2020 Election

Senate Dem Says Party Leaders Don’t Know How to Talk to Rural Voters

Sen. Jon Tester / Getty

Democratic senator Jon Tester (Mont.) on Wednesday said his party's leadership doesn't know how to speak to rural voters.

In an interview with the New York Times, Tester named Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) multiple times in his diagnosis of the party's disconnect with the heartland.

"You cannot have Chuck Schumer talking rural issues to rural people; it ain't gonna sell," the farmer-turned-senator said. He added that he has spoken to Schumer "several times" about Democrats' messaging blunders.

Tester also excoriated Democrats for their failure to condemn riots in American cities over the summer, saying the activist message of defunding the police is "insane."

"We didn’t come out with strong advertisements saying: ‘Rioting, burglary, is not demonstration and it’s not acceptable,'" he said, adding that places such as Indian Country need "more police officers, not less." Tester also placed partial blame on the coronavirus pandemic, which he said hampered campaigning on the state and local levels.

Election results show Democrats continued to bleed rural support in 2020, a trend that has quickened since Barack Obama's election in 2008.

Tester is not the only Democrat to have faulted left-wing movements including "Defund the Police" for the party's setbacks. Days after the November election, Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) said, "Defund the police? Defund, my butt." Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) said radical rhetoric almost doomed her reelection and led to electoral "failure" for House Democrats.