Thursday, February 7, 2008

How the Candidates Fared in Rural Counties on Super Duper Tuesday

I'd been looking for some commentary on the rural vote on Super Tuesday . . . though admittedly not looking very hard-- more accurate to say I'd been waiting for some to come along. Today I decided to check out in some detail what happened in Missouri, where Obama beat Hillary by the closest of margins. Missouri is also of interest, of course, because it has picked every president but one in the last century. Turns out, Hillary carried the rural parts of Missouri and Obama the urban ones, along with Columbia, home of the the University of Missouri.

Reports on the Daily Yonder indicate that Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mike Huckabee carried the rural vote in many states. The Hillary part of this news is a bit curious to me, in part because the anti-Hillary quotient was very high when I was growing up in rural Northwest Arkansas, home to many Dixie Democrats. I wonder if Hillary enjoys the knock-on effects of rural voters' attachment to Bill Clinton or if, perhaps, rural voters tend to be more racist than they are sexist? Rural places tend to be characterized, after all, by racial homogeneity, with some exceptions in the South, where Obama did pretty well among rural voters in states like Alabama and Georgia.


Anonymous said...

I worry about looking at this as just a race between a black guy and a white woman; of course, that is that a gross oversimplification that disguises the more important issues that count when one or the other actually gets into office. More importantly, though, I think that the reason why the debate has become so simplistic is a combination of two factors: 1) we have trouble seeing either as real people because we are so obsessed with their differences from the candidate norm (Romney had the same problem to a large extent) and, most of all, 2) Clinton and Obama, as early front-runners have been afraid to do too much to distinguish their positions, as walking out on a limb could potentially give them a 'Howard Dean moment' that could cause a total fall from glory. I worry that by looking at this in an overly simplistic way, e.g., "if you don't vote for Clinton, you're not a feminist"; or "if you don't vote for Clinton, you're a woman-hater," [or you make the same statments regarding Obama and blacks], you're allowing the candidates to not truly distinguish themselves. People say that they figure that whoever comes out on top will distinguish him/herself in the next round, when they go up against McCain... Looking at John Kerry's example, however, it is definitely possible that the Democratic nominee will not do so.

Lisa R. Pruitt said...

That's a great point, of course. It suggests to me that my post implied something about rural Americans that tends to greatly annoy me in popular culture: an under-estimation of rural folks. The data tell us that rural residents are generally less educated than urban residents, so one might expect them to be less informed about the issues, more "intuitive" voters. On the other hand, rural voters are looking more closely at the candidates' positions on the issues. If that were the case, however, you might expect more Obama supporters among them because, as I understand it, Hillary's health care plan represents "big government" while Obama's does not; he is, the political pundits tell us, a bit more libertarian overall. Given rural Americans' reputed aversion to big government (which happens to be consistent with my anecdotal observations of this population), you might expect more support there for Obama.

One way or another, I the widespread racial and ethnic homogeneity associated with most rural regions in the United States is under-theorized. Does that racial homogeneity -- that whiteness -- make them "more racist" or "less racist"? This is not only a Southern issue (where, in fact, there tends to be less homogeneity and therefore "different" race issues). I am reminded of a recent story in the NYT about a controversy over race in a smallish New England town . . .