After John Kerry’s failed presidential run in 2004, Democrats didn’t just double down on cities — they basically behaved as though building and maintaining power in cities was the only strategy going forward.
The Urban Archipelago theory argued that American cities were strongholds of progressive thought, and rural America had become an underpopulated conservative wasteland. The future, therefore, would be written in the city and those policies would emanate outward to other parts of the country.
Plenty of great policies erupted from the Urban Archipelago strategy: marriage equality, the $15 minimum wage, enhanced worker protections. The 2008 and 2012 electoral maps, which saw Obama winning handily even in traditionally purple states, seemed to indicate that Democratic cities could light the way for American politics. The few Democrats who won high-profile offices in rural states, like Montana Senator Jon Tester, were basically treated as weird anomalies.
But all at once in 2016, the weaknesses in the Urban Archipelago theory became obvious. Donald Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote by an overwhelming margin, the Republican Senate maintained a stranglehold on the legislative process, and Trump and the Senate began packing courts with conservative judges.
The partisan divide between rural America and urban America has never been wider, even though rural America has never needed progressive economics more.
America’s farmlands and small towns have for decades been plagued by a host of interrelated crises…