Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What Is to Be Done (re: Rural America)?

Today I read two interesting articles on what can be done about the urban/rural divide that gave us President Donald J. Turnip.

First, from Pacific Standard, Why aren't rural Canadians in favor of Trump? The writer reports on the people of the Change Islands in Newfoundland, who are culturally similar to rural Americans but who don't like Trump and support Justin Trudeau. The difference, she says, is that they know their central government has given them lots of things they rely on since they joined Canada around 1950: electricity, roads, bridges, a ferry.

She contrasts this with the rural Louisianans studied by Arlie Hochschild in Strangers in Their Own Land, who believe "they" get nothing from Washington and others are cutting in line ahead of them on the way to the American dream.

What can any of us do about it?

People and organizations who want to offer an alternative to Trump can take a page from the Canadian book by going beyond Trump’s symbolic support to both symbolically and materially invest in rural communities, such as the $1 trillion infrastructure program recently proposed by Senate Democrats. But such support is not limited to new governmental programs; local and state governments can also make efforts to remind rural residents of what they are already doing for them. Political action groups can canvas rural communities’ needs and visibly go to bat for them. Volunteer groups can do work projects in rural communities. There’s a lesson to be learned from Newfoundland: that even communities facing dire times will remain invested in a shared political project if they feel that the country is also invested in them.
I try to visualize how that would work in Minnesota. Groups of Twin Cities volunteers go up to the Iron Range to do what, exactly, that would compensate for not mining the Boundary Waters Canoe Area? Or we descend upon southwestern Minnesota to somehow help farmers not pollute the water with field runoff? Hmm.

The second article, This is why Democrats lose in "rural" postindustrial America, is from the Washington Post. Its main point is that Democrats don't lose the towns and small cities of rural America: it's just that voter turnout is significantly lower there than in the completely rural or suburban areas.

That means if Democrats could turn out voters (and register nonvoters) in the somewhat denser areas of Red America, it would make a big difference. Even county-level data is deceiving, since these towns and cities are surrounded by ruralness, so Keith Ellison's call for not just a 50-state but a 3,007-county strategy is right, but not fine-grained enough.

How bad is the turnout split? According to the article, whose author did detailed analysis of counties in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, it's as bad as 30 vs. 60 percent turnout in Terre Haute and Muncie and their surrounding areas, or 50 vs. 75 percent in parts of Pennsylvania.

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