With the 2020 Democratic convention receding into our DVRs, all that’s left is a day or so of people whose job it is to analyze politics telling news consumers What It All Means, and who hammered or eviscerated our weird dumb president the hardest.
But Democrats also made their case to women by speaking to women and allowing women to speak for themselves. In particular, this Midwestern native noticed an awful lot of keynotes from “flyover country.” This can only bode well for the Democrats.
One of the political media’s more irksome tics is the way they treat every place in the middle of the country like it’s a faraway land of simple white folk chewing long stalks of wheat as they drive their tractors to church, their equally white wives baking pies for the weekly minivan council meeting. For meals, corn dogs we grew ourselves, and farm-fresh cheese curds. Coastal media condescension about the Midwest is an infuriatingly durable tradition.
But at this convention, the Democratic Party presented a more evolved and diverse picture of the Midwest and, in so doing, likely did itself well by Midwestern women—voters it desperately needs, especially since Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania handed Trump the presidency in 2016.
Front and center on the final night of the convention were Tammys Baldwin and Duckworth, United States senators representing Illinois and Wisconsin, respectively. Both are Midwestern women who have shattered boundaries while remaining popular back home. Baldwin is the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. In politically polarized Wisconsin, she’s massively popular and seems to rise above the nastiness that characterizes much of the state’s politics. Duckworth was the first Thai-American to serve in Congress and became the first senator to ever give birth in office. (That prior to 2018, not a single member of the upper chamber of the legislature had given birth is quite a testament to the age and maleness of the Senate.) Oh, and did I mention she lost both of her legs serving her country?
Groundbreaking Midwestern women were featured throughout the convention. Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, got her own keynote, and Michigan state rep. Mari Manoogian made appearances on two separate nights. Each woman was elected as a confident Democrat in a state Trump won in 2016.
Viewers also heard from Wisconsin’s Gwen Moore (an early highlight), Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, and Illinois natives Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The convention also elevated the voices of non-politicians, many of whom were from the Midwest, but all of whom brought something unique. These “real people” interstitials were some of the most effective moments of the convention.
But the pols had their moments, too. Baldwin urged viewers to “always look forward and never look back.” Duckworth argued passionately for veteran access to health care. Michelle Obama’s speech, the oratory equivalent of being sat down by your mother and told she’s very worried about you because she loves you very much, was arguably the highlight of the whole convention. Klobuchar will make a fine campaign surrogate among centrists. All of them were confidently themselves, confident in the diversity of background and experience they each brought to the table. It’s as if the Democrats, by featuring these women, asked: You think anti-Trumpism won’t fly in the Midwest? And answered: Yes, it will.
Of course, we won’t know if this particular voter outreach will translate to election returns until at least November 3rd.
But for now, Democrats, this Wisconsin native sees you. Now if only the political media will learn that only the town assholes hang out at Midwestern small-town diners, not everybody from the Midwest is white, and we don’t actually spend that much time eating corn dogs. At least the Democrats seem to get it.