Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Cal Poly Humboldt home to "nation's most entrenched protest"

Jonathan Wolfe reports today for the New York Times from Arcata, California, home of California Polytechnic Humboldt. Here's the lede: 
When university administrators across the nation worry about the potential fallout from campus protests, they may have Siemens Hall in mind.

The building at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, includes the campus president’s office and has been occupied for a week by pro-Palestinian protesters who barricaded themselves inside and fought off an early attempt by the police to remove them. Protesters have since tagged walls and renamed it “Intifada Hall” by ripping off most of the signage on the brick exterior.

Inside, they painted graffiti messages like “Time 2 Free Gaza,” “Pigs Not Allowed,” and “Land Back,” according to a video posted by the local news site Redheaded Blackbelt. They occupied and defaced the office of the president, Tom Jackson Jr., spraying “Blood On Your Hands” across one framed wall hanging and “I Will Live Free or Die Trying” on his door.

Here's how the New York Times described the university and region: 

To those outside Northern California, the show of force at Cal Poly Humboldt, in the college town of Arcata, has been a surprising turn in a region more typically associated with a hippie pacifism and marijuana farms. But beneath the good-vibes image, locals say, a culture of protest and resentment toward authority has percolated at the 6,000-student campus.

* * *  

The majestic redwoods in the region draw tourists from across the world; nearby, visitors can drive through a tree with a 21-foot diameter. The forests also have satisfied the thirst for lumber in the growing West as far back as the early Gold Rush days when San Francisco became a boomtown.

The natural beauty and the timber industry have long been at odds, however. The region was an early battleground in the “timber wars,” in which environmentalists fought against logging companies to prevent the destruction of old growth forests across the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps the most famous protest of that era occurred in Humboldt County, where the activist Julia Butterfly Hill lived for 738 days in a California redwood that she named Luna.

The campus has been shut down through May 10, the day before commencement.  

I blogged about what is happening at Cal Poly Humboldt last week here, and the Lost Coast Outpost continues to provide daily updates on what's been happening there since students occupied Siemens Hall a week ago.  (This link is to coverage of what happened in the early hours this morning).  The Los Angeles Times has more coverage today, too.

Here's another NYT story illustrating the point that it's not just young people who are upset about the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian War:  older residents of rural areas--like their urban counterparts--are agitated about the War and pressing their members of congress to get the Biden administration to change its  position.  

Postscript:  At 9 am on April 30, the Los Angeles Times reported that 25 students had been arrested at Cal Poly Humboldt.  Here's an excerpt from the story:

Ending a weeklong siege, police on Tuesday arrested at least 25 protesters at Cal Poly Humboldt, where Gaza war demonstrators had occupied buildings and forced the campus to close.
* * *
Shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, police moved in and made the arrests. The university said “those arrested faced a range of different charges depending on individual circumstances, including unlawful assembly, vandalism, conspiracy, assault of police officers and others. In addition, students could face discipline for conduct violations while any university employees arrested could face disciplinary action.”

Monday, April 29, 2024

Gluesenkamp Perez invokes rural and working-class folks in relation to stance on a secure border

A. Martinez of NPR's Morning Edition interviewed Congresswoman Marie Gluesenkamp Perez today regarding "centrist Democrats" stance on border security.  That is, they want the Biden administration to tighten it, partly because of the scourge of fentanyl and its consequences in districts like hers.  Twice during the interview she came across the phrase, "rural and working-class" communities.  In the latter mention she adds, "and the trades."   

This quote provides further context: 
GLUESENKAMP PEREZ:  You know, these policies like Title 42, I mean, I think it's been one of the fundamental mistakes around immigration, is to debate whether or not an immigration policy is, you know, motivated by racial animus. By the way, I think a lot of them are, but a lot of people in rural and working-class communities like mine, we come from communities that have been hollowed out by fentanyl, and so we're watching our cousins, our neighbors, our coworkers overdose and die, and we are demanding operational control of the southern border. That can't wait for a perfect immigration policy to come along.  (emphasis added)

MART├ŹNEZ: Did you think that the way Donald Trump's administration used Title 42 was an effective way to stem immigration?

GLUESENKAMP PEREZ: I don't think it's a question of stemming immigration. I mean, immigration itself is not the problem. The problem is that the U.S. does not have operational control of the southern border, and so a lot of Americans, a lot of American politicians have had this real focus on the very visceral images of the humanitarian crisis of the southern border, but what they're not seeing is what it's like to live in a country that is being run by a cartel. And so Biden needs to exercise his existing authority under Remain in Mexico, and Congress needs to give him back the presidential expulsion authority under Title 42.

One of the interesting things about the first long quote is how she suggests that immigration policy is influenced by racial animus--but also that there are other considerations, like the devastation being wrought by fentanyl, which Gluesenkamp Perez suggests is coming across the Southern border.  In other words, we can hold both of these notions--perhaps both of these truths--simultaneously:  some people advocating greater control at the Southern border are acting on racial animus, but they also have legitimate concerns about what is happening at the border, including fentanyl that may be coming through that border.  

This duality is something I suggested in this recent publication regarding why many rural residents support Trump:  they may both experience economic distress and racist impulses.  It does not have to be an "either or."  Also, as I have suggested elsewhere, if we are going to use terms like "racial animus," we should define them--that is, we should develop a shared definition.  That has not happened.  In fact, I have not seen any media outlet--or any academic--take that task seriously.  (The closest would be John McWhorter, who has at least identified the challenge)

Prior posts featuring Congresswoman Gluesenkamp Perez are here, here, herehere, here and here.   More still are here (including those on right-to-repair).  

Meanwhile, here's a report on Americans' broad support for enforcement of the nation's immigration laws

Cross-posted to Working-Class Whites and the Law.   

Thursday, April 25, 2024

On rurality as a double-edged sword: David McCormick, Republican Senate candidate, presents himself as "rural"

The New York Times published this story last week (before the Pennsylvania primary) under the headline, "This G.O.P. Senate Candidate Says He Grew Up on a Family Farm. Not Exactly."  Here's the lede: 
David McCormick’s origin story goes something like this: He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, southwest of Scranton. He baled hay, trimmed Christmas trees and otherwise worked on his family’s farm. And from those humble beginnings, he rose to achieve the American dream.

“I spent most of my life in Pennsylvania, growing up in Bloomsburg on my family’s farm,” Mr. McCormick, now a Republican candidate for Senate, told Pittsburgh Quarterly in 2022.

