The arrogance of dismissing their contempt for the government is overwhelming. Just because they don't express their hatred of the elite class of people who rule them in just the right way doesn't somehow add up to their anger being misguided. They're using "the government" as a lightning rod for the myriad elites who do basically dictate the shape of their lives--the media they consume, the state of the market they could never control, and what options for their future they have. It's not expressed clearly, but it's not hard for someone with an ounce of empathy to suss out.
I could come up with a laundry list of the moral failures of the white rural poor, sure. My family tree is full of people just like this. But this researcher and people just like him cannot see past their own ideology. They want to believe they're objective, but they're not, they're caught up in the same sort of scientistic neoliberalism that can't help but see anyone outside of their elite class as a curious primitive and any other value system from theirs as a totemic anomaly. They want to know what character flaws led people to do such a horrible thing as to vote for Trump, but cannot for a moment consider how it was that we got to this position. Hint: it's not the rural poor's fault.
It is one thing to support fiscal conservatism. The very nature of these towns lends itself to the ideology, and it has its merits - cf. tech leaders who supported Trump.
It is quite another to have "outdated" (for lack of a better word) moral beliefs (anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-<whatever>), to _know_ that the majority of the country does not agree, and still somehow _expect_ that these views to be enforced in their little part of the world. It's a kind of selfishness that is not unique to small towns or their people by any means, but it is there.
I wish the author did more to differentiate the two, although the interview is pretty terrible overall.
There are plenty of better words. "Unfashionable" works.
> anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-<whatever>
I find it interesting that the left think of the right as the "anti" crowd, while the right think the same of the left.
> to _know_ that the majority of the country does not agree, and still somehow _expect_ that these views to be enforced in their little part of the world. It's a kind of selfishness that is not unique to small towns or their people by any means, but it is there.
First, the assumption that social conservatives are a clear minority and reside in a "small part of the world" doesn't really hold up. Second, minority or not, since when is a political group advancing their own interests "selfish"?
As an example, less than 20% of Americans believe abortion should be totally illegal (2015) . Granted, this is only one "social issue", but I think it's somewhat representative of my point.
There's a difference between advancing your political beliefs and not accepting the current status, and participating in antisocial behaviour in response, as the article suggests. Whether or not this behaviour is commonplace, is, well, a separate point entirely.
I'm a little unclear on what you're talking about here. What antisocial behavior in particular? I'm part of that 20%, and wondering at what point does expressing my opinion become "antisocial".
For reference, roughly 6% of the population is vegan. Are they antisocial for protesting what is, in their opinion, murder?
There are leftist groups that protest in anti-social ways to varying degrees, so it's by no means unique to the right. An extreme example would be groups masquerading as Antifa destroying property. (Like I said, varying degrees of anti-social behaviour.) One of the positions of the author, it seems, is that anti-social political discourse is particularly dangerous in small towns, due to the echo chamber effect.
So, to answer your question simply: ideally, political discourse is well-reasoned, and measured in its intensity. One person expounding on their political beliefs with the intention of causing genuine emotional distress in another individual would be anti-social, in my view.
-There are very few high paying jobs
-There is limited access to medical care
-Local government ineptitude has a very real daily impact
-Small tax base means surprisingly high taxes, but real struggle to maintain infrastructure (especially schools)
-“Traditional” upbringing, often religious based, that breed skepticism toward anything “foreign” - which means everything from non-white people to AirBnB.
-A fear that Washington DC really is a threat to their freedoms. For example, there is a view that gun laws aren’t really about guns, so much as a perception of a slippery slope toward totalitarianism.
Those are just kinda off the top of my head… but having now lived here in small town, rural America for eight years, I can sympathize with some of their views. People in small towns are not all the slack-jawed yokels city dwellers like to believe they are - many are well-informed and well-educated. By and large, they have legitimate concerns, even if they can be misguided in their beliefs about the potential solutions — and politicians to help them achieve those solutions.
My $0.02 — small towns need to be more entrepreneurial. The government isn’t going to fix it for you. Trying to recruit Amazon (for example) to put a warehouse there isn’t going to bring the desired economic outcomes either. Do it for yourselves.
Sounds like poor white and poor black Americans face fairly similar issues.
> “Traditional” upbringing, often religious based, that breed skepticism toward anything “foreign” - which means everything from non-white people to AirBnB.
The xenophobia of rural whites is vastly oversold. I've never heard of anyone around here afraid of AirBnB. The level of racism I've seen in white communities is on par with the level I've seen in black communities. Which is to say that there's an undercurrent, but not a hysteria.
> A fear that Washington DC really is a threat to their freedoms.
Do urban Americans really not feel this way? It certainly seemed otherwise during the summer of surveillance.
> For example, there is a view that gun laws aren’t really about guns, so much as a perception of a slippery slope toward totalitarianism.
It's not that gun laws aren't about guns. It's that the rights of citizens to defend themselves against a tyrannical government _should one arise_ is important enough to be included in our Bill of Rights. I still don't understand how those who believe that our current president is a totalitarian monster can't sympathize.
I don't think urban people feel as alienated by the government. I think that they feel less likely to trust people from urban areas with outsize power telling them that they were born wrong and using those beliefs to inflict pain and harassment on already people already dealing with a lot.
Regarding gun laws unless the country up and decides to make a constitutional amendment nothing is going to happen with guns. No one is coming after them. To paraphrase a statement "Once Americans decided killing schoolchildren was acceptable the gun debate was over". The mass killings are going to continue happening. No good people with guns will show up. And we'll all have thoughts and prayers on our Facebook feeds. The gun debate has nothing to do with guns. It has to do with the rights of a hobby being more important than the rights of citizens to live. No amount of rifles or handguns will be able to overthrow a government that can literally kill you from a locked room a world away. If guns alone could stop the US military there would be no ongoing war in the middle east. Firearms are fun, I totally get it, but let's be real that we're choosing fun over human life.
