Rural voters were key in helping Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016. The divide between these communities and urban areas continues to grow, with rural America becoming increasingly conservative.
Democrats know they have work to do to win over some of these voters, and they’re starting out in Iowa. Even though the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus is still about a year away, the Democratic presidential candidates have already made dozens of trips to the state.
HuffPost is teaming up Saturday with Open Markets, as well as the Iowa Farmers Union and the Storm Lake Times, for the Heartland Forum, a discussion with 2020 candidates on rural issues. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times will be the moderator, along with HuffPost reporter Zach Carter and me. We’ll also be taking questions from members of the Storm Lake community.
Tune in to our livestream on HuffPost at 1 p.m. Central Time/2 p.m. Eastern today to hear from four 2020 candidates ― former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. John Delaney (Md.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) ― as well as Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio), who has been considering a bid, about their vision for rural America.
We’ll be pressing candidates on issues like mental health services in rural areas, corporate consolidation in the agriculture industry, rural education and immigration.
Our forum will be at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, in the heart of GOP Rep. Steve King’s district. King is Congress’ most outspoken supporter of white nationalists, and Buena Vista County went to Trump by nearly 35 percentage points in the 2016 election.
But Storm Lake isn’t what you’d expect to find in such a conservative area. It’s a city with a population of 10,600, dominated by meatpacking facilities kept alive by immigrants and refugees from Asia, Mexico, Central America and Africa. Less than half the city’s population is non-Hispanic white, compared with 86 percent in the state. Twenty-three languages are spoken at the local high school, and immigrants comprise 90 percent of the elementary school enrollment.
Neither Trump nor Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton visited Storm Lake in the 2016 election cycle. Already, at least three of the Democratic contenders for 2020 have visited the city, and we’re excited to host our forum there.