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Editors’ Note

THE CARTOGRAPHY OF U.S. politics has hardened into cliché: islands of urban blue in a vast sea of rural red. In the recent midterm elections, however, rural working-class whites shifted their votes toward Democrats by seven points. (Rural people of color already largely vote Democratic.) To appreciate the magnitude of the shift, consider that Democrats picked up only two points among blue-collar suburbanites. Still, winning in rural districts will require the Democrats to make a fundamental strategic choice: Do you mobilize voters with a boldly progressive platform, or do you moderate the message in the hope of swinging some independents and Republicans?

From her vantage point in the Shenandoah Valley, historian Elizabeth Catte, our lead essayist, sees “a failure of imagination” in the way Democrats are approaching this strategic issue. Catte argues that a deep strain of rural radicalism is already working—with some notable successes—on environmental issues and the fight for a living wage.

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