Robert Leonard, New York Times Opinion, January 5, 2016: Why Rural America Voted for Trump
The title of Robert Leonard's opinion article in the New York Times could just as well have read, "Why Rural America Always Votes for Republicans". Leonard writes about why rural Americans vote Republican in his home state of Iowa. Much of what he writes is not new. We have discussed many of the factors before in this website. However, the one new revelation is how worldviews are shaped by a rather weird indoctrination of that demographic.
Leonard cites a 2015 discussion he had with a rural Baptist minister, J.C. Watts. Quoting Watts:
“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.
“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”
He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”
That faith based belief according to Leonard is the foundation upon which many rural worldviews of liberals in the urban environment are based. I do not agree that Leonard's stereotype applies to all rural voters and maybe not even a majority of rural voters who vote Republican, but I do believe that Watts being a masterful Baptist minister is able to sell that point well in his bubble of supporters.
Leonard goes on to describe the resentment that rural Americans have for urban Americans because they feel "left out". That worldview has less to do with being born bad or good, but rather just the envy of the "other" living in the urban environment where they perceive their taxes are being disproportionately spent to the detriment of rural America suffering from lack of investment in roads, schools and healthcare. However, it does show to me how opportunists like Reverend Watts can twist an economic situation to their benefit. Blame the "other" for their circumstances in life.
The fact is that rural America is also a victim of advances in technology. Fewer and fewer farm laborers are needed as machines do the jobs that once supported a thriving community. Factory farms have displaced many family owned farms as younger folks have fled to the cities where they become more "liberalized". Ditto for the coal mining communities.
Even if these communities were allowed to keep 100 percent of their taxed dollars, many would have a hard time sustaining themselves without outside support. Many of them indeed receive more tax dollars than they send out to the government coffers. That's not the message that Trump will deliver...just the opposite. It's one reason why he and his fellow Republicans win the public image in rural America. There are, of course, others but those are topics for another post.
Leonard closes with this statement:
"Rural conservatives feel that their world is under siege, and that Democrats are an enemy to be feared and loathed. Given the philosophical premises Mr. Watts presented as the difference between Democrats and Republicans, reconciliation seems a long way off."
I agree on that latter point. Read Leonard's full article at the above link. I have only touched on the parts that resonated with me.