Charles Bruner: Democrats need to recognize rural Iowans’ frustration with the political system and start finding common ground.
Broadly generalizing, rural Iowans are good folk. They work hard and play by the rules, care about their neighbors, and seek to leave a future where their children can succeed and prosper. If an African American family moves in next door, they welcome them with fresh-based bread or cookies. They regard a child with Down syndrome reaching the age of majority as a part of the community and look out to see that youth is supported by and included in community life. They are entrepreneurs and tinker to be good stewards in preserving the land and community, in the context of a corporate agricultural economy.
Those qualities may not distinguish them greatly from city folk, but rural Iowans frequently have much more sense of and hands-on involvement in community life.
They also are older, whiter, and less likely to have college degrees than their urban counterparts. In 2008 and 2012, nearly half of Iowans outside large metro areas voted for Barack Obama for president. But a third of those who had voted for Obama switched away from the Democratic candidate for president in 2016. Donald Trump received about two-thirds of the rural Iowa vote in 2020.
Democrats have been wringing their hands over this shift – and the change in the county coffee shop conversations that must have occurred in small-town and rural Iowa.