Saturday, October 18, 2008

The '08 rural vote: less than two weeks to election day

Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times sums up in an article today her recent cross-country drive in which she chatted with numerous voters between the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge in New York City. She observes that those she encountered are "far less defined by their region than they might have been the last time they voted in a presidential election." She expresses this cleverly as reflected in "an awful lot of latte and Chablis sipping in the red states, and a whole bunch of strict parenting and duck hunting in the blue states." These shifts are surely partly a consequence of increasing population churn and gentrification in some rural places. Rural culture clearly isn't what it used to be -- especially not in the West and other amenity-rich rural places.

Here are some excerpts from Steinhauer's story that struck me as particularly interesting in relation to rural voters, rural culture, and race:

“The concept of nonregulation means don’t mess with business and business will take care of us,” said Mike Jones 63, a geologist in Elko, Nev., who is considering voting for a Democrat for the first time in his life. “But I was looking to retire, and now what do I retire on?”

Twenty miles away in Lamoille, Nev. [not even a Census Designated Place, according to wikipedia, a "rural hamlet"], Lisa Lafferty, a bartender, summed up her perception of her hometown’s view of Mr. Obama in racial, not partisan, terms. She was among the countless people over the two weeks who spoke easily about their distrust of a black candidate to a reporter with a notebook in her hand.

I am also intrigued (and impressed) that Steinhauer reflected on how her personal characteristics -- reflecting her Midwestern roots, her pale skin color, and her gender -- may have played a role in eliciting such candor from people on the street.

Read the Daily Yonder's latest post on this topic here.

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