Sunday, April 13, 2008

This piece on the rural/urban political divide was published a week before Obama's "small town ... bitter" gaffe

This story from the Daily Yonder uses recent events in Oregon to illustrate its thesis that "Rural/Urban Political Division is 'Recipe for Resentment.'" In March, the Oregon legislature took away money that funded rural development programs in the state. At about the same time, the Oregon governor closed the Office of Rural Policy, which he had opened only four years earlier. The story seeks to explain why rural voters, who previously voted Democratic, now tend to vote Republican.

It was an interesting fore-runner -- albeit in an admittedly obscure outlet -- to the comments about small-town voters that have Obama in hot water. What he said (bitterness of small town voters who've suffered economically for a quarter century explains why they cling to their guns and religion) and the audience to which he said it (San Franciscans) further illustrates the rural-urban political divide. It also illustrates the perils of trying to explain that divide in a way that seems to pit the interests -- and indeed character -- of one group against the other. Just as the high density of acquaintanceship associated with rurality means that rural residents know their neighbors are likely to hear gossip about themselves, in this age of media saturation about every word uttered by the candidates, Obama should have known that what he said about those small town voters would get back to them . . .

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