“I’ve truly lived the American dream,” he wrote in a fund-raising appeal in October. “My life’s journey — from growing up on a farm in Bloomsburg, to graduating from West Point and serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, growing a business in Pittsburgh, and serving at the highest levels of government — reflects that.”

In January, speaking at the Pennsylvania farm show, McCormick said: 

I grew up on a family farm from the time I was a kid.

The journalists reporting this story, however, who have conducted interviews, reviewed public records and news coverage, "suggest he has given a misleading impression about key aspects of his background."   

McCormick has also described his parents at school teachers. In fact, his father was president of Bloomsburg University, and he grew up mostly in the house provided by the University.  

All of the reminds me the recent assertion by Paul Waldman and Tom Schaller of what they claim is an unwritten rule that the media are hands off rural folks--that they are a group you can't criticize.  I don't agree with that (and have written lots in support of the contrary proposition).  That said, it's interesting that politicians like McCormick are (still) trying to present themselves as "regular Joe's" by saying they grew up rural and/or on a farm.  (Recall that George W. Bush was widely identified as incorporating a similar strategy).  

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Farah Stockman of the New York Times on rural voters

Stockman, a member of the New York Times editorial board, has written twice recently--albeit briefly-- about rural voters.   Both entries seems to have been prompted by recent discussions of two books I've highlighted here in recent weeks, The Rural Voter and White Rural Rage.  Read prior posts here, here, herehere, and here.

Stockman's most recent entry, published yesterday, is titled, "Rural Voters are More Progressive Than Democratic Voters Think." Here are some excerpts: 
If you caught the scathing takedown of the book “White Rural Rage” in The Atlantic, then you’re aware of how intellectually dishonest it is to single out rural voters for special contempt. It’s also politically foolish, as a new poll by Rural Democracy Initiative, which will be released to the public in May, illustrates.
* * *
“It’s really clear that Democrats have a significant work to do to rebuild their brand in rural America, but that investment could pay dividends for Democrats, not just in the future but this year,” Patrick Toomey, a partner at Breakthrough Campaigns, which conducted the survey, told me.

In an election in which a few thousand votes could decide who wins the presidency or controls the Senate, it’s foolish to write off rural America.

The recent related entry is from March 1 and is titled "Rural Voters Aren't the Enemy."  Here's an excerpt that leads with a quote from Anthony Flaccavento, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for congress in southwest Virginia and now runs the Rural-Urban Bridge Initiative:

“That kind of the language — a book by that title — is absolutely the kiss of death for the efforts of so many of us in rural areas who have been working to rebuild trust and reverse some of the policies that have hollowed out rural America,” said Flaccavento, whose group has put out a report about what Democrats have to do to win in rural America. He also said he feared the book would serve as confirmation to liberals that it’s hopeless to invest politically in those parts of the country.

Shawn Sebastian, director of organizing at Rural Organizing, an Ohio-based group that supports progressive campaigns in rural areas nationwide, agreed that support for authoritarianism is a growing problem. He just published a survey of his group’s 75,000 members — more than 800 Democrats, most of whom live in Trump-supporting rural areas, filled it out — which found that 25 percent had experienced political violence or threats of political violence.

“That was chilling,” he told me. But he also said rural voters are part of the solution and that giving up on them will only make things worse.

Stockman concludes that entry: 

Rural people working together to save their hospitals, build a nursing home or establish a mobile food pantry are the antidote to the violent polarization that everyone is worried about.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Columbia, NYU, Berkeley--and Cal Poly Humboldt? "Rural" far northern California bursts into the spotlight amidst campus protests

When I went to bed last night, Columbia University and, to a lesser extent, NYU, were in the news in relation to student protests framed as "pro-Palestinian."  UC Berkeley has been in the news for several weeks in relation to the stances that students there have taken.   So, imagine my surprise when I awakened to news this morning that had humble and rural-ish Cal Poly Humboldt--until a few years ago even more humble Cal State Humboldt--in the news.  Here's what the California sun wrote this morning under "Developments Connected to the Israel-Hamas War":
Pro-Palestinian students began sit-ins at UC Berkeley and Cal Poly Humboldt on Monday. The Berkeley protesters pitched about 10 tents and demanded the university divest from companies linked to Israel. In Arcata, dozens of students barricaded themselves inside a building, drawing a heavy police response. Late Monday, campus leaders announced the cancellation of classes through Wednesday. Berkeleyside | Lost Coast Outpost
I have to admit I was pleased to see the Lost Coast Outpost, a little known news outlet, cited and quoted, though that is not terribly unusual with the California Sun, and it was parallel to Berkleyside, another informal news outlet.  

Later in the day, the Los Angeles Times reported under the headline, "Tensions grow at California universities as Gaza protests roil campuses from Berkeley to New York."  Though Humboldt was not mentioned in the headline, the lede was all about Cal Poly Humboldt: 
Officials shut down the campus of Cal Poly Humboldt on Monday night after masked pro-Palestinian protesters occupied an administrative building and barricaded the entrance as Gaza-related demonstrations roiled campuses across the nation.

Three students were arrested after law enforcement officers wearing helmets and riot shields descended on the public university in Arcata, in rural Northern California, and clashed with demonstrators who had set up tents inside Siemens Hall and erected a banner that said, “STOP THE GENOCIDE.”  (emphasis added)

“Free, Free Palestine,” supporters chanted outside the building. “Long Live Resistance!”

As sprawling pro-Palestinian protests and encampments escalate on university campuses across the United States, administrators are reacting with more forceful discipline as they try to balance pro-Palestinian students’ free speech rights with concerns for safety and other students’ counter claims of harassment and disruption.

Note the reference to Humboldt as "rural," while noting its location in Arcata.  That is arguably not precise given that Humboldt County, while sparsely populated, is metropolitan, with a population of 134,000Arcata, the city where the university is located, has a population of 18,000, but is part of the Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna micropolitan area.  That said, Humboldt County is sparsely populated, with 38 persons/per square mile, compared to about 94 per square mile in the United States

The story continues with more detail on what happened:  

Tensions flared quickly at Cal Poly Humboldt.

About 4:50 p.m. Monday, campus police received reports of dozens of students occupying the first and second floors of Siemens Hall, the university said in a statement. Classes in the building were canceled and students and faculty who were in the middle of classes were evacuated as protesters “began disrupting classes and vandalizing university property,” the university said.

According to the university, protesters blocked entrances and elevators with tents and in some locations shut doors using chains and zip ties, violating fire codes and “creating extreme safety hazards for those inside.”

