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.  

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