In a report on deeply conservative districts that went for Donald Trump in 2016, the Washington Monthly found a surge in voter enthusiasm among Democrats who are drawing independents and non-voters into the fold over disgust with the president.
According to the report, most media outlets prefer to report on Trump's followers in Middle America while attempting to get a handle on why they voted for the television reality star businessman to become the leader of the free world. What has been ignored are the voters who saw through him and voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"In Augusta County, where [local Democratic chairman Frank] Nolen has lived since 1960, more than 70 percent of voters chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, making it one of the most pro-Trump parts of the state," writes the Monthly's Daniel Block. "In Virginia’s 2017 gubernatorial primary, 58 percent of Augusta GOP primary participants voted for far-right ideologue Corey Stewart over the more mainstream eventual nominee, Ed Gillespie. Most of the neighboring counties also voted for both Trump and Stewart, if not by quite such dramatic margins."
However, Block notes things have changed since the 2016 election as Democrats are seeing their ranks grow in Trump territory.
"If Augusta is any indication, Democrats in rural red counties are just as fired up and enthused as their counterparts in liberal cities," he reports. "In Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, which includes Augusta, no Democrat has mounted a midterm congressional campaign in twenty years. This year, four people ran."
“I was working the farmers’ market yesterday, and I got an email from a lady,” Nolen told Block. “She wanted to know how she could volunteer to help the Democrats this year. Just out of the blue. It’s encouraging.”
"As more activists come out of the woodwork, the Democratic Party gains more people like Frank Nolen: human faces who can make the party more accessible to residents with hidden liberal inclinations. This is critical for the party’s fortunes. Building a viable electoral infrastructure depends on making it socially acceptable to be a Democrat," the report adds.
According to Block, "Almost every Democrat I spoke to had evidence that the current political climate is bringing new voters and activists into the fold."
"In Shenandoah County, where a Democrat has not won a presidential campaign since 1932, Katherine Morrison told me that only five or six people used to show up to the county’s Democratic committee meetings," he wrote, adding, " 'Now, it’s fifty,' she said, adding that more than 700 people typically both receive and open the group’s emails. Democrats in nearby counties also told me that their committees were growing in size."
Block warned that change won't come overnight, but said that Trump may face difficulties should he run again in 2020.
As Thea Litchfield Campbell, the co-chair of the Rockingham County Democratic Committee told him: " “What we’ve found is that there are lots of people who are supportive of the Democratic platform, or would lean Democrat, but just don’t vote. I feel like rather than changing a lot of votes, what we’re doing is energizing people who haven’t been involved before.”
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