Richard Kline: Thoughts on the 2012 Vote

The 2012 Election was a demonstrably party line affair. In that, it was a canvas with a deeper meaning in US history than the results for individual candidates and parties: this is the first time in American history that all of the rural vote was committed to a single party. That seems a non-earthshaking statement, but is non-trivial looking at the socio-political landscape in the USA previously, and has implications for the future.

2012, the Outcome Matrix

First, some more peripheral remarks. Nothing earthshaking here, and others may have their angular perspectives to add, but some handicapping for those who desire such. This election cycle in result wasn’t about ‘Barack Obama.’ Or ‘the economy.’ Despite all the media yammering. The media considers the ephemera of the hour and personalities which draw eyeball share, not substantive facts or social structures.

This was, in the end, a remarkably party line vote. Women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, those of most and least education, and union workers overwhelmingly voted Democrat (citing the New York Times here, but they simply capsulized the results well the day after). Those rather diverse constituencies are offered NOTHING by the Republican Party in this generation, and by default voted the party which might offer them something; now, in the recent past, and for the foreseeable future. Men (What? Why??), whites, those older, rural residents, Southerners, evangelical Christians but also the rich voted Republican in the main. It’s worth noting that several of those designations are overlapping, such as rural, older, and white, or rural, white, and evangelical. That constituency on the whole wants nothing to do with those who are voting for the Democrats, and consequently have collected in a different party, the Republican Party by default since only two are allowed to participate meaningfully in this country. That constituency fits uncomfortably with the rich, both at first glance and historically, although the rich are both conservative, anti-labor, and anti-immigrant so in those respects naturally of the same party.

There is a third strata in the electorate, the smallest of the four, with the fourth being a near trivial sliver of mutually exclusive lefties and libertarians who numerically cancel out. The third consists of ‘independents,’ that is, those without a fixed party affiliation. This typically includes the young, tidily middle class suburbanites and the archetypal independents, meaning non-leftists too educated to self-respectably vote Republican. With the exception of the young, who typically vote Democrat but often don’t vote, these independents are quite fickle in their voting patterns, going with whoever they think will give them a fatter payout in a given cycle. If all the ‘independents’ go one way, that can be decisive in many locales, hence the inordinate amount of money and pitch-time spent to woo them.

Yes, Barack Obama was re-elected, but don’t fool yourself into thinking most folks were voting ‘for him’: they punched a party’s chad because of what that party might deliver to them, he just happened to be the name printed over it. Democratic turnout was defensive, in different words. Similarly, Romney has little love from his party, but the vote turned out to punch up Republican. Obama simply had to convince his side of the electorate that ‘he cares about people like us,’ while Romney had to convince his that he was a nativist bigot. Both succeeded in misrepresenting themselves successfully as such (since in my view neither has the qualities expected). Those who lean Democrat significantly outnumber those who lean Republican.

The major reason this vote ‘seemed close’ was that Obama’s side had little faith in him or his record, and did not turn out in close to their actual numbers. The principal asset of the Republicans through a generation has been that they DO turn out their base and hanger’s-on in high, reliable numbers. I’m sure that happened again in an effort to thrust Barack Obama aside, likely accounting for the ‘record turnout’ the media is buzzing over (although it seems clear that fewer folks voted than in the 2008 election). Independents didn’t have a horse in this race, and either sat it out or fell to either side of the bar, a further factor in making for a ‘close vote.’

Nor was ‘the economy’ a deciding factor in this cycle in my view. For one thing, the Financial Crisis and the injury to the larger economy attendant upon it are still chalked up to Dubya Bush (Obama getting an undeserved free pass from the bulk of the electorate and most of his constituency for his own sellout to the agenda of great wealth which has exacerbated the injury to the larger economy). And while some are hurting greatly economically, the pain is concentrated in a few areas. Much of the electorate hasn’t taken the big hit, pressure notwithstanding, and are looking more to hold steady than lay blame.

Everything I just said has been a) reported in its details even in the mass media, b) is unremarkable having significant electoral history behind it, and c) was baked in before this election cycle even began. I could have written this capsule a year ago, but you’ll see it nowhere in the media because big picture summary isn’t of interest to them. The debates? Not impactful. Record spending? Big profits for the trade but inconsequential in the result. So long as the Ds made no major error and turned out their base, they had this one going in. It’s neither coincidence nor surprise that Obama won most of the flippable states because in a base-on-base vote, the Ds will win narrowly even without the independents.

The Countryside, Better Red than Led

Given that the electorate in 2012 broke remarkably cleanly along establish socio-cultural preferences between the parties, we have an excellent snapshot of the American political landscape in the results. And what we see is that the vast majority of the rural vote is now Republican. That was likely the case as early as 2000 but circumstances moved portions of the vote around in a less clear fashion, in my view. Both on present politics and looking at the sociology involved, it seems highly likely that the rural vote will remain Republican so long as that party is extant. That all of the rural (and largely white in that) vote is now in one party is new and has implications for those who want to handicap both campaigns and elections going forward, and that regard have insight into pressure points in public policy.