After giving the protesters multiple warnings to exit the building voluntarily, campus spokesperson Aileen S. Yoo said the university contacted outside law enforcement agencies to assist in responding.

About 7:45 p.m., an officer told dispatchers that about 100 protesters remained near the building and police had attempted to take students into custody, but the crowd pulled them back, according to a report from Lost Coast Outpost. Another officer called for a pepper ball launcher.

Meanwhile, the New York Times mentioned Cal Poly Humboldt briefly, fairly deep in a story that featured NYU and Columbia prominently: 

At California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, students took over a campus building, and barricaded the exits with chairs and trash bins.

Here is a link to today's Washington Post coverage, which does not use word "rural" but says at the end of paragraph 3, after discussing the University of Minnesota: 

On the West Coast, California State Polytechnic University at Humboldt went into a lockdown after student protesters barricaded themselves inside a building.

Finally, here is a link to the Lost Coast Outpost news as of this morning.  

Postscript:  here is a link to the Lost Coast Outpost update from the afternoon of April 24, 2024.

This is from a New York Times update on April 24, 2024: 

  • California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt in Arcata: Dozens of protesters were occupying an academic and administrative building on Wednesday morning, university officials said. The campus has remained closed since Monday after an attempt by the police to remove the protesters from the building turned violent, leading to three arrests. On Thursday, officials said that the campus would remain closed at least through Sunday.
The Lost Coast Outpost reported on April 25, 2024 that the faculty had voted no confidence in Cal Poly Humboldt's president, Tom Jackson. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

White Rural Rage authors push back; debate is a powerful illustration of Twain's "lies, damned lies, statistics"

Paul Waldman and Thomas Schaller wrote in The New Republic last week in response to recent critiques of their book, White Rural Rage.  Under the headline, "An Honest Assessment of Rural White Resentment is Long Overdue,"  they suggest that their critics, scholars like Nicholas Jacobs and Kal Munis, political scientists who have done some of the empirical work Waldman and Schaller cite, are being selective with the data they share.   What Waldman and Schaller don't acknowledge is their own cherry picking among the data from the political scientists who did the empirical investigation they reference.  Having reviewed both books and the flurry of commentary that has followed them, I'd say that Schaller and Waldman have been far more selective in their use of the data--and that they've done so in the service of supporting a sensational thesis:  white rural voters are the greatest threat to our democracy.  

Of course, that thesis is less sensational than it was even a decade ago because so many folks--at least in my coastal elite world--now believe it.  As Nicholas Jacobs wrote in one of his responses, Schaller and Waldman started with a thesis and then went looking for evidence to substantiate it.  That's where the cherry picking became necessary.   It's also where the phenomenon Mark Twain described as "lies, damned lies, statistics" came into play.  As a student with a degree in the hard sciences once told me, you can take most quantitative data sets and make them say whatever you want them to say. 

In their piece in The New Republic, Schaller and Waldman also make some interesting assertions about media protection of rural folks:   

[W]e have been surprised by the ferocity of the criticism we have received from scholars of rural politics. Their response has made clear that there are unspoken rules about criticizing certain Americans—rules that get to the heart of the very case we have tried to make about the deep geographic divisions in our politics at this fragile moment in our nation’s history.

* * * 

[I]f you dare to criticize the rural whites who are among Trump’s most devout followers, you’ll be met with an angry rebuke.

I find this assertion incredible--not least because it is so at odds with attitudes toward rural folks in my coastal elite world.   No, in my world, people are quite keen to "pile on" rural folks, seeing them as just the villains Schaller and Waldman selectively marshal data to depict.  

* * * 
Also published last weekend was this column by Eric Levitz in Vox, "Don’t sneer at white rural voters — or delude yourself about their politics."  Levitz asserts the debate between the authors of The Rural Voter and those of White Rural Rage can be boiled down to these five truths: 

1) Rural white people are more supportive of right-wing authoritarianism than are urban or suburban ones

2) Millions of rural white Americans support the Democratic Party

3) Rural white Republicans are not New Deal Democrats who got confused.

4) The economic challenges facing many rural areas are inherently difficult to solve.

5) Most people inherit the politics of their families and communities.

I agree for sure with numbers 2, 4, and 5 (though not necessarily that these are agreed upon in the two books).  As for the others, I'm not so sure given the findings of The Rural Voter and white rural people I know.  I also think that, regarding five, the politics people inherit are not necessarily the ones they stick with throughout their lives.  After all, many Obama voters migrated to Trump in 2016, and many more voters (third party or Democratic in 2016) migrated to Trump in 2020.  In other words, movement does happen.

Finally, Nick Jacobs and Daniel Shea recently published this essay in UnHerd, which got picked up in slightly amended form in the Washington Post.  Dee Davis published this in the Daily Yonder.  

Thursday, April 18, 2024

On a Democratic Senate incumbent's election struggle in a purple state

NBC news reported under the headline "Tammy Baldwin fights to maintain appeal in rural Wisconsin amid Democratic slide." The subhead is "The senator has outrun other members of her party in rural areas before. This November, she'll have to manage being on a ballot with Donald Trump."  Here's the gist of the story:  

Baldwin is bracing for a tough re-election race against likely Republican nominee Eric Hovde, a multimillionaire and bank owner who loaned $8 million of his own money to his campaign in the first quarter of the year, according to FEC filings. But she has the advantage of incumbency, and has used it to often outperform other statewide Democrats in rural counties, even as the party as a whole has lost significant ground in rural America in recent decades.
Baldwin is already pouring more effort into rural campaigning this year as she prepares for the challenge of sharing the ballot with one of the forces driving GOP margins in rural areas sky-high. Unlike her first two races for the Senate, in 2012 and 2018, Donald Trump will be running this November, too.

“In Wisconsin, in rural America, I think a lot of people vote straight-ticket, either Republican or Democrat,” said Roecker, who sits on the board of directors for the National Dairy Board, Foremost Farms USA and Dairy Management Inc. “And, you know, like I said, I don’t know how many people go down through there like I do and check her separate.”

