Wednesday, October 2, 2019

How to Reach Voters in Appalachia and Similar Areas

This is something I wrote awhile ago that appeared in a Boston Review forum on this issue. I think it holds up pretty well. Here's the intro to the article.
"A man wearing a canvas shirt tucked into blue jeans walks through the tall grass, clicks a break-action shotgun, and fires a round. “I approve this message,” he says. The camera zooms in on the target as it explodes in the distance.
It is not a TV ad for a Republican, though a similar shotgun did appear in a controversial ad run last fall by Georgia’s recently inaugurated Republican governor Brian Kemp. The scene comes, instead, from a spot for the senior Democratic senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who was reelected in November. The target he shoots displays a sign saying “lawsuit on coverage of pre-existing conditions,” referring to a 2018 case brought against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by two governors and eighteen state attorneys general, among them Manchin’s Republican opponent, Patrick Morrisey. Before Manchin fires the round, he calls Morrisey “dead wrong.” In this genius—and electorally effective—feat of political messaging, Manchin packages a liberal policy idea in a conservative cultural form.
The lesson is an urgent one. Elizabeth Catte suggests that the left can do better in Appalachia by appealing directly to class interests, rather than simply trying to be “moderate.” I don’t doubt this is true, as it is in many parts of the United States today. The question is how to sell this message in specific political and cultural contexts, including those in Appalachia."
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