By Michael Bastasch
President Obama thinks the media is to blame, at least in part, for rural Americans not voting Democrat this election despite his administration pumping billions of dollars into rural economies.
“Tom — Tom Vilsack, my agriculture secretary from Iowa. We — we devoted more attention, more focus, put more resources into rural America than has — has been the case probably for the last two, three decades,” Obama told David Axelrod, a White House senior adviser, in an interview for CNN.
“And — and it paid great dividends, but you just wouldn’t know that, that’s not something that you would see on the nightly news,” Obama said.
“And so we’ve got to figure out how do we show people and communicate in a way that is visceral and — and makes an emotional connection as opposed to just the facts,” Obama continued, “because the facts are all in dispute these days.”
Obama made the remarks as part of an “exit interview” put out by CNN. The U.S. Department of Agriculture pumped out $6.5 billion in 2016 to fund rural electrical utilities, housing and community development.
Despite all that, rural Americans overwhelmingly voted for Republican candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election, eschewing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton who was largely seen as a “third term” for Obama.
Obama won 45 percent of the rural vote in 2008, but Clinton only won 34 percent of the rural vote in the last election. Trump won 62 percent of rural voters. Those numbers have Democrats stumped.
“Hillary lost rural America 3 to 1,” an unnamed Democratic insider told Politico. “If she had lost rural America 2 to 1, it would have broken differently.”
About 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities, but they make up 17 percent of the electorate last election cycle.
“Look, the Affordable Care Act benefits a huge number of Trump voters,” Obama said, referencing a recent Vox article about Kentuckians using Obamacare who voted for Trump.
“There are a lot of folks in places like West Virginia or Kentucky who didn’t vote for Hillary, didn’t vote for me, but are being helped by this,” Obama said.
“The — the problem is, is that we’re not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities,” Obama told Axelrod.
“And there’s an emotional connection, and part of what we have to do to rebuild is to be there and — and that means organizing, that means caring about state parties, it means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races and not thinking that somehow, just a great set of progressive policies that we present to the New York Times editorial board will win the day,” Obama concluded.