: You can’t compromise with demography, can’t order numbers to stop being what they are and saying what they say about the coming tide of change. But what you can do is seize the levers of power and change the rules of the game in hopes of blunting the force of that tide. That — again, look at the studies — is what Trump supporters elected him to do.

So while, it is admirable to think “understanding” can fix this country, it is also naive. Progressives should ask themselves: When’s the last time you heard any Trump supporters talking about the need to understand you? You haven’t — and that ought to tell you something.
They don't need to be understood, Pitts concludes. They need to be defeated.

But that cannot be accomplished simply by winning statewide races by bigger margins in Los Angeles or Chicago. The fight is in rural areas less welcoming to progressive politics. Progressives have to compete there. They have to win state Senate and House seats there. It's math.

Donald Trump brought his campaign to Duplin County in rural, eastern North Carolina, a campaign operative observed Friday over coffee. Kenansville, NC to be precise, quadrupling the town's population.

"The whole county shut down. They closed the schools. The sheriff's department provided an escort," he said. Hillary Clinton visited the bright blue spaces and sent campaign surrogates there. Clinton won the cities. Trump won the state.

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.