The socio-cultural background of rural (and exurban) American is remarkably homogenous, but for the vagaries of geography and political history has been fractured prior to this time amongst the major parties. The Eastern seaboard of America in a long, north-south littoral. Settlement was in socially diverse nodes, but subsequent territorial expansion proceeded largely on direct east-west compass marks from those nodes. If your high school American history course was any good, you already know this, but not (quite) what it has meant. The first settlements on the coast were diverse. Very simplistically, political elites in New England and the mid-Atlantic had much in common, while political elites from the Chesapeake on south and around New York had working similarities. While initial political alignments between these larger factions were rather fluid prior to independence, they long since coalesced into enduring political opposition in the main which continue to be reflected in a residual manner in the present two major parties.

However, the secondary settlement in the uplands from ca. 1740-80 was quite homogenous, and the bulk of the rural population in the US was, and is, derived from this secondary wave. Significantly Scots-Irish and secondarily from rural northern England and Wales, with a sprinkling of evangelical rural Germans of quite similar cultural background. European whites of evangelical leanings with antipathetical relations to the larger governments of that time and this. These populations settled inland everywhere from Maine to Florida, and moved largely due west in expansion from wherever they first lodged. However, they necessarily developed clientage relations with the local political elites because land grants and commerce were controlled locally. Thus, the secondary wave which largely settled the countryside if not the cities of the American interior was fragmented from the outset between the prior political factions which had nothing really to do with the cultural preference or even personal political interests of the latter, nativist arrivals.

This circumstantially imposed political schism of the American rural vote has been of tremendous importance in the political history of the US. It’s not the only factor, but has loomed in the background of every major political crux in our history, sometimes lurching to the foreground. Yes, voters in, for example, rural New Hampshire, downstate Indiana, Arkansas, and southern Arizona have from the socio-cultural standpoint far more in common with each other than with the political elites of the country but because of an imposed political geography ended up backing literally warring sides. This white rural constituency has perhaps never been an absolute majority of the American population, but from 1800 to the 1980s at a guess has been a salient plurality of the population and the electorate. If ever they had voted as a block, they would have dominated American politics. We may be fortunate that never happened. ‘Northern’ and ‘Souther’ rural whites have not necessarily been firmly attached to the Republican and Democratic Parties respectively; for instance in the 1850s their party alignments were rather fluid. The imposed impacts of the American Civil War and the Great Depression tended to keep rural whites cemented to the locally preferential political party however, substantially for reasons of patronage.

Party affiliation for rural and exurban whites eroded after the Civil Rights era however. It is an accident of the two-party system that this constituency ended up in the Republican Party. Ross Perot was their darling, for instance, and his run a pure expression of their perspective. As previously in American history, that effort failed to cohere a new party, just as the tenuous grassroots attachment to the so-called tea party failed to differentiate. But rural whites were NOT going to appear in public with the Democratic constituency, so they have lodged themselves firmly in the Republican Party, which they now dominate at the local and organizing level: it is their party. – But too late! Due to declining demographics, this white, nativist, rural constituency may still be a plurality, but it is now too small to decide elections on its own, even with massive turnout. This is what we see in 2012, and the real lesson of this electoral cycle.

The further lesson from my perspective is that the primary antagonism in American politics is the rural/urban divide, which is amazingly clear in voting returns in the 2012 election. Yes, the secondary antagonism in American politics is ‘wealth against all;’ the meaning of the 1% vs. the 99%. However, the wealthy have to operate within the larger socio-cultural landscape because, vote manipulation notwithstanding, the main weight of numbers decides the results. So we have the seemingly odd result of the plutocrats operating from within and behind the socio-cultural template, objectives and prejudices of white rural America. Going forward then, it will be a landscape of rural whites voting against urban others, with much froth at the margins for the handful of fickle voters actually willing to be bought. (Which is what it comes down to: George W. Bush bought that froth for $400 a head in a shabby bidding war of tax credits with Al Gore. And still, it wasn’t enough because the Repubs just aren’t a majority and the country isn’t reliably conservative in its vote, not that the media can report this accurately.)

Take a look at some of the district returns for November 2012, ‘red vs. blue’ and the results are eyepopping; Ohio, Virginia, and Florida for instance. Dots and clusters of urban blue surrounded by unbroken seas of rural red. Now, in one sense this isn’t remarkable. As is well known, cities in the mainhave been reliably Democratic in vote since the early 1800s, for many reasons (with the issues involved too numerous and detailed for this summary). It is the utter solidity of that rural and exurban Red vote as never before in American history which truly stands out. Yes, there are rural liberals; yes, there are urban libertarians. They are massively outvoted in both areas, and greatly limited where not completely excluded from political office and life.

