Senator John Tester is an anomaly. He’s a Democrat who has won in a deep-red state. Tester represents the state of Montana and his plain-speaking, no-nonsense approach to politics and issues attracts voters from all sides of the political spectrum.
He’s also something of a Democratic Party outsider. In a party full of kooks, crazies, and radical socialists he’s become something of an embarrassment to the Democrats.
But Tester is also a winner, especially with rural voters in his state. And the Senator thinks he knows why Democrats get slaughtered in rural areas across the country.
Tester, who is serving his third term in the Senate, told the New York Times that there was “no denying” that Trump “has an appeal to rural America.” The Democratic senator argued that his party’s message to rural voters is “really, really flawed.”
“We do not have a — what do I want to say — a well-designed way to get our message out utilizing our entire caucus. So we need to do more of that,” Tester said. “You cannot have Chuck Schumer talking rural issues to rural people; it ain’t gonna sell. And quite frankly, I don’t know that you can have Jon Tester go talk to a bunch of rich people and tell them what they need to be doing.”
No, if I were a Democrat I wouldn’t want Chuck Schumer speaking to rural voters either. But wouldn’t you love to see it?
Tester also diagnosed the Democrats’ underperforming in the election as a problem of not “showing up.”
Tester said that a decision to dial back in-person campaign events during the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to the Democrats’ underperformance.
“I think showing up is a fundamental rule of politics, and I don’t know that we showed up. Because of Covid, we didn’t show up on the campaign trail. And in a state like Montana, you have to give people a reason to vote for you or they’ll vote Republican — they’ll default to Republican,” Tester said. “And I think that hurt us greatly in 2020. The Republicans, for the most part, didn’t see the pandemic as near as a threat to health as some of the Democrats did.”
It was hard to tell where the Democrats’ concern about the coronavirus was genuine and where it became a political affectation to draw a distinction between Biden and Trump. Biden self-consciously made it a point to keep Democratic precinct workers from reaching out, despite pleas from party locals and warnings that Republicans were taking advantage of their inaction.
Finally, Tester blamed his party’s reaction to the riots as a major cause of their loss.
Tester also criticized his party’s failure to condemn instances of rioting that occurred alongside nationwide protests against police brutality in recent months. He referred to calls to defund the police as “not just bad messaging, but just insane” for Democrats.
That he even felt it necessary to point this out is indicative of how far around the bend the Democrats have gone and how far away from their roots as the party of farmers and farmworkers they’ve gotten.