Roecker [a farmer from the Wisconsin Dells, also quoted earlier in the story] said he didn’t know much about Baldwin’s Republican opponent, but Hovde’s campaign said it plans to work across the state to tell voters that Baldwin is a “rubber stamp for the Biden administration.” A new Marquette University Law School poll out Wednesday showed Baldwin running a single point ahead of Biden among likely voters and 3 points ahead of the president among registered voters. The likely voter results showed Baldwin and Hovde tied, while she had a small lead among registered voters.
These quotes are from Wisconson GOP Chair Brian Schimming: 
“You don’t talk your way out of that,” Schimming said, speaking about the current economic situation. “I mean, you can talk till you’re blue in the face, but when people leave your talk or turn off your television ad or put down their smartphone, and then pull into a convenience store and pay, you know, a dollar and a quarter more than they’re paying for gas four years ago, they get it.”

Democrats have an uphill battle in the state’s rural areas, as their statewide victories have increasingly relied on wider margins in the state’s most densely populated metro areas.

“They have lost huge swaths of the rural/outstate vote in this state, and they are not going to get them back by running Tammy Baldwin around. They’re just not,” Schimming said. “And it’s a problem endemic for the whole party out there.”

These quotes are from Linda Wilkins, chair of the Green Lake Democratic Party: 

It’s like pulling hen’s teeth to get votes for Democrats in our areas.

Every Democratic vote makes a difference, and we get a few more each time in these extremely difficult red areas 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

My Rural Travelogue (Part XXXVIII): The Great American Eclipse from the Arkansas River Valley

The Great American Eclipse, viewed from Ozark, Arkansas
(c) David Herbert 2024
I traveled to Arkansas a few weeks ago so I could experience the Great American Eclipse in my home state--near, in fact, to my hometown.  I viewed the event from a bluff high above the Arkansas River, just outside Ozark (population 3684), one of two county seats of Franklin County.  

Arkansas River, southwest of Ozark, AR
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2024
Ozark is one of the small cities in the zone of totality that promoted itself as an eclipse destination.  (Larger Russellville, population 30,000, less than an hour away, also promoted itself and was designated by NASA as a top-10 eclipse viewing destination). The numerous porta potties around the courthouse square were evidence of the preparation, as were signs like those in the photos I'm posting here.  (Fun fact about Ozark:  It's a colloquialism of "aux arc", which is what the French, colonial powers, called the place because of the deep bend in the Arkansas River). 

Meanwhile, my home county, Newton County, did not promote itself as an eclipse destination.  In contrast to Ozark, Newton County brought only four porta potties into the county, four in the county seat, Jasper, and two in the hamlet of Mt. Judea.   

Rearranging the porta potties (JR Handycans)
in Ozark, Arkansas on April 7, 2024
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2024
Here's what the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on the turnout there:  
A couple of thousand people milled around downtown Jasper and Bradley Park on Monday as the moon began crossing the path of the sun.

Russ Todd, owner of the Ozark Cafe, said he had plenty of customers on Monday. He said Saturday was normal but business really began picking up on Sunday.

"I've got all the business I need," he said, referring not only to the day of the Great American Eclipse, but every day, in general. 

Ozark Cafe, Jasper, Arkansas, April 8, 2024

As far back as the summer of 2022, predictions were that Jasper, population 547, and Newton County, population 7,228, should prepare for an influx of at least 25,000 people for the eclipse, but crowds were nowhere near those levels on Monday.

"As far as I know we didn't run out of gas, stuff like that that they said was going to happen," said Todd. "Stores were going to be wiped clean. We even got a flyer in the mail that said stock up on everything, I think it was overkill a little bit."

The story further reports on a local conflict over whether the town wanted visitors or not.  Clearly, not everyone was on the same page.  

Representatives from the Mt. Judea Area Alliance reported it has began publicizing the event on its Facebook page to make residents aware of the effects it may have on the community in the way of the number of visitors that may come to see the event.

"We are expecting thousands. That’s a lot of people coming whether we want it to or not. We need to be ready and to make the absolute best of it. All these people coming in to the area will want a little piece of clear sky to view the eclipse. Most will come a day or two before the eclipse to ensure a good spot and to enjoy the local area. Our roads will mostly likely be highly congested and traveling anywhere whether it’s for groceries or doctors’ appointments or anything else is projected to be near impossible to do in any timely manner. So, here’s just a touch of what you may want to do to prepare:

"Reschedule or don’t schedule any appointments from April 5th to April 10th, just to be on the safe side.
Newton County Courthouse Square
Jasper, Arkansas
April 8, 2024

Make sure you have enough groceries, water, gas, MEDICATION, or anything else you might need to hold you over during the same time frame.

"Plan to not leave home or the area during this time, if possible, as it will probably be cumbersome if not near impossible to travel our roads.

"BONUS: You may want to check on utilizing your property, rental home, etc. to allow those people coming in to stay in or camp on. This could be a big opportunity to cash in on a little extra Christmas money! There will probably not be anywhere near the motel space, camping spaces, Air B&B’s, rental cabins, etc needed to accommodate everyone coming to the area. {You may want to check on extra insurance if you decide to do this. Most insurance companies have an “event” insurance that is a one time fee to cover a specific event days. It’s as easy as making a phone call.) Or, if you don’t want them staying, you may choose to set up a table and canopy on your property (depending where you live) and sell water, t-shirts, baked goods (be sure to check cottage food laws), cups, or other memorabilia items that they might be interested in.

"There is already an eclipse committee for Newton County and they have been busy since last year planning for safety, medical services, police services, etc. There is a public Facebook page that offers access to some extra information on the eclipse, if you use Facebook. It is “Eclipse 2024 Newton County, AR”. If you have any questions, you can reach out to us and we will do our best to answer or help. We are just about 9 months away from the eclipse. What a blessing to be us and have the best seats to view it without having to travel to enjoy it."

It was noted the Alliance is joining with the American Legion in preparation of the eclipse. The groups have been able to secure four portable toilets, two at the Legion Hut and two in Mt. Judea for a week. The cost is $150 each, but does not include the cost for emptying them. Outside sources are being sought to perform this task.

The Newton County Times first reported on local eclipse preparation in May, 2022, and by Sept. 19, 2022, the headline was "Time running out to prepare for the eclipse."

Ozark, Arkansas on April 7
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2024
As for other parts of the state, initial reports of eclipse tourism in the southwest area suggest disappointment in the turnout there, too, as the Democrat-Gazette reported here.  An excerpt follows: 
Three small-town southwest Arkansas mayors said in phone interviews that the numbers the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism told them to prepare for for Monday's eclipse didn't bear out.

"It's pretty much a bust. Our numbers are not nearly what we were told they were going to be," said Murfreesboro Mayor Jim O'Neal. "We've got entertainment, we've got the diamond mine; we anticipated 40,000-plus visitors, and we did not even begin to come close to that."