Patches of blue surrounded by huge, thinly inhabited seas of red; mutually antipathetic, distinct in their political parties. This is the present of American politics and will be the future through the rest of our lives. What does that imply? There are too many unknowables, but several things stand out. Rural Red is demographically in decline, a process which appears irreversible, though it may have leveled off economically. The absolute share of the electorate they represent will only decease from here. That said, they are quite large enough to a) completely operate one of our two permitted political parties, and b) prevent any other faction from governing effectively.

I’m not of a view that that constituency can be bought or brought into a mythical ‘bipartisan’ blah-blah-blah. Why? For one, as nativists, they really want a sizable share of present Americans to leave the country and never come back, and of course that is not on. The rural vote is committed to starving the cities of funds, and that is a declaration of economic war. That rural vote is committed to dysfunctioning and ideally dismantling the Federal government, and that has gone about as far as it can short of violence (which is hardly out of the question). Urban Blue doesn’t ‘get’ Rural Red, and really doesn’t care to. Whatever faults one could list for Urban Blue as well, there simply isn’t much of a basis for compromise because the factions are culturally distinct, it’s not just a matter of political leanings, or a single few issues. It’s everything.

Urban Blue has largely ignored the present antipathy of Rural Red because it’s nothing new and in the past ignoring glares from the sticks worked. The rural vote was split between parties and could be bribed or worked around. But now that all the rural vote is in one party which it controls, that’s no longer the situation. Urban Blue needs to sit down and have a long conversation amongst itself regarding how they are going to govern. That is my view. Notwithstanding the machinations of the ‘wealthy 1% against all’ Urban Blue have a narrow, slow-growing but reliable minority, but share a country with a large population which patently dislikes them and isn’t about to cooperate. I’m not going to advance a pat list of solutions or objectives. First of all, there isn’t a clear course or program that I can see. But secondly, Urban Blue hasn’t decided to fight back but rather has voted and programmatically proceeded in a defensive manner to this point. Red is offensive but short of the votes to rule while Blue is defensive and has diversity rather than purpose.

To me, the message of the 2012 election is that Urban Blue and Rural Red (more or less) are solid, divergent factions. The cultural divides are more relevant than the putative party organizations, any specific policy, the gyrations of ‘the economy,’ or the ephemera of discrete events. Yes, all of the latter are meaningful, but none of them are decisive. Diverse Urban Blue and white Rural Red definitively delimit the landscape we live in going forward.

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  1. David Lentini

    Interesting thesis, but it seems to ignore the fact that much of the north North East (ME, NH, VT, and NY) is rural and yet still voted Democrat at both the state and national levels.

    1. The Rage

      Good point. The Plains(not the south) is where the real pure ‘sea of red’ sits. In Ohio, Democrats don’t do that bad in rural areas, just enough for the Republicans to keep the seats and they don’t get the govenrment handouts the Plains do.

      But the Plains, oh that government leeching Plains, is where the big sea is at.

      My view is a nice deflationary depression would “change” much. One is the rural voter begging the urban voter to save them.

      1. ambrit

        Or, it could be the Urban Voter begging the Rural Voter to feed him. Industrial scale agriculture has too many potential fail points to be considered reliable in the long run. See Mz. Yves earlier posts anet the fragility of complex systems.

        1. Richard Kline

          What you miss with that remark, ambit, true though it is, is that the _money_ in this country is urban. The majority of the tax returns, the industrial base, the functions of the Federal government, and the location and participation in the financial system are essentially urban. The cities could buy their calories overseas if that was cheaper, but are locked into buying local because that has been to urban advantage.

          Urban and rural have a real symbiosis, sure. And should. But urban areas have dominated the _running of the government_ historically because they are where the money is. They are where the demand is also, and that demand is what supports rural agricultural prices. Some rural agricultural components in the US could ship overseas; many could not, and would be out of business with out urban American demand. And for those areas who could ship overseas, without the participation of the financial system they couldn’t do it either.

          Rural America has nowhere really to take their production without the participation and demand of urban American. Since the symbiosis is real, it would be great to see mutual cooperation, but that is not in the picture at present. But here’s something to consider: The last Russian Civil War was significantly an urban/ rural divide—and the cities conquered the countryside. I don’t want to even think about such a possibility here, I only use the example to show that dominance by the countryside is not only assured but not even terribly likely.

          1. Cugel

            A lot of the historical division between urban & rural is due to influence of slavery, rather than immigration patterns.

            The former slave states retain the white supremacy mythology and this has extended to rural America as a whole. Realistically, why should Kansas conservatives care about “welfare queens” or “illegals pouring over the border”. Are minorities pouring into Kansas and changing things? No. Minority populations in the upper plains states are still negligible. (Kansas: 86% white, 6.3% black, 7% Latino in 2010 census).

