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Why Texas Democrats Need Rural

The familiar drumbeats to ignore rural and focus only on urban Democratic strongholds in 2024 have already begun. The first response I have to this argument is, "You mean the party has been focused on rural? You mean, it can actually be worse out here?" Good to know.

I get it. Urban Democrats see no value in competing in rural Texas because everyone there is white and is never going to stop voting Republican and rural folks only want to take us backwards. The assumption is that if we get enough young urban voters to go to the polls we will inevitably win, so just focus on that. Although none of these things are true, that is the message going around that we must deal with. So be it.

History teaches us that without rural votes you cannot elect a statewide candidate in Texas. To my knowledge no statewide candidate in Texas history has ever been elected without a sizeable share of the rural vote. You can't win statewide on rural votes alone, but you will lose every time without a good portion of them.

Aside from that fact, there is a bigger, and in my view much more important reason why rural should be important for Democrats. The growing urban rural divide is growing more entrenched every election. If, by some miracle, Democrats can win statewide without rural votes, where will that lead us? It will only create a permanent, factional divide, not between Democrats and Republicans, but between those in the city and those in the country. This would be dangerous for the future of our state and for the future of our democracy.

To truly lead this state, the Democratic Party must be able to appeal to people from all backgrounds, all places, all religions, all cultures, all races, all ethnicities. This includes the people who live in our least populated regions. Casting off the voters in rural Texas tells them that they are not important, that their lives and their votes are irrelevant and worthless. In fact, it says they are too stupid to be persuaded to vote Democrat, and their votes are so worthless they are not even worth fighting for. It does not just say that to the rural Democrats. It screams it loudly to everyone in small town Texas. Republicans and independents hear it loud and clear as well. That message is that Democrats do not care about rural people, rural places and rural economies except during hunting season and vacation. It does not send a message of unity, but of division. Resigning a sizeable population of the state to second tier status is not democracy. It is an invitation to resentment, anger and can eventually lead to civil unrest and, God forbid, even violence.

It is within our power to change this. If we want to improve Texas and the lives of all Texans, we cannot allow ourselves to go down this road of division and factionalism between urban and rural. We need each other. Rural Texans do not want to control everything, they do not want to ruin your lives or spoil your fun. But they are tired of being ignored and want their voices and interests dealt with, not just politely listened to and then ignored. Is that too much to ask?

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