Crater of Diamonds State Park was seeing decent patronage over the weekend and directing visitors beyond their capacity into town. Some businesses did OK, but O'Neal said the event was "a major disappointment" and expects the city government to take a financial loss. Chamber of commerce and other planned local fundraisers went for naught.

"We rented port-a-potties and empty trash dumpsters, and they're of very little use," O'Neal said. "It obviously cost us a lot of money. It cost us money we didn't recoup because of this exaggerated number."
Porta potties lined up in front of the district court
Ozark, AR on April 7
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2024

Democrat-Gazette story the next day had a more optimistic cast, suggesting that 200,000 folks had visited the state's parks for the eclipse: 

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in early March that anywhere between 300,000 to a million visitors could travel to the state for the eclipse.

Despite grumblings from some merchants and restaurateurs over crowds that left them with surplus food and merchandise, state officials seemed pleased with how the state fared with the eclipse.

According to a statement from Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Arkansas Welcome Centers greeted more than 41,000 visitors from dozens of states and 14 countries.

"This years' solar eclipse introduced Arkansas to new visitors from around the country and around the world," Lewis said. "We're thrilled so many came to enjoy all our beautiful state has to offer and look forward to welcoming visitors back again and again."
Sign painted on window of a business in Ozark, Arkansas
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2024

Meanwhile, other media outlets reported on visitors to other rural regions in the zone of totality.  Here is some reporting by North State Public Radio in New York on the economic impact of the eclipse there: 

Monday, April 8 was the best sales day ever for the [Hotel Saranac's] restaurant. They also sold street food that day during Saranac Lake’s Solar Fest event.

“We had three food vendors and all we did was tacos- total tacos- and I think we sold almost 200 tacos that day and people came in and got to enjoy Saranac Lake," said [the hotel's director of marketing and sales]

Other hotels, motels, and short-term rentals around the Adirondacks were also booked full, some a year in advance. Using that and other economic data, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism estimates that Essex County alone saw a $2.2 million boost in business compared to the same time last year.

One local restaurant in Saranac Lake that was busy all weekend was the Blue Moon Cafe. Owner Kenny Fontana said it was overwhelming at times. “We had three days where everybody really worked 12-13 hours."

* * * 

But the haymakers may have largely been hotels and restaurants. A few people who own a convenience shop in the area didn’t want to talk on the record, but said most people who came into their shop just wanted to use the restroom during the eclipse. They believed the region and state overhyped the event.

And here's a late March Washington Post story on anticipated spending from eclipse tourism.

Here's a mile-by-mile map of the solar eclipse, from the Washington Post

Here's a report on employment and wages in the path of the eclipse.   

Here's a story on AirBnB bookings in the path of totality.

Postscript:  The April 24, 2024 issue of the Newton County Times reported on an April 15, 2024 meeting of Local Emergency Planning Committee.  The headline is telling:  "Preparations wouldn't have changed for the eclipse."  In other words, local officials say they wouldn't do anything differently--either to attract more tourists or try to deter them from coming--if they had it to do over.  Oddly, the newspaper's website includes no link to the story.  

Monday, April 15, 2024

"Spotlight on rural California" (Part III): Giving rural folks a seat at the table

I want to wrap up this series about the Public Policy Institute of California's "Spotlight on Rural California" with a nod to budget priorities and how rural people and places may not rank high with policymakers having to make hard decisions about cuts.  In this regard, Chris Lopez, of Rural County Representatives of California, commented at the event, "We're going into a tough budget year and we [rural communities] want to be part of the conversation."  Another speaker noted that, in a tough budget year, a 40% cut to a given program means some counties will lose 2 of 5 staffers, but in a tiny county like Alpine, it may close an entire department.  

Ashley Swearengin, who leads the Central Valley Community Foundation, spoke of long-term investments (as in health care) that are needed in rural California, including her region's forested communities east of the Valley.  She observed, too, that the clean energy future we want in California is an industrial future--but with different industries from those associated with the past.  Several speakers observed that rural California punches well above its weight on clean energy. 

Another way to give rural ssembly member James Gallagher essentially called for "rural proofing," whereby new laws are vetted for the particular impact they will have on rural communities--sort of like an environmental impact statement, but instead a rural impact statement.  He mentioned in particular that "rural hospitals are failing" and that the situation has been made worse by the recent increase in the health care minimum wage, to $25, in California.  He also mentioned how California's gas taxes and fees penalize people for driving more--when rural folks have no choice but to drive, as to the grocery store.  

One speaker--I believe it was Swearengin--observed that the only thing keeping rural and urban from collaborating is not having dedicated time and space.  "We must require our local leaders to work together.  They msut determine where there are shared, aligned interests." 

I was reminded of the comments by Lopez and Swearengin when I saw this from a CalMatters newsletter on April 1, which provides a sense of the state's current budget crisis: 

With estimates ranging from $38 billion to $73 billion, the state budget deficit is top-of-mind for the Legislature. In March, Senate Democrats announced early budgetary action to reduce the shortfall by about $17 billion, while also agreeing with Newsom’s January budget proposal to use $12.2 billion of the state’s rainy day fund. According to Senate leaders, the plan would shrink the budget down to a “more manageable” $9 to $24 billion.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the two elected leaders in the Legislature — Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas — also announced in March that they agreed to seek $12 billion to $18 billion in initial savings ahead of passing the full state budget in June, but with scant details. All three are Democrats.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

President Joe Biden opens 10 field offices in North Carolina, none in a rural county

As reported by Axios, President Joe Biden has opened ten field offices in North Carolina, a crucial battleground state that could decide the 2024 Presidential election. The Biden campaign has focused its efforts on urban and suburban voters, believing that they represent a constituency that could give the incumbent President the state and its 16 electoral votes. Biden only lost North Carolina by 1.34% (or 74,483) votes, and it was the only state that Donald Trump won while also failing to win over 50% of the vote. However, the decision to focus solely on urban and suburban voters represents the Democratic Party's continued neglect of rural communities and abandoning the coalition that built the North Carolina Democratic Party in the post-Civil Rights era.

The late 20th-century North Carolina Democratic Party had deep roots in rural North Carolina, a time during which the Democrats led the way in progressive reforms that allowed North Carolina to distinguish itself as the most progressive Southern state.

Scotland County's Terry Sanford led North Carolina through the Civil Rights Era and refused to join his fellow Southern governors in trying to block racial progress. He raised education funding, championed the creation of what would later become the North Carolina Community College system, and endowed anti-poverty programs.