            But, they really, really do care — because it’s part of their cultural white resentment of urban dwellers. “Those people are running the country.”

            Just as they organized to impose Prohibition on the rest of America, rural white America is still a threat to the rest of us and we have nothing to do but organize against them. Because they will never stop hating us for not being like them.

        2. MN farmer

          So true. The industrial farming/food complex has created a complexity of integrated production, on time deliveries no different than stocking Wal-Marts and abseentee and highly concentated ownership and management of the means of production that the trigger that might have once been there to quickly turn to a mode of broad sustainability are locked. Welded, actually.

          In our small rural communites that are to a large degree really nothing much more than old railrod and local milling centers where people are stuck living there are glimpses of hope for better informed politics. But it is very difficult to get little people who have been chewed up and spit out by concentration and extraction to see or understand how it happened. Our native bred people are not, as the article points out so well, short on opportunites because there is no work to do. But the work that is here offers very little in rewards. The most significantly startling demographic in middle America is poor, un- or marginally employed young white men and women with chidren who were born into and raised in modestly comfortable middle class surroundings. Too many view their circumstances as personal failure, as would be understandable with so much spectacular and production and signs of prosperity all around them. Which leads to first, conservative, then often radical and ultimately apolitical.

          1. Paul Tioxon


            Farming has long been politically and economically short changed by Industrial Capitalism in this country. Since food was turned into a trading contract, it has been crucified on a cross of gold. From my time at Ecology Food Coop, Inc. in West Philly, I was made aware aware of the economic disadvantage between the farming sector and the industrial sector. And, it was a well known problem in Washington DC as well, with term “Price Parity” being fighting words in farm bills for a long time.

            The problem is not productivity, it is the relation of pricing, not by market, but by a fair compensation to preserve a pre-industrial, too important to fail enterprise: FOOD PRODUCTION. Farmers need to be compensated to maintain and transmit the land, the soil and the water, from one generation to the next, so we can eat. Something we can’t avoid for long. Price parity is still an issue, but is buried under mumbo jumbo farm subsidies rants, corporate latifundia and migrant and illegal worker battles.

            The farmers need political support for no other reason than we are all mortal, and we all need to eat.

          2. different clue

            Followup to Paul Tioxon’s comment,

            Acres USA will send you a single free-sample copy of their farm-and-agronomy oriented magazine for you to see if you want to subscribe. Currently they only print 19,000 or so issues per month . . . their subscriber or otherwise-buyer base is that small. More people deserve to see Acres USA’s material, and Acres USA deserves more subscribers and otherwise-buyers than what it now has.

      1. ambrit

        Dear sleepy;
        It would be interesting to do an overlay of educational levels with voting preferences out there. I’ve heard that the Iowa rurals are significantly better educated than your average so called ‘hick.’ Any truth to that? Where I am, the Deep South, the stereotypes stem from reality.

      2. attended Lutheran School

        IIRC, that area culturally still is dominated by the Lutheran North Europeans who settled there in the 19th century.

        The Lutheran flavor of Protestantism is a whole lot different different that the Baptist flavor that dominates other rural areas.

        Lutherans (not counting the conservative Southern synod) don’t emphasize the fire and brimstone/wrath of a vengeful God aspects of the Bible as the Baptists tend to.

      3. Richard Kline

        So sleepy, yes, I’m aware of the situation you describe. ‘Rural’ compared to ‘urban’ are very crude, even meathead categories. I hesitate to use them, because they will be misused, but in the main they are accurate. Lutheran school below points out the essentials involved: comparatively ‘liberal’ religious affiliations have reliably voted with the liberal party, which has been the Democrats since the 1880s. For example, rural Quakers, who still exist, will in the main be voting Democrat also. While urban evangelicals are a reliable Republican constituency.

        As you mention elsewhere sleepy, Fischer’s _Albion’s Seed_ is an excellent primer on the kinds of divides I discuss. I have read it (and much of his other work), and yes, it informs my perspective. There are other issues I draw into this analysis as well.

        And something absent from that text but relevant for present cultural and political demography is non-white immigration subsequent to initial settlement. It was not, and need not be a given that nearly all of non-white immigration has ended up voting Democrat. Black America isn’t mentioned in _Albion’s Seed_ but is demographically important to evaluate, for example. It’s obvious looking at the history that blacks would end up in whatever party white nativists didn’t. This is why Blacks were one a Republican constituency but where literally cast out. The Democrats took them in as they urbanized, that was the result. And so on. The intense nativism of rural evangelical whites has principally caused that outcome; rural areas were anti-Catholic and anti-Jew before they had a chance to be anti-Muslim, and would be anti-Buddhist if it came to that. Furthermore, most non-white immigrants have settled in or near cities, and taken up clientage with urban elites. The exception is in agricultural drawing grounds like South Texas, Central California, or the Yakima River valley in Washington. Immigrants have been outvoted in those areas historically when they bothered (or were allowed) to vote, but they are ‘going Blue’ even there—from the local small cities which they come to dominate. The urban/rural divide in miniature.

