Monday, February 9, 2009

Gillibrand and that rural-urban thing again

Ok, I'm not from New York, and I have never lived in the state for longer than a summer (in NYC, of course, in 1990), so I'm not likely to have a very clear understanding of how the state's politics fracture along rural-urban lines. In fact, because I am skeptical that it does to the degree the New York Times has suggested in the wake of the Gillibrand appointment, I suggested here that the newspaper has over-played rural-urban differences in the state.

Enter today's story by David Halbfinger: "To Some in Gillibrand's Old District, Her Evolution is a Betrayal." This is the first time I've seen the NYT coverage make clear that the city of Albany is not in the 20th Congressional District, which Gillibrand previously represented. This exclusion of Albany does make the district seem more "rural," as the paper has repeated characterized it. It is ironic, then, that this is the also the first story in which I have seen the New York Times describe the district without using the modifier "rural." In this case, Halbfinger describes it as a"conservative swath outside Albany." Most recently and more typically, the NYT has described the district as a "largely rural and politically conservative swath of Eastern New York."

What this story does in relation to the rural, however, is highlight the sentiments of voters in her former Congressional district on at least one issue closely associated with rurality: guns. Nevertheless, this may be progress in terms of the newspaper's representations of rural populations. As for the other issues on which voters comment in Halbfinger's story--immigration and gay marriage, for example--these are as well seen as conservative-liberal debates as they are urban-rural ones.

The culture wars need not be aligned with the rural-urban axis. Really.

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