I look vaguely non-white in a way that gets interpreted differently by different viewers, and my personal experience has been that I struggle to convince others just how real the xenophobia / racism of rural whites is, unless they have a chance to witness a specific incident/episode. And I still pass as "kinda white" depending on the viewer / situation, so I can only assume that people with darker or more "ethnic other" complexions than I have experiences that pale in comparison to my own.
Some of the same "hey you're not _really_ white, are you?" still happens everyplace else I've lived, but it's friendlier and less threatening in places that I'd describe as "more urban" or "having more economic opportunities."
Just my personal experience, but I fled the small rural white town where I grew up as quickly as I could, and every time I return to such a setting I'm quickly reminded why I left.
I grew up in Texas, then Mississippi, for reference.
The model of protection from tyranny embodied by the second amendment was one in which the protection wasn't from the mere right to keep and bear arms, but from the dependence of the state on the militia created by the citizenry being so armed for its basic security and defense functions. The professionalization of armed law enforcement and military forces (to the point where even significant international armed conflicts and domestic security crises are addressed by the state without conscription or summoning citizen posses, relying on professional—even if not always permanently active—volunteer forces alone) has destroyed that model entirely.
But the point isn't that when the government comes for me in particular, I can stop them. It's that when the government does something so horrific that the citizenry as a whole decides to do something, they can. Local, ad-hoc militias across the country could definitely get the job done.
The past 300 years shows that rural is simply not economically highly-productive.
Eventually we'll even live in starships and colonize distant planets if we don't kill ourselves first, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that will not be our defacto mode of living in my life time, and the same goes for vertical farms.
I know this as I used to work for Acxiom, headquartered in Conway, Arkansas. (Population: about 30k then, an hour from the Little Rock airport). It really was a restriction.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... Either she or her significant other likely paid 7-10% of their income into social security and medicare...
I am sure these people would be less angry if they perceived to be in a prospering part of the country and not a decaying one.
Rural Americans are mad about being called 'flyover states', about being called racists (really for voting against Democrats) and for being portrayed as backwards.
Rural Americans are great people, the same as urban Americans. If you can't see the good in other people, the problem isn't with them.
Well, nobody needs to do anything. But if you really want to solve a problem, it usually helps to understand it. Overpowering the other side only works for so long.
I think this interview, and inferring from the interview, the book in question have largely glossed over a number of issues, these are just to name a few:
1. Not all rural people are ultra-conservative bible-thumping hicks. Sure, some are, but they're usually a highly vocal minority. Most rural folk just want to be left alone to go about their day. I grew up in rural Montana and now live in Chicago, and I'm an atheist, fiscally conservative, social libertarian (I don't care what you do in your personal life as long as it's between consenting adults and it doesn't infringe on my rights). I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could make a decent living there and if not having step-kids and joint-custody in Chicago.
2. Rural people tend to be largely self-sufficient and transitively, largely independent. They don't dependent on the government for day-to-day things. Sure, they may depend upon the government for roads, but truly rural (and I'm sorry, a town of 25,000 is not rural - that's a regional city) don't depend on government for water or sewer. They'll have either their own or a community well and septic systems. Police & Fire services? You're probably fucked if you need them. Response times may be an hour or more. Same for EMT services. Hell, depending on the time of year, emergency services may not be able to get to your home - you may have to meet them part way. I've certainly seen that first hand growing up - an elderly neighbor had to get her husband, who was suffering a heart attack, into their SUV and meet the ambulance at the nearest paved road as it couldn't get to their house.
3. Rural people perceive urban areas as getting preferential treatment for government services, especially for natural disasters and infrastructure improvement. Yeah, a bridge in say the Twin Cities of Minneapolis (and this is not even local) might only serve a portion of only 3.3M local residents, but when that fails, a lot of cross country trucking routes fail, need to be rerouted. But, what about a closure of I-90 between Spokane, WA and Missoula, MT? A lot of freight and post travels that route. First hand, my parents lost their rural home in a wild fire this past (2017) fire season. Why? Not from the natural lightning-caused fire, but because the Federal Forest Service set a back burn at the worst possible time of day (afternoon) and then let it run rampant while my parents' house and a neighbor's house burned to the ground. And from other neighbors that didn't evacuate, the fire personnel just stood there and watched. This after having cut a fire break and running water pipes miles over the hill side to protect against such a circumstance. Fast forward to the wildfires outside of LA, and they pull out all of the stops there, while basically committing arson on my parents and their neighbor. So far, no criminal charges or government settlement, but there certainly ought to be. So, yeah, sometimes the Fed comes in and literally burns your house to the ground and you have no recourse.
4. Rural people just plain don't like being told what to do from people thousands of miles away. The DC politicians largely don't know what it takes to live a rural live and likely never have lived a rural life. They may have made a token visit to a rural resort, but have no idea what it is like to live where the nearest "town" to which you live has a population of 1 and is your grocery store, gas station and post office (and probably a few other things).
Sorry, this turned into a long-winded rant; I did not mean it to. I think the author being interviewed had preconceived conclusions and did his interviews to support those conclusions without actually digging into the meat of the problem.
> Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton University, spent eight years interviewing Americans in small towns across the country.
Now, that isn't peer-reviewed research, and it doesn't necessarily prove anything, but it's a decent start toward being authoritative (even if I find it quite unconvincing).