        1. nobody

          Albion’s Seed was supposed to be “the first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time,” and the second volume was supposed to be on American Plantations. It’s been more than twenty years though, and…

          Well I just googled around a bit and found this:

          “I got to ask one question — whether he was going to ever finish American Plantations, and whether it would provoke the same PC outrage that Albion’s Seed had. He answered, in effect ‘yes’ to the first one, and ducked the second one.”

          1. Richard Kline

            So nobody, I don’t expect a further volume of _Albion_ ever to happen. Fischer has diverse research interests. The extant volume was the product of a time, a place, and a particular cadre of graduate students in support of it. Conditions won’t be replicated.

            But there are other works on cultural history and the European settlement of the North America. One can go looking for the info as so inclined. There are issues not covered in Albion which are important, particularly how the mining sector developed in the American West, and the social background and tensions of the conservation movement, for instance. An issue not really raised in _Albion_, but important for a larger understanding is that the main cadres Fischer posits (and posits accurately in my view), were _preexistant in Britain. They had prior histories with formative influences there. To _really_ understand ‘America,’ one has to do the research on the origins of those cadres in Britain, going back into the middle 1200s, say. Yes, our socio-political traditions are that old, and still carry the form of that different time and place, and the stresses of faction, religion, caste, and economics of that time, like the inner growth rings on a massive tree.

            We here ‘the media of the moment shapes . . .’ buzz all the time, but really most of the media noise and daily eventchurn is ephemera. Cultural parameters do change, but s-l-o-w-l-y. I recommend the ‘deep read’ to those interested.

        2. sleepy

          Thanks for your response.

          I live in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa, on the western edge of blue Iowa.

          My county is overwhelmingly Catholic/Lutheran. Counties to the west become increasingly Dutch Reformed. From that area came Congressman Steve King.

          In much of my part of blue Iowa, poverty for example, is considered a mark against the community at least as much as a mark against the individual–“it makes us look bad”–so the result is a communitarian effort against it.

          Also, much of Iowa is graced with somewhat good government, and the government is considered something that can respond pragmatically and effectively to problems. Much of this I believe is traced to Iowa’s pride in its public school system.

          While there are very wealthy people here, country clubs are few and far between, everyone goes to the YMCA rather than private gyms, everyone goes to public schools, and everyone uses the public pools in summer. There is that sense of egalitarianism. Ostentatious shows of wealth are frowned on.

          1. Richard Kline

            So sleepy, you live in Grinnell Iowa, not Iowa State Iowa. And that is substantially a footprint left by settlement patterns. Those westward trajectories of settlement to which I alluded in the post really did happen. The Delaware Basin Quaker settlement in Pennsylvania and New Jersey has had a long history of exactly the kind of socially engaged, tolerant, communitarian small town society which you describe. People from there _did_ move west on the same parallel, more to the cities but along a significant track or rural, communitarian settlement. One finds this in northern Ohio, for example, relative to southern Ohio settled out of western Virginia. One finds communitarian sentiment in portions of southern Michigan, but only parts. Skipped over Indiana, but in pockets of Illinois. In Iowa, too. After that, the same strata of pioneers amidst the larger movement of backcountry folk largely skipped the Plains and made straight on to the Williamette Valley in Oregon and western Washington.

            The geography of this is fascinating, and too much neglected. Everyone knows it locally, but even on the state level much is forgotten. But ‘where the first [European] settlers came from’ left a strong formative footprint which still has influence. And as you allude, the particular confession of an area both reflected who settled where and the character of the places which remain.

      1. Richard Kline

        Yes exactly, Larry. And a good call on the Atlantic Southern Piedmont. That was the initial heartland of white upcountry settlement, but the industrialization of the area brought both urbanization and an engagement with the rest or urban American. A dozen miles away, though, and one moves back 250 years to the constituency and caste of initial settlement—even if those in the two areas are descended from the same folks in many instances. It is the context which shapes the views, not the bloodlines.

    2. Richard Kline

      So David, I did not ignore that factor, but likely did not make myself clear. The problem is that you are looking at ‘states’ not ‘locales’ (or as a stand-in for the latter Congressional districts. Rural New York did NOT, and does not, vote Democrat; it is famously Republican. And so on. The divides I spoke to aren’t North vs. South or New Jersey vs. Alabama, for instance. Rural vs. Urban is the real divide, look at the returns and it is crystal clear; the divide is functionally ‘Red’ vs. ‘Blue’ on a district by district basis as a shorthand, whatever one wants to name the factions. That Red has become completely Republican and Blue is completely Democrat is what is new in American history, that is my principal point in the remarks of this post, kindly hosted by Yves

      1. Nathanael

        Rural New York is far less “red” than rural Alabama or Wyoming, however. I give some possible reasons below.

