The Growing Divide Between Urban and Rural America

The Democratic Party is abandoning the working-class to the tender mercies of Donald Trump.

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Vice President Mike Pence addresses employees via intercom Tuesday, April 21, 2020, at GE Healthcare in Madison, Wisc. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

“There really are two Americas here: Those still getting a paycheck from government, corporations or universities, and those who are unemployed, or seeing their small businesses suffer due to shutdowns. And the America still getting paid is, so far, not showing a whole lot of sympathy for the American that isn’t.” — Glenn Harlan Reynolds, USA Today. April 21, 2020

If you happen to live in the country, let’s say somewhere in any of the small or mid-size towns and mini-cities strung across the nation, and have never lived in a large city like New York City or Los Angeles, you should try it.

Everyone should live in a big city at least once. For someone from rural America, or rural anywhere, the first sight of the New York City skyline is arresting. Shocking even.

Flying “home” to one of these places for the first time, seeing the vastness of a huge city sprawling out beneath you, the millions upon millions of homes, businesses, cars; puts things in a new perspective. Until you actually experience it for yourself, you have no idea how many people actually live in places like Washington, D.C.

It’s like the difference between knowing there are over 7 billion people on the planet, and actually looking down from above at those billions going about their business. It is a bit overwhelming.

Living in a teeming city teaches you about the wisdom of crowds, the logistics of city planning and the intricacies of public transportation. Living in a populous and diverse city is a great teacher; a beautiful, horizon expanding experience everyone should have.

Likewise, if you are a life-long city dweller, and have never lived anywhere without its own public transportation system, restaurant take-out and a major airport, you should live in the country at least once.

For someone from a big city, the first sight of rural America can be shocking. The vast tracts of farmland; the wide, flat prairies of Kansas; the rural charm of Beaver Lake, Arkansas. Tiny towns, with battered, barely hanging on main streets; generations of families, living within miles of each other.

It is a simpler, slower way of life for most who choose it- often centered around family, faith and work. When a city person moves to the country, they are often unprepared for the slower pace, the silences, the spaces, the stillness. And the darkness.

Night in the big city is never dark; night out on the farm is as black as coal. No street lights on rural routes.

When you live in a huge city, it is easy to forget that water doesn’t really come from taps. Food doesn’t really come from the grocery store, either. Electricity doesn’t come from an outlet. With these matters out of sight, out of mind, city dwellers can focus on higher pursuits.

And in so doing, forget that the urban lifestyle elite New York writers love so much is made possible entirely through the sweat of the working-class, blue-collar workers and working-immigrants living outside it.

People in the country aren’t as far removed from the factories and fields that keep American running, eating, and enjoying the fruits of post-industrial age America.

Country folks know where your meat comes from; they can smell the pig farm up the road a half-mile away. Country folks, farm-workers, field-toilers; they know exactly where your food comes from because they grow it. They raise the animals that are slaughtered for food. They do the slaughtering.

They work in the factories that process all that food into protein bars and potato chips.

Everyone in a small town knows where they get their water-. And that well water is best. They also know where the wastewater goes.

But there is one thing New York City has in spades; media companies.

Almost the entire U.S. media is based in New York. New York may seem like the center of the universe to New Yorkers, a fact which they proudly tout as if the routine dismissal of the other people living on the planet were no big deal.

But it isn’t.

The callous and routine dismissal by celebrities, political opponents of President Trump, and media elites- the vast majority of whom are still earning a paycheck, and in the words of Patton Oswald are sitting at home with “Netflix, food delivery & video games”- of people who have lost jobs, businesses and livelihoods is revealing a breathtaking level of disdain for the working class.

Liberal Democrats mocking lock-down protestors as people who miss eating at Fuddruckers, or who just wanna go bowling, are revealing the depth of their wealth privilege.

It is this privileged purview, this disdain for the working class, and for rural Americans in “fly-over” country, that is killing the Democratic Party and the progressive movement.

It is the reason Democrats are now stuck with Joe Biden as their party’s nominee, despite the fact that he was perhaps the weakest of the major contenders and has been accused of sexual assault by a former staffer.

It is the reason Donald Trump and his 63 million “deplorables” snatched the election from shoo-in Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And, in a complete reversal over the last decade of which Democrats should be ashamed: It is the reason the Democratic Party now controls 27 of the 30 wealthiest districts in the country. It is the reason the Democratic Party is now sharing equally with Republicans control of the 30 poorest districts.

Ten years ago, the opposite was true.

The working-class is abandoning the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party keeps behaving as if it doesn't care about them.

Sure, words are nice; and they matter. Trump certainly sticks his foot in it. But actions speak louder than words.

And right now Democrats are acting as if working people watching the weeks tick by as their money runs out are selfishly wanting to kill others because they just want to go to Fuddruckers.

When in reality, working class people think the idea of an 18–month government mandated shut down is simply untenable.

Wealthy liberal Democrats in New York may trust the government to help everyone out if things go south. Not everyone can afford that level of optimism.

Democratic politicians, celebrities and journalists expecting working-class people to trust the government to bail them out are forgetting Hurricane Katrina. It took the U.S. government several days just to get water to the Super-dome. As such, trust in the Superman-like powers of the U.S. government is limited in some circles.

They used to be Democratic circles.

The current divide on reopening the economy isn’t between Republicans and Democrats. It isn’t between people who want Donald Trump gone and those who want to give him four more years to sort things out.

It is between the wealthy elite class who aren’t struggling financially and the blue-collar working class who are.

Democrats are on the wrong side.

Instead of advocating for the working-class- as they have always done- the Democratic Party has become overrun with out-of-touch celebrities, corporate interests, career politicians and wealthy elites. Political-beat writers in New York and Washington D.C. have coopted the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, at the expense of everyone else.

Just because the shut-downs haven’t been a problem for journalists writing from home and still collecting a salary doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a problem for anyone.

The Democratic Party has surrendered to a small but vocal minority of Twitter users, who account for only 22% of American adults. Twitter users tend to be younger, more liberal, better educated and wealthier than U.S. adults in general. Though liberal Democrats on Twitter claim to speak for the entire Democratic electorate, they don’t.

The working-class is underrepresented on Twitter. Older Democrats on fixed incomes are underrepresented on Twitter.

And by acting this way, by siding with Madonna and House Speaker Nancy “let them eat ice cream” Pelosi and dismissing the concerns of the average American, Democrats are again setting up Donald Trump to be a champion for working-class people.

And the Democratic Party should not be surprised when Democrats who voted twice for Barack Obama vote for Trump again in 2020- just like they voted in 2016.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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