A decade later, Wilson County's Jim Hunt built upon this progress by continuing to champion education and build programs that promoted student success. Hunt narrowly lost his attempt to dethrone Jesse Helms in the 1984 Senate race and returned to the governor's mansion in the 1990s to continue his work.

North Carolina Democrats also sent Sanford to the United States Senate in the 80s, after his tenure as President of Duke University concluded. Sanford lost re-election in 1992, but Moore County's John Edwards filled his seat six years later.

The consistent theme of the North Carolina Democrats in the latter half of the 20th century was the championing of policies that benefited working-class North Carolinians, which included increases to education funding, infrastructure funding for rural corners of the state, and the continuation of racial progress. Were they perfect? Of course not. But rural voters knew they could trust the Democratic Party to have their back.

Over the last decade, however, Democrats have begun to lose their rural strongholds in North Carolina and seem to be putting little effort into getting them back.

My first direct exposure to politics in 2008 came as a volunteer at then-Senator Barack Obama's campaign office in Lumberton, North Carolina. At the time, my native Robeson County, North Carolina, was staunchly blue. In fact, Richard Nixon in 1972 was the only Republican to ever win there (at least since the end of Reconstruction). In the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both had field offices in the county. Obama even carried it by almost 17.5% in 2012. In the 2010s, however, Robeson County politics took a hard turn to the right. We elected Republicans to the county commission and state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. Donald Trump won the county in 2016 and 2020. This shift also happened on the state level, Pat McCrory and Dan Forest won Robeson County during their gubernatorial runs.

In 2020, Trump added to his support in Robeson County, likely buoyed by his decision to visit Lumberton in the waning days of the campaign. In fact, Trump gained more support in Robeson County, both in terms of percentage and raw numbers, than he did anywhere else in the state. 

Robeson is not an outlier in rural North Carolina. Six rural counties flipped to Trump in 2016 and remained in his column in 2020: Robeson, Bladen, Richmond, Gates, Granville, and Martin. The loss of Robeson, Bladen, and Richmond represents the loss of perhaps the poorest region of North Carolina. Along with Scotland County, which flipped to Trump in 2020, these counties represent a contiguous strip close to the South Carolina border in the eastern half of the state. All are persistent poverty counties, meaning they've had high poverty rates for at least three decades. These are the people to whom we should be listening.

North Carolina's urban and suburban areas are rapidly growing, so from a mathematical perspective, it seems logical to focus on them. However, President Biden's campaign must not leave rural North Carolinians behind. Rural North Carolina has many long-time activists, who helped power the Democratic coalition in the state for decades. As anyone who grew up in North Carolina in the latter half of the 20th century should know, many of our most progressive leaders came from the state's rural corners. The effectiveness of these activists is enhanced when they have institutional support. If you actually want to enact policies that better the lives of the most impoverished, you must create the infrastructure necessary for them to offer their input. 

It also makes mathematical sense to have a presence in rural communities. In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina by just 14,177 votes, and Joe Biden won Georgia in 2020 by just 11,779. 

There are reasons to be optimistic. The 2023 election of Person County's Anderson Clayton represents the infusion of rural ideas to the state party's leadership. Soon after her election, she pledged to remedy the problem that saw Democrats leave 44 state legislative seats uncontested. We'll see how that manifests into campaign strategy for the upcoming election cycle. 

We cannot afford to let the Republican Party have a monopoly on communities like where I grew up. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Literary Ruralism (Part XLVI): American Spirits

Reviewers have been mostly positive about Russell Banks' last book, American Spirits, which was published posthumously a few months ago, and  I recently got around to reading it and found the insights regarding rural folks, including their attachment to place and to the land, quite compelling.  The book is comprised of three stories, each set in Sam Dent, a fictional small town in New York's Adirondacks.

This excerpt is from the first of the book's three stories, "Nowhere Man," which involves a man, Doug Lafleur, who, with his sisters, sold their interest in the land they inherited from their father (Guy Lafleur) in the rural Adirondacks to a man from New Jersey, Yuri Zingerman, a mysterious figure.  

Zingerman’s shooting range was a half mile farther up the narrow gravel lane that passed in front of [Doug’s] and Debbie’s ranch house. When he and Debbie got married, Doug’s father, Guy Lafleur, sold him the eight-acre lot for one dollar as a wedding present, and on weekends over the next three years Doug and his brothers-in-law, Roy and Dave, built their house where the lane ended and their land began. After Doug’s dad died, Doug and his two sisters, Nina and Tracy, and their husbands, Roy and Dave, his brothers-in-law and hunting companions, sold off the rest of the old man’s land, all 320 acres. It was the last large tract of undeveloped forested land inside the town limits. They sold it to Yuri Zingerman from New Jersey. He said he wanted it for a private hunting preserve, but promised Doug that he and Roy and Dave could continue to hunt on the property. Zingerman said he was a veteran of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, but he talked with a regular American accent. He ran a company in New Jersey that provided security for celebrities and professional athletes and business executives. It was impressive when he named who they were. 


Doug, who worked as a full-time caretaker for summer residents and a part-time handyman in the winter months, spent his share of the cash sale of his dad’s land on a new Dodge Ram pickup and paid off the mortgage on the house. Without the mortgage hanging over them, he figured he could support the family with his caretaking and seasonal work as a handyman, and maybe in a year or two he could build a third bedroom onto the house and the two-car garage Debbie wanted. They could get off food stamps and buy health insurance. When the twins were old enough for Debbie to go back to waitressing full time instead of part time, which should be soon, they’d be sitting pretty. That’s how he put it to anyone who’d listen, with his lips pursed in an air kiss. Sitting pretty. (pp. 10-11)  

This is after Zingerman orders Doug not to hunt on the family property, Lafleur Woods, any longer.  Doug is speaking initially to his wife, Debbie, who pushes back against his plan to continue hunting:

“He can go straight to hell if he thinks I’m not hunting on Pop’s land.” 


“Who? It’s not Pop’s anymore, remember?” 


“No. It’ll always be Pop’s. Just like it’ll always be Grandpop’s. That’s why people call it Lafleur’s Woods. Those two old boys, Pop and Grandpop, they’d roll over in their graves if they thought me and Roy and Dave couldn’t hunt that land. Max, too. Max’s gonna get his chance to hunt those woods, just like I did when I was his age. And my dad before me. And Grandpop. That sonofabitch Zingerman, he can have his hunting camp out there if he wants, he paid for that right, but he can’t keep me from tramping across those ridges and creeks that I know like the lines of my own hand and killing a deer once a year and busting up a few coveys of partridges and quails. It’s my goddamn birthright.” 