        1. Richard Kline

          So Nathanael, agreed, there are distinctions. I’m talking in maximally broad sweep and the fine grain does matter. A further factor in upstate New York and northern New England however is a) farming was never very good there, so rural areas didn’t grow much after settlement or even retain their population, and more importantly b) niche water power industrialization there early on drained off populations to regional manufacturing cities. Those first-wave industrial cities have themselves greatly declined, but they are more Urban Blue than residual Red, or so the voting returns suggest.

          Rural Northeast has not had the cumulative experience of Rural Deep South, sure. But the commonalities remain if different in degree.

    3. Nathanael

      The Northeast rural settlement is culturally wildly different from the “1740-80 Scots-Irish” wave described by the author. In addition, due to the decline of farming in the Northeast, it’s mostly been revived with niche farming and organic farming, which attracted an entirely different attitude.

    4. Lord Koos

      Seems a bit simplistic to reach your conjecture about the rural vote — the rural vote isn’t all that monolithic. Looking at the following map

      Many counties which are colored red in most conventional election maps actually had between 20-45% of the people voting for Obama, and I’m sure the reverse is true as well — there are plenty of urban conservative voters. The WSJ has an interactive map of US counties where you can click on the county and see the percentages. Interestingly, the red counties with the highest percentage of Republican votes seemed to be in the rural west and parts of the mid west, not the south. At any rate red/blue thinking can lead to analysis which is lacking in nuance. Let’s not make out this country to be even more divided than it already is.

  2. fresno dan

    “Obama simply had to convince his side of the electorate that ‘he cares about people like us,’ while Romney had to convince his that he was a nativist bigot. Both succeeded in misrepresenting themselves successfully as such (since in my view neither has the qualities expected).”

    Nice line!

    1. Richard Kline

      So dan, it’s something that struck me early on in the primaries. I don’t like Mitt the Mutt, but while a narcissistic rich fun it is _not_ obvious to me that he is a blatant bigot. But he had to ‘fake it’ to pass the color test for the Republican Party—and his constituency didn’t really buy it! That’s one reason that personally Republican bigots were down on him: he wore the wolf’s clothing, but couldn’t help himself from baaaaaaing.

      1. Richard Kline

        ” . . . narcissistic rich fug . . .” I’ve GOT to kill my auto-correct, it’s insidious.

  3. Doc at the Radar Station

    Hunter Thompson does an excellent overview of the Scots-Irish demographic in “Hell’s Angels”. Highly recommended.

      1. Synopticist

        Australian immigration boomed in the 1850s and later.
        They were coming from a very different Britain compared to the Scots-Irish.

        Those Scots-Irish, they hated the British govt, but not because they were getting opressed. They hated them because they weren’t allowed to oppress Irish Catholics ENOUGH, and the pesky govt was too soft on them.

        (This is the British, In Ireland. Not brutual enough!!)

        Then they went to live in the Appalachians, and hated the govt because they tried to stop them taking more Indian land.

        1. Richard Kline

          I didn’t delve into the grievances of the Scots-Irish and their cultural similars from rural Britain, but it is something worth knowing to understand the cultural history of colonial British settlement which saliently includes the USA. It’s worth noting that the Scots-Irish and such actually _were_ an oppressed minority _in Scotland and England_ prior to first emigration to Ireland and beyond; this is something which has shaped all of their views, their exaggerated sense of grievance notwithstanding. Their countries were taken over by French-speaking rentier brutalists. Their churches became dominated by a venal, rich caste beholden to foreign machinations. They were the population who were left out in the cold when the commons were enclosed. They were the population induced to debt slavery doing sharecropping in Britain, where the practice was pioneered, and the population who often immigrated as indentured servants (i.e. debt slaves) to the Americas.

          The Irish in Ireland were treated _exactly_ as Native Americans in North America were treated on the frontier, but as aboriginals were treated in Australia too, for example. All of ‘frontier America’ was pioneered in the conquest of Ireland from the 1550s to ca. 1700, in every unpretty detail. Worth studying for anyone who wants to understand ‘America’: we are not unique, Ireland was the prototype of which frontier America became the archetype.

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      Another good book on the Scots-Irish demographic in America is Born Fighting, written by James Webb shortly before he became a senator.

  4. amateur socialist

    Good piece but this one popped my eyes a bit: “…The rural vote is committed to starving the cities of funds, and that is a declaration of economic war.”

    A war they would be ultimately declare on themselves, given the way federal transfer payments generally flow from urban to rural America. Between agricultural price supports, subsidies for the dying fossil fuel extractors, and military installations of questionable utility, the rural economy supporting those voters flows mostly one way.

    1. Neo-Realist

      But the salient reason the rural vote behaves against the city is that it perceives it is starving the cities thanks to corporate media and redneck right wing talkers who portray cities as big spenders on welfare cheats and baby mamas. As long as they are educated to those beliefs it will continue to vote the way it does.

