Democracy Lies in the Heartland

One Country Project
3 min readAug 9, 2023

Four hundred and fifty-four. But who’s counting, right? If they know what’s good for them, Democrats. In 454 days, voters across the country will head to the polls for a Presidential election where the stakes could not be higher. In the meantime, data shows we have plenty of work to do.

So, where’s a good place to start? Think rural, think local, think young. If Democrats did just 5 percent better in rural areas, we would see a seismic shift in our political outcomes and legislative landscape. But too often, doors in these areas go un-knocked, phones don’t ring, and voters are written off by the Democratic party. While rural voters nationwide typically vote Republican, young rural voters are more evenly split. In 2020, 50% of rural voters under 30 voted for Trump, while 47% voted for Biden. Mobilize the young generation of rural voters and the rest will follow.

Former Ohio Democratic party chair and author of “Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual for Every American,” David Pepper, calls on Democrats to fight “the perception that there is nothing ordinary Americans can do except watch and maybe send some dollars to a Senate campaign. This means engaging in the fight for democracy in your hometowns, at the local level, by running for office or supporting Democrats who do.” On the latest episode of the Hot Dish podcast, David argues that Democrats “are so focused on the federal election cycle and the swing states, that we have basically accepted not running in so many of these places hard or at all, not running for the offices in so many of these places that are actually the ones that shape democracy itself.” Pepper added, “The front line is everywhere — it’s in Oklahoma, it’s in New York, it’s all over the country, it’s in Ohio, [and] there’s a lot more you can do about it than just sending a check to a Pennsylvania Senate race.”

And it’s not only where Dems do outreach, but how that will make an impact come Election Day. Infrastructure, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act — Democrats have these wins on the board, but they must commit to going into rural communities and conveying how these wins impact voters’ bottom lines and futures if they are going to truly “win the wins” and ultimately votes and elections. If they don’t, Republicans seem happy to fill the void and claim credit for policies Dems secured back home. Take the American Rescue Plan for example — legislation that enabled our country’s economic return. Despite being voted down by every single Republican, Democrats emerged victorious yet faced a chorus of Republicans touting elements of the bill to their constituents during the 2022 campaign season. Voters deserve to know where politicians stand, and Democrats need to start taking credit for these victories if they want to win on election day.

One Country is encouraged to see the widespread acknowledgment of prioritizing turning out the rural vote thanks to groups popping up all over the country including Clean & Prosperous America and Dirt Road Democrats to name a few. One thing is clear — organizations dedicated to the heartland of America have hit their stride. We commend these groups for amplifying what we have said all along: our democracy is strongest when rural America’s priorities and values are heard, understood, well-represented and reflected throughout policy in Washington and at home. After all, 454 days will be here before we know it.