Jan 27 • 5M

Democrats quit rural America. She has a plan for reclaiming it

Talking with Chloe Maxmin, former Maine state senator, about why the right is winning the battle for rural hearts and minds and her playbook for a "Democratic resurgence"


Appears in this episode

Anand Giridharadas
Conversations with Anand Giridharadas
Episode details

In 2018, Chloe Maxmin, a progressive Democrat then in her late twenties, won a seat in Maine’s House of Representatives, in a red district that, as was noted by observant national publications, contains the most rural county in America’s most rural state.

Was it a fluke, or a new path through the woods?

In 2020, she sought and won elevation to Maine’s State Senate, again on the strength of deep, slow, patient engagement in a district full of Republicans and independents.

By doing what was becoming ever more rare for Democrats in general to pull off, she became a ray of hope on the left. Did Chloe Maxmin have a formula for stopping the blue bleed-out across rural America? She believed she did, and, along with Canyon Woodward, her friend and campaign manager, distilled that formula and their campaigning experiences into a book: “Dirt Road Revival: How to Rebuild Rural Politics and Why Our Future Depends On It.” (She recently left office, declining to run for re-election to pursue a law degree and launch a nonprofit focused on rural organizing.)

I talked with her about her background growing up on a farm in Maine, about her view of the Democratic Party’s posture toward rural America, about the complex intersection of the very real racism in rural America and the very real neglect of rural America by urban and moneyed and governmental elites, about the power of canvassing, about what it will take to build a movement to beat American fascism.

Above all, it was a conversation about something we all struggle with nowadays: how to stay true to your values while reaching out.

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