After the election, rural voters maintained their faith in Trump, citing their satisfaction with his "quick" movements to shake up institutional norms. Anecdotally, my own family members, hailing from small farming towns in the Central Valley, appeared to be pleased with his efforts, and were prepared to quickly overlook any minor misgivings.
It wasn't until the recent release of the federal budget outline proposal that we got a glimpse of just how Trump plans to "take care" of those communities. The new budget makes cuts to 19 separate agencies that exist to provide services to the rural poor, including job training for seniors and after-school programs in high-poverty areas. The federal budget proposes a steep 21% cut to the Departmet of Labor's budget alone, which houses many programs that typically garner bipartisan support, like job skills training. Rural regions depend heavily on federal dollars, and pulling this funding seems a harbinger of even further problems for already-plagued rural communities.
Other areas of the budget cuts that will negatively impact rural voters include things as far-ranging as public access television and access to rural transportation. For instance, under the budget proposal the Essential Air Service would be eliminated; the program currently subsidizes flights for rural passengers that allow those small regional airports to remain operational. Without those federal dollars, the airports will likely close in a matter of years, or even months. The budget also proposes to eliminate the Amtrak Southwest Chief line, which moves many members of small rural communities, and would be a huge loss to those who rely on it.
The budget also aims to cut funding to the Legal Services Corporation, despite it taking up a meager one ten-thousandth of the federal budget. LSC is the single-largest funding source of civil legal aid for low-income individuals in the nation. Don Saunders, Vice President of Civil Legal Services at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, said:
"We’ve had urban legal aid programs for over a century. But it was the federal support that created the capacity to expand out into rural areas. So you will see a great retrenchment in that regard without federal support."
Despite these clearly troubling hard-number statistics that show a disproportionate impact to ruralities, at least some of those who voted for Trump still seem to support his actions. The question necessarily arises, is this an inherent danger of a strictly two-party system? Do rural voters feel adrift without an option, with no single candidate ever truly looking out for their own best interest? Surely there are some who voted for Trump genuinely believing he was a great candidate for the job, but just as surely some voted for Trump as a "best of the worst" option. One thing is certain: rural voters are seeing no greater success in fighting their unique battles under Trump's presidency thus far, and in fact seem to be the most negatively impacted of all in terms of hard steps taken by the administration. Whether this fact impacts the next election, or has the possibility to shake our current political two-party system at its core, remains to be seen.