Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Rural voters are important too

The separation between Democrat and Republican or conservative and liberal is not the most divisive part of this country. It’s not what determines the vote. The true polarization of America is the separation of urban and rural voters.
News stories and analysts have been looking at it through a political science lens when the most explanatory factor is a sociological lens. For small town residents, America is the protection of their families and jobs. For metropolitan residents, it’s more diverse and often exclusionary of the predominantly white communities in small towns.
The rural areas of America have been consistently shrinking, taking jobs and money away and making their economic lives more difficult. Their society is fundamentally different from the democratic metropolitan areas because of the differences in economic functionality.
Pearson Education released a video earlier this year interviewing residents of the small town of Harrisburg, Illinois. The video showed several residents explaining how life in Harrisburg relies on employment by the local coal mine and how that led them in the majority to voting for Donald Trump in 2016. For the rural citizens of Illinois, it wasn’t about protecting human rights or environmental issues, it was about their livelihood, which they believed Trump would protect and Hillary Clinton wouldn’t.
The same pattern came up during the recent midterm elections in states like Texas. The highly-watched senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz was an upset for a lot of Democrats across the country when Cruz pulled through for the victory. The reason for O’Rourke’s loss was the rural portions of Texas, where voting was overwhelmingly Republican.
Democrats can’t keep ignoring the small towns of America. The ties to the land and pride in calling it home found in rural areas is the kind of mindset America started with for more than the first century of the country’s existence. That’s the kind of American greatness rural voters expected Trump to bring back, and it’s the kind of greatness metropolitan voters and politicians have ignored.
Perhaps it’s ignorant of rural voters to be voting only for their own self interests when America is consistently becoming more and more diverse, but even those who vote for the sake of minorities tend to be a minorities themselves. In truth, American voters all tend to vote for their self interests and forget the needs of some other part of the country. The United States is a big country; it’s hard not to forget someone. But a population as large as rural America deserves better than being forgotten. Majority voters ignoring minority needs when voting is just as ignorant as minorities forgetting about small town residents.
Compromise between parties won’t be answered by settling generational, racial, gender or educational differences. Altering immigration laws, trade treaties or taxes doesn’t matter. The problem is at the heart of who politicians say they care more about: city-living immigrants, women and people of color, or the local American. The recognition and mending of animosity between urban and rural America could change the way elections end and change the way the country runs.

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Rural voters are important too