Thursday, January 5, 2017

Op-ed on the rural vote in today's NYT

The New York Times today published an op-ed by Iowa journalist, Robert Leonard, "Why Rural America Voted for Trump."  Leonard rehashes a lot of the now familiar election post-mortem on the rural vote, but there are a few points I've not seen made elsewhere--at least not recently.

One is that it's not just the old-timer vote, it's the youth vote in rural America.  Here's a segment that is particularly haunting to me, where Leonard writes of:
a growing movement in rural America that immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative news outlets but also home and church environments — that emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous.
As this excerpt suggests, the piece is strong on the culture wars and religion, though he also takes up other issues, such as rural disgruntlement over lack of investment in roads and other infrastructure to support nonmetropolitan areas.  
In state capitols across America, lawmakers spend billions of dollars to take a few seconds off a city dweller’s commute to his office, while rural counties’ farm-to-market roads fall into disrepair. Some of the paved roads in my region are no longer maintained and are reverting to gravel. For a couple of generations now, services that were once scattered across rural areas have increasingly been consolidated in urban areas, and rural towns die. It’s all done in the name of efficiency.
But again, the most potent and sobering part of this opinion piece regards a cultural divide between Democrats and Republicans, a divide increasingly aligning along the rural-urban axis.  Leonard concludes:
The Republican brand is strong in rural America — perhaps even strong enough to withstand a disastrous Trump presidency.

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