    2. Richard Kline

      So amateur socialist, I agree completely and spoke to this in a remark above. Urban money runs the country, even while the economic symbiosis between the two regions is deep.

    3. bobh

      This is true on the state level too. I live in Washington state, where the urban areas around Puget Sound share power with a smaller number of rural and Republican voters located almost everywhere else except Spokane. Our rural voters are not as nativist as those in the southern U.S., despite a large and growing Hispanic population, but they are convinced that they are victims of our urban belief in big government and high taxes, despite the fact that the per-capita flow of tax moneys into and out of Olympia is considerably to their advantage. They like their schools and bridges and roads and cops, etc. but are certain they would keep more of their earnings if the state wasn’t dominated by liberals from Seattle who disdain self-sufficiency. Our rural areas have voted heavily in favor of a series of revenue-limiting initiatives that hamstring our state government and our educational system. I have often thought that someone should put a “tax fairness” initiative on the ballot to limit the amount of state money that can go to each county to 100+x% of the revenue received from that county. It’s a bad idea in terms of governance, and probably wouldn’t pass, but it might force some of our “fiscal conservative” neighbors to think more carefully about who the moochers are.

  5. The Rage

    Destroying the Federal government is what capital wants, hence they push them more. It will set the stage for their serfdom to capital and liquidation of America.

    I think subconsciously, “blue urbans” understand the real conspiracy more and are pissed off at the Rurals. If they want to go on the offensive, you can either tell the “rurals” to join, or be called traitors of a international cabal.

  6. The Rage

    Don’t also forget the “nativist” urbanite. If the rural ever did succeed in creating a massive depression, they will look for this “group” to save them ala white Bryan Democrats.

    1. Richard Kline

      So The Rage, I used to think this, and historically it has been true, that in a Crash the rurals would go hat in hand to the bankers and politicos. Now I’m not so sure.

      One reason for that is that historically the rurals had no political party of their own. They _had_ to work through patrons, and had had the historical experience in Britain of what happens if you get frozen out by the patronage class as for example happened with Irish Catholics in Ireland. Now, though, rural America own its own party patronage machine, for the first time ever. There has been some reporting on sentiment in rural or exurban white areas since the Financial Crash of 2007. It would surprise you, and did me, that the mood there was deeply resentful to taking ‘benefits’ from ‘the Government’ and that the more white exurbans took those benefits _the more deeply they disliked the Government_. And this mood and sentiment has fed into the ‘starve the government’ perspective. So no, I’m not at all sure that rural nativists would, at this point, turn to the Center for a bailout.

      Conditions do change, and we may have seen one here. —And this is not a positive. Turning to the Center for a bailout engenders compromise. Refusalism engenders extremism and mutual contempt, which seems a more accurate surmise on where we are now. I think it will be up to Urban Blue to figure out the workaround on this one. Or we can wait three more generations until the demographic decline of Ruralia and the increasing urbanization of the US give Blue a supermajority.

        1. Richard Kline

          So Nathanael, a generation ago I thought it would take one. . . . These things just move slower than we anticipate.

      1. Min

        “It would surprise you, and did me, that the mood there was deeply resentful to taking ‘benefits’ from ‘the Government’ and that the more white exurbans took those benefits _the more deeply they disliked the Government_.”

        Cognitive dissonance!

  7. jake chase

    Pretty funny that you refer to the nativist population in those states as ‘Reds’. But it isn’t about starving the federal government. It’s about starving the ‘other’ people perceived as beneficiaries of federal handouts. The Reds have no problem with military and agricultural and corporate socialism. Indeed, they pervesely support all of it.

    For years now, Democratic politicians have gained power by talking bullshit their supporters wanted to hear. After gaining power they cooperated in the looting by established predators. Republicans do exactly the same thing. The Republicans no longer even bother to identify a candidate with even nominal qualifications for office. Since Nixon, Republican candidates have been simple talking horns, programed to rile and milk the antipathies of a perceived constituency of small time losers.

    ‘If elections changed anything they’d stop holding ’em.’

    1. Richard Kline

      So jake, you’ve missed the record on this one. And yes, I found it an hilarious ‘Dubyaism’ that the Republicans designated themselves the ‘Reds’ (although this was also a color coding deliberately echoing Confederate vs. Union where Union was Blue).

      But in fact, the rural vote has been strongly _against_ agricultural subsidies for twenty years. The power brokers don’t want them, and the politicians they have elected have consistently voted to cut them. I think there are many issues involved, one of them being that subsidies also _capped prices_. That is, the rurals would LOVE to rack the price up the cities would have to pay in dearth years, and otherwise exploit monopoly power on food production. And agricultural subsides have increasingly supported corporate farming conglomerates rather than ‘family farms.’ Also, rural American doesn’t really see the money angle in the military. They see it as patriotism angle, as though the money magically appears when ‘the people are united.’ Seriously, I suspect that if you took a real depth poll, the military would _not be considered a Federal program_ just like Medicare has been magically erased in the minds of many as a Federal Program. That’s right, the military is ‘ours’ while Headstart is ‘theirs.’ Delusion is a function of belief, just as are ‘facts’ . . . .

