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Report: Democratic Party brand 'so toxic' in rural US that liberals are removing yard signs and bumper stickers: 'We're on the run'

Christopher Smith/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Democratic Party has moved so far out of step with regular Americans that liberal voters in rural Pennsylvania and elsewhere are removing their yard signs and bumper stickers for fear of ostracization, according to a new report published by the Associated Press.

What are the details?

"The party’s brand is so toxic" in rural communities, the AP suggested, that many Democratic voters the news agency spoke to said they now decline to publicly acknowledge their political affiliation.

"The hatred for Democrats is just unbelievable," said Tim Holohan, an accountant based in rural McKean County, Pennsylvania. "I feel like we’re on the run."

Holohan noted that he recently encouraged his daughter to get rid of a pro-Joe Biden bumper sticker she has displayed on her car.

The AP — seemingly in an attempt to paint the Democratic Party in rural America as something like an underground church in a hostile foreign country — quoted others such as 68-year-old retired teacher Barbara Speer, who noted, "You have to be careful around here."

Another rural Pennsylvanian, 33-year-old cafe owner Kaitlyn Nevel, said she isn’t comfortable sharing her political affiliation when asked.

"I would rather not say, just because it’s a small town," said the small-town cafe owner, who supports the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ rights.

What else?

The party's struggles are not only felt in Pennsylvania but all across rural America.

In Tennessee, Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper acknowledged, "It’s hard to sink lower than we are right now. You’re almost automatically a pariah in rural areas if you have a 'D' after your name."

In a separate discussion with a local news outlet last week, the lawmaker warned, "The Democratic Party in Tennessee is basically facing extinction. We’ve been on a long downhill slide for a long time."

Cooper is one of 30 Democratic House members who recently announced that they would not seek re-election in 2022. The widespread dropout is indicative of the considerable headwinds the party is experiencing in the run-up to the midterms.

A Gallup poll released in January showed that Democrats lost an eye-popping amount of political ground in 2021. Party preferences shifted from a nine-point Democratic advantage at the start of the year to a five-point Republican edge by the end of the year. It was the largest party preference shift seen in 30 years, or since Gallup began measuring.

Many political observers believe the shift will result in Republicans taking back majorities in both the House and Senate.

Anything else?

In a last-ditch attempt to retain their "unstable majorities," Democrats have enlisted former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota to reach out to rural voters as part of the One Country Project.

"Democrats have the House, they have the Senate, the presidency, but it’s an unstable majority. By that, I mean, the narrowest kind, making it difficult to advance ideas and build coalitions," Heitkamp lamented.

She argued that Democrats are hurting themselves by not speaking out more forcefully against liberal political positions that alienate rural voters, such as the "defund the police" movement.

"We’re letting Republicans use the language of the far left to define the Democratic Party, and we can’t do that," Heitkamp told the AP. "The trend lines in rural America are very, very bad. ... Now, the brand is so toxic that people who are Democrats, the ones left, aren’t fighting for the party."

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