The tradition of going out to canvass in an area other than one’s own runs deep in American politics. At least as far back as the 1850s, political friends coordinated across state lines to help deliver the vote for their party, going to stump in other states and in some cases giving money to facilitate distant campaigns. These customs have not merely persisted but burgeoned with American mobility, high-tech modes of connectivity, and detailed tracking of local voting patterns.
If I were to canvass for Biden in my home county, it would be a waste of time. I’d be preaching to the choir: Cook County, Illinois, is as blue as they come. Conditions are more promising in Berrien County, Michigan, where I’m living temporarily. Berrien leans Republican but may be in flux. Population-wise, it’s a mix of former Illinoisans (mainly from Chicagoland) who are affluent and older, and native Michiganders who, whether farmers, small-business owners, tradesmen, or unskilled workers, have probably had their fill of economic upheavals and uncertainty. The wealthy areas along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, which forms Berrien County’s western boundary, shade off into eastern expanses of rural and semi-rural poverty, interspersed with thriving farms. Except for the New Buffalo area, which has grown dramatically, the population of the county has shrunk.
Counties such as this will matter as Biden strives to improve upon Hillary Clinton’s dismal Michigan showing in 2016. While Obama won Michigan handily in 2012, garnering 54.2% of the popular vote, Clinton lost the state to Trump by a margin of just 0.2%. Votes cast for third-party candidates exceeded the margin of her loss to Trump. Will Biden have more success appealing to the types of people who inhabit Berrien county? It would be exciting to see purplish Berrien turn blue.
Image: Detail from a Princeton Election Consortium map.
The fuchsia blob on the east side of Lake Michigan is the congressional district encompassing Berrien County, MI.