This article is part of a series on the "Future of politics." The series investigates the "Trump effect" on policy, political parties, future candidates, their campaign style and the overall political environment in 2017 and beyond. See the whole series here.
The post-election narrative (the one before Russian influence, anyway) is that Donald Trump came to the Rust Belt and spoke to concerns about deindustrialization in a way that really resonated with voters.
If there is even a nugget of truth to that narrative, Democrats should take heart. Though they lack power across the federal government and in the majority of statehouses, there is an unconventional way Democrats could gain a foothold in red-state America:
Come to the heartland, roll up your sleeves, and help build the Silicon Prairie.
I live in the Silicon Prairie—specifically in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, one of America's most troubled cities. But while we have our challenges, we also have one of the nation's fastest growing startup communities.
In fact, across the Rust Belt multiple cities have made entrepreneurship a focus of civic renewal.
Even the poster child for American deindustrialization, Youngstown, Ohio, has gotten in on the act. I recently visited Youngstown and met with James Cossler, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator, who told me about the incubator's strategy to make Youngstown a hub of advanced manufacturing.
The Rust Belt has significant challenges, but the picture of red-state America as a desperate, jobless, rusted-out, opioid-addicted hellhole is wrong. There are good things happening here—just not for the Democratic Party, which has seen its presence shrink and nearly disappear in recent decades.
That wasn't always the case, and you don't have to go all the way back to FDR to see an electoral map with a lot of blue in the middle. As recently as 1996, Democrats won Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee—states not won by a Democrat since. But you can't change electoral math by turning back the clock, and this past election tells us there isn't a lot of enthusiasm for Clintonian centrism.