Outgoing Member of Biden’s Party Has Bleak Outlook for Democrats’ Chances With Rural Voters
Outgoing Member of Biden’s Party Has Bleak Outlook for Democrats’ Chances With Rural Voters

By Jack Phillips

Outgoing longtime Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) said that the Democratic Party is “facing extinction” in Tennessee and noted that Democrats don’t have a strategy to appeal to rural voters across the United States.

“As usual, Democrats are not alert to future dangers,” Cooper told the Nashville Scene. “The biggest danger we face in an off-year election after we won the White House is the 100-year trend toward the other party. Redistricting is small potatoes compared to that historical trend.”

In Tennessee and likely in other rural areas, Democrats’ “strategy is blind hope,” Cooper told the local outlet. “Many of the folks you’re probably listening to have probably never visited these counties. They’re not kin to these folks. Their best friends don’t live out there. I had the advantage of being born in Nashville but raised in Shelbyville.”

“It’s important to be in communication with your constituents, not to be their boss. You’re their representative. We’ve got to get this formula right. The Democratic Party in Tennessee is basically facing extinction,” Cooper, considered by some to be a moderate Democrat, continued to say. “We’ve been on a long downhill slide for a long time.”

Cooper’s district, which includes Nashville, was significantly changed by Tennessee Republicans during the state’s redistricting process. He announced his retirement in January.

He noted that Democrats’ messaging strategy to rural independent and Republican voters is failing because “most of the rhetoric you hear is, ‘Let’s double down, let’s force it down their throats.’” He added, “That’s not the way to win votes. You have to have mutual respect and trust.”

Rep. Jim Cooper (C) meets with former President Barack Obama in a file photograph. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Cooper is one of more than two-dozen Democrat lawmakers who are slated to retire at the end of their respective terms, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Historically, the party of the president typically loses seats in Congress, while Democrats lead the Senate and House by very thin margins.

Republicans only need to flip five seats to win the House majority.

“When you’ve only got a three- or four-vote majority and you see people who are in tough districts announcing that they’re not running for reelection, yeah, everybody worries about what’s ahead,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said in December 2021.

But Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, brushed off those concerns in December.

“I don’t believe it has anything to do with our prospects in 2022,” he told reporters in November, although several more Democratic representatives have since announced they won’t seek reelection. “We’re going to hold the House, and we’re going to grow a majority. We’re going to do it because of extraordinary leadership.”

Cooper, 67, served in the House between 1983 and 1995 and later, from 2003 until now.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which oversees House Democrats’ campaigns, for comment on Cooper’s remarks.

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