She was silent for a moment. She knew that he’d had three gin and tonics and had been publicly humiliated by Zingerman, but even if he were stone-cold sober and Zingerman had managed to be polite and had apologized for posting the land and barring him from hunting it, Doug would be threatening to kill his deer over there anyway. He was a man. That’s what men do. She knew that by tomorrow he’d be trying to talk Zingerman out of his decision, and by Monday he’d be grumbling about Zingerman’s decision, and when hunting season opened, he’d meet up early with Dave and Roy, and they would hunt on somebody else’s land, not Zingerman’s. Not Pop’s and Grandpop’s.  (p. 22) 

 * * * 

“We’ll just go in there early the first day of the season and take out our deer, and the hell with him,” he told Debbie. “He’ll never even know we done it.” 


“Doug, that’s about as dumb a thing as you’ve ever thought of doing.” 


“Sometimes you got to do a foolish thing in order to do the right thing,” he said. 


“I’m not letting Max go with you.” 


“Whoa. When it comes to educating the boy to hunting, I’ll say when he’s ready. It’s a lifelong process, and it starts now for him. He’s ready to drive the deer, or at least watch how it’s done. He won’t carry a gun for four more years, but he’s got a lot he can learn before then. I started carrying a gun a lot younger than that, y’know. Of course, that was before the government started chipping away at the Second Amendment,” he added. 


“Please, don’t start,” she said. 


“What if Zingerman…?” “What if Zingerman what? Worst he can do is call the state police, and by the time they arrive, we’re back here at the house butchering a deer we can say we shot in the yard from the deck in our stocking feet.” 


“What’s that going to teach Max? That it’s okay to lie to the police?” 


“The staties all know me and Roy and Dave. They don’t care where we shot our deer. They don’t like Zingerman any more than we do. Actually, the one I want to be teaching is Zingerman. He’s the one needs a lesson. Coming into our town like this and snatching out of circulation three hundred twenty acres of prime hunting grounds. And I want Max to know we aren’t gonna let him get away with it. I want the whole damn town to know it. And the state police, too.” 


“You’re the one who sold him the land. You and your sisters.” 


“Yeah, but we had a deal. It’s him who changed the rules. And I’m just saying no, that’s all. No, dammit. No.” 

* * *  

[Debbie]  didn’t buy Doug’s sudden sentimental attachment to his father’s and grandfather’s land. Where’d that come from? He’d been all too happy to join his sisters, Nina and Tracy, when they had the chance to sell the land to Zingerman, and they would have done it even if Zingerman hadn’t promised not to subdivide or develop it and hadn’t given them permission to hunt there. Doug wanted the money. He needed the money, not the land. They all did. (p. 24) 

 Then there is this powerful passage about Doug's attachment to the property:    

For seventy-some years this forest was the Lafleur family’s private hunting preserve. Before that, for a hundred years it was a Boston-based timber company’s wilderness cache of uncut trees, part of the land across the region that got auctioned off in the 1930s and ’40s for pennies an acre when the company shifted operations south, and in 1947 Doug’s grandfather had bought a chunk of it. Before that, before the American settlers and the British and the French Canadians and the Dutch, for ten thousand years it was the Mohawks’ and Mi’kmaqs’ home ground. Doug liked thinking about that. He liked calling up that long line of woodsmen and hunters. He liked to believe that he was descended from them, that his relation to this piece of the earth matched theirs, that he knew in all seasons its streams and brooks and swamps, its glacial forests changing from hardwoods to dark conifers to ferny sunlit patches, that he knew it fully as well as those old-time hunters did, and he knew the man-made trails and paths laid down over centuries on top of the trails and paths followed for millennia by the animals before the humans made their way here, and he knew the behavior and habits and needs and desires of all the animals and birds that lived in the forest. 


Without that ancient connection to the land, who was Doug Lafleur, anyhow? No one. Nothing. Just a not very talented amateur musician hanging around this small town for a lifetime, finding easy ways to house and feed his wife and kids and spending too much time at the local tavern amusing his neighbors with tall tales and dumb songs, a man with no good reason to be living and working here instead of somewhere else. Christ, anywhere. And no matter where he lived and worked, wouldn’t it be the same? 


A nowhere man, that’s what he’d become. Like the guy in the Beatles’ song. 


It was a mistake to sell the land to Zingerman, he said to himself. A mistake to sell it to anyone. He and his sisters should have clung to it for another generation for Max and his cousins to grow up on. It wasn’t fair to blame the old man, but Doug’s father had started the process by selling Doug the eight-acre pie-shaped corner adjacent to Route 50. The old man at first didn’t want to sell off the flat, birch-covered stretch of ground, but Doug, newly married, wanted to build his own house, even if he had to borrow fifty thousand from the bank to do it. He talked the old man into signing over the eight acres for a dollar an acre so he could use the appraised value of the land, a thousand times what he’d paid for it, to guarantee the bank loan. Doug and his father thought they were outsmarting the bankers.


They never should have done it, though. No one outsmarts the bankers. With help from his brothers-in-law over the next three years he built the one-story, two-bedroom bungalow with a full basement, and though he knew he could have done it cheaper with a double-wide set on cinderblocks, he wouldn’t have been able to expand on a double-wide, someday adding a third bedroom and a two-car garage with a tool room, the same as he could on a regular house. With his meager income from caretaking the homes of summer residents and handyman work over the winter, the mortgage payments turned out to be more than he could afford—several years into it and he was still paying mostly interest, and the principal was down barely seven hundred dollars from the fifty thousand he’d borrowed, and recently he’d been falling behind and was being charged penalties for late payments. 


After the old man died he never should have agreed with Nina and Tracy to sell the rest of the land in order to pay off the bank loan with his third of the inheritance. He could have somehow figured out a way to make the mortgage payments by taking a night shift at one of the resort hotels or a factory job in one of the larger towns downstate. Or he and Debbie could have sold the house instead and rented an apartment or a house in town. They might have saved enough that way to afford health insurance. And after they sold their father’s land, he shouldn’t have bought the new pickup. 


