Tuesday, May 15, 2018

John Kelly overlooks rural America--and Christopher Ingraham pounces

Christopher Ingraham, the uber urbanite turned rural refugee/transplant who writes for the Washington Post, dug into John Kelly, President Trump's Chief of Staff on Friday after Kelly spoke against the immigration of "overwhelmingly rural people" who would not "easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society."
Kelly also cited immigrants' education levels, English-language ability and general workplace skills as potential barriers to assimilation. But the choice of “rural” as a detriment for integration into modern society is an odd one, given that it applies to nearly 1 in 5 current residents of the United States. 
* * * 
While rural places account for 19.3 percent of the population, they make up 97 percent of the country's land area. Geographically speaking, the country is “overwhelmingly rural.” And in several states, including politically important ones, the rural population is much higher than 19 percent.
Ingraham's story is here.  The Kelly interview with NPR is here; you will see that its focus is not on the rural-urban divide or any rural issues.  Rather, it is on immigration more broadly, along with some other issues du jour.

Nevertheless, Ingraham picks up the rural torch:
More broadly, rurality remains a central part of American identity — wide-open spaces, amber waves of grain, mom and apple pie — in ways that population figures don't fully capture. In many quarters of the national political conversation, rural America still gets conflated with “real America.” 
All of this brings me to an issue I have explored elsewhere:  in what ways is the "rural" part(s) of a developing world country (often with majority of population) similar to the rural parts of America (with a shrinking minority of the population)?  Read some here and here.  In other words, does Ingraham's argument hold water?  Will rural folks from the developing world have an easy time integrating into America because America is roughly (less than!) a fifth rural?  But aren't rural Americans culturally highly marginalized?  Wasn't that a major lesson of the 2016 election?

Also, of what relevance is it if/that rural Americans are less tolerant of immigrants (those other rural people from elsewhere in the world) than are urban Americans?  That intolerance has been a common theme of much of the "race v. economy" speculation over the reasons for the rise of Trump, so is it fair for Ingraham to ignore it? Is it appropriate for Ingraham to invoke America's "rural-ness" in support of an argument for immigration from largely rural countries?

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