For the last two decades, rural America increasingly backed Republicans in presidential elections. But during most of that time, the Upper Mississippi River Valley — an area that includes northwest Illinois, northeast Iowa, southeast Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin— remained steadfastly Democratic. Democrats’ success in these sparsely populated areas was sometimes referred to as the Upper Mississippi River Valley Anomaly.
But something surprising happened in the 2016 election. Not only did Hillary Clinton lose to Donald Trump in the Upper Mississippi River Valley; she got clobbered there.
Two Upper Mississippi River Valley counties are among the nine we are featuring in The Race To 2020, including Howard County, in northeast Iowa, which Trump flipped by a staggering 42 points. In 2012, only one of the 20 or so counties in northeast Iowa voted for the Republican nominee. In 2016, all but one did.
These dramatic shifts had something to do with Donald Trump’s unique ability to attract the votes of working class whites. But they also had a lot to do with a Democratic Party whose values and priorities no longer resonate with rural voters.
In this video, Laura Hubka, who heads the Howard County Democrats, talks about what Democrats must do to be relevant again in the rural Midwest.
She discusses the split between the establishment wing of the party and the progressive side of the party, and what they must to unite. She laments that many progressives want to impose purity tests on their candidates and worries that they will try to push the party too far to the Left. “The people that are purists on the progressive side of the party [are] saying, ‘This is our platform, if you’re a candidate and you’re OK with guns, we don’t want to support you.’ It’s Iowa. People have guns, you know?”
This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Howard County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.