He could have squeezed a couple more years’ use from his old rust bucket of a truck. He and his sisters would still own the Lafleur Woods, the headwaters of Blackstone Kill, the sedimented shale slabs cut crosswise by the kill and the ridges and gullies, the moraines and eskers and erratics and the rock-strewn till left behind by the retreating glaciers ten thousand years ago. He’d still be able to hunt on his ancestors’ land. This love of the land, this irrational claim on it, was Doug’s strength, and it was his weakness.  (pp. 28-31) 

 Then (spoiler alert!) there is a show down between Doug and Zingerman, each wielding a gun:  

 Zingerman said, “Lafleur, you’re a fucking dead man.” 


Doug said, “I’m a nowhere man.”  (p. 60)

Thursday, April 11, 2024

How vouchers are decimating Oklahoma's rural schools

This story by an Oklahoma television station caught my eye on Twitter, where Jennifer Berkshire, a podcaster writing about education and politics had posted a link with this quote and comment, 

*If it’s not any better than this year, I think our rural schools will cave,” she said. “I think that’s probably the purpose—that if we have less schools, then the monies can go to privates and charters.* Incredible reporting from Oklahoma.

Interestingly, Heather Cox Richardson, the historian, had retweeted the Tweet (which is how this matter actually caught my eye), with this comment:

This is an astonishing story, illustrating what happens to a political system when one party can rule without oversight.

Berkshire also observed that this had happened quickly in Oklahoma, given that just six years ago the state had "booted GOP incumbents who were seen as insufficiently pro public education."  

The story at the link introduces readers to Pamela Smith-Gordon, who had been superintendent for Caney Public Schools in Bryan County, population 46,000 on the Texas state line.

She spent most of her career as an educator working in rural, public schools, where she became intimately familiar with a unique role those schools play for their communities.

“That’s where people meet people,” Smith-Gordon said. “That’s where people get to know each other’s kids. That’s where community members get together to commune. Oftentimes in small communities, especially those little communities that don’t even have a stoplight, those communities, they keep each other in check because everyone knows everyone. It’s really unique. And we are blessed in Oklahoma to have those types of communities throughout the state.”

For her, every dollar the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) allocated to her district mattered immensely.

“There’s not a tax base,” she said. “When you don’t have a stoplight in your town, you might have one gas station. That doesn’t provide you a lot of tax money from your communities.”

If there’s a second thing to know about Pamela Smith-Gordon, it’s that — like many Oklahomans — she describes herself as a Christian, conservative Republican.
“I am a God lover,” Smith-Gordon said. “I’m not crazy about liberal agendas.”* * *

From time to time, she thinks about what she would do if she could wave a magic wand and find herself calling the shots from the big office down that secured hallway on the first floor of the Hodge building.

“First of all, I would be there, definitely be there, but I would hire Oklahomans,” Smith-Gordon said. “I wouldn’t go out of state to hire people… I would utilize those people who have been in these schools, in these rural schools, the administrators that have been in these rural schools, teachers that have been in these schools that have faced these obstacles, that know what works and what doesn’t…they have a huge array of value to set initiatives and policy. I would hire Oklahomans to take care of Oklahoma. I also would offer help before humiliation.”

But magic wands don’t exist. And the fact is: Walters is only a little more than a year into his four-year term. That scares Smith-Gordon.

“Our schools did not receive allocations, some of them, not until January,” she said. “If we do this for the next three years, our schools will cave. Department heads have left and there are departments that are being closed down… all of those departments were utilized to answer questions for our schools. If we don’t have people in those departments that can answer questions, how are schools supposed to know?”
* * *
The more she thinks and reflects, the more she wonders: maybe this was the plan all along?

“If it’s not any better than this year, I think our rural schools will cave,” she said. “I think that’s probably the purpose—that if we have less schools, then the monies can go to privates and charters.”

That may concern her more than anything else.

“Parents need to realize that when we fund the private and charter schools, they have a different set of rules that they go by,” she said.

Other posts about rural schools in relation to vouchers, aka "school choice", are here.   And here's a piece on the last Democratic candidate for governor of Oklahoma, who made saving rural schools a centerpiece of her campaign.  

Here, George Will, the conservative columnist, writes in favor of school choice, asserting that it is working well in Arizona.  I see no mention of rural schools in his column.  

Friday, April 5, 2024

Two hard-hitting critiques of "White Rural Rage"

I wrote about Thomas Schaller and Paul Waldman's new book, White Rural Rage, in February, just after its publication.  I followed up with this.   Now, two more critiques of the book have been published back to back.  

The first, by Tyler Austin Harper, was published in The Atlantic yesterday under the headline "An Utterly Misleading Book about Rural America."  An important part of Harper's attack centers on definitions of "rural," but he also does a deep dive into how the authors of White Rural Rage committed what he calls academic malpractice.  Here's a key excerpt:  
White Rural Rage illustrates how willing many members of the U.S. media and the public are to believe, and ultimately launder, abusive accusations against an economically disadvantaged group of people that would provoke sympathy if its members had different skin color and voting habits. That this book was able to make it to print—and onto the best-seller list—before anyone noticed that it has significant errors is a testament to how little powerful people think of white rural Americans. As someone who is from the kind of place the authors demonize—a place that is “rural” in the pejorative, rather than literal, sense—I find White Rural Rage personally offensive. I was so frustrated by its indulgence of familiar stereotypes that I aired several intemperate criticisms of the book and its authors on social media. But when I dug deeper, I found that the problems with White Rural Rage extend beyond its anti-rural prejudice. As an academic and a writer, I find Schaller and Waldman’s misuse of other scholars’ research indefensible.
Then, today, Nicolas Jacobs, co-author of The Rural Voter, published this in Politico:  "What Liberals Get Wrong About 'White Rural Rage'--Almost Everything."   Here's an excerpt that focuses on the same theme Harper hits--basically how progressive media outlets and institutions have been fooled by this Schaller and Waldman book. 
This latest obsession with rural rage is nothing new. After 2016, when rural voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania put former President Donald Trump over the top, Democrats tried to figure out why they had gone so sour on the Democratic Party. Some liberal thinkers called out the left’s reflexive condescension and dismissal of rural voters that escalated during the George W. Bush administration and peaked with Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her dismissal of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Some said the party should increase attention to rural issues and nearby rural communities.

But don’t be misled. The publication and widespread celebration of White Rural Rage among progressive circles is doing something different than those post-2016 post-mortems. It is not an attempt to understand the needs and concerns of rural America. Instead, it’s an outpouring of frustration with rural America that might feel cathartic for liberals, but will only serve to further marginalize and demonize a segment of the American population that already feels forgotten and dismissed by the experts and elites.