      1. MN farmer

        So few rural people are actually financially engaged in the base production of agricultural raw commodites that there is a very real trend, and quite possibly a looming titling of axis moment wherein damned to near everybody comes to the relization that there is only 1 framer where there were 15 or 20 in recent memory and the hens overun the fox at the ballot box at local office holder level.

        The money winds up in the Red streaks in the Blue urban.

        All sorts of equity and wealth out here, for an ever contracting few, but very disproportionate to what is being earned. Or taxed.

        1. Richard Kline

          So MN farmer, that is very true. Base production is massively corporate at this point, and even those still producing are often in niche items, or have additional sources of income.

          It is my personal view that many in exurban areas do very well realize what has happened to them, and a sense of bitterness and, yes, fear in losing self-sufficiency and gradually being driven off the land are unspoken drivers behind the hypertrophic ‘godification’ of rural areas presently and the politics of resentment. Yes, immigrants and government wouldn’t be loved, but if folks were secure and making money they’d have other things of interest to talk about. Since a way of life is dying on the vine, as it were, it’s too much of blameful bitterness we hear. Rather than taking over the courthouse they vote in some loon to enforce social control of ‘lazy/criminal undesirables.’ Not a pretty picture, but its one I see.

      2. PunchNRun

        So what happens to the rural population when the cotton belt and corn belt dries up and blows away due to anthropogenic (or other) global warming? Another wave of migration to the cities, leaving an increasingly stricken and shrinking rural population, if I don’t miss my guess. And can a permanent minority party remain viable?

    1. Theo

      They are pro-immmigrant with respect to cheap labor enabling them to play off natives against them to fill agricultural, construction, and home care jobs, among others. They are also pro-immigrant on educated immigrants here on visa who Americans train to replace themselves and who they pay less than the Americans who occupied those jobs formerly. They are anti-immigrant in wanting to deny the benefits of training and education leading toward citizenship, the exception being military recruits, who are then not eligible for benefits when wounded. They don’t want them here for reasons of race, but at the same time they are tremendous resource for cheap and oppressive labor.

      1. Noe G

        THE GOP corporatists love illegals working for them. They hate paying for their education, housing, or medical care.

        AND they want those Mexicans and Hondurans living far far away.

        Aspen is a case in point. You call immigration because the handlers at McDonals can’t speak English… Nobody comes.

        The economics of Aspen commerce demand illegals. So they bus em in from Glenwood Springs and other down valley hovels.

        Now that the Grand Ole Party must retool – expect howls for legalization from the elites – and growling from the Reagan Dems in the party who don’t want anymore brown people in the country.

        But the mandate is there for legalization. The Dems won, and the GOP will start hollerin about that briar patch.

        Bastards… all

      2. Richard Kline

        Theo has it. The rich would love to bring in masses of non-citizen, debt-indentured serfs, then kick them out when they get broken or would have kids that would vest citizenship; the old economic ‘self-deportation.’ The rich are against citizenship for non-natives, period, and anyway hold immigrants in contempt for leaving their own to come grubbing after the riches’ nickels.

    2. J Sterling

      The rich are pro-cheap labor immigration, but they’re anti-giving immigrants a fair deal. They want them in America, but excluded from education, health care, and unemployment insurance. This makes them ideal low-cost, mekk workers who can then be used to replace native workers and drive their wages down.

      That’s why they constantly propagandize against immigrants, but mysteriously the immigration is never stopped. That’s why the punishment for employing an illegal immigrant falls on the immigrant, and not th eillegal employer. It keeps the immigrant worker in line.

  8. Synopticist

    Interesting article. If I have one suggestion, its that the Blue, urban voters should get of their backsides and chase and defeat their enemies, seize their total possessions, leave their married women weeping and wailing, ride their geldings and use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt and support.

    On another note, you have to admire the managerial brilliance of the Randians…

  9. Goin' South

    Kline is good on many things, but his lack of knowledge of American political history is quite apparent in this piece.

    He could start by reading a couple of books:

    Zinn’s A People’s History

    V.O. Key: Southern Politics

    Kevin Phillips: The Emerging Republican Majority.

    Zinn could teach him about how many Leftist movements have arisen in rural America.

    Key could teach him about how poor, rural Southern whites actually opposed the slaveowners through most of Southern history.

    Phillips could give him a background on the considerable cultural diversity among rural populations.

    1. casino implosion

      He’s all about “Albion’s Seed”: “It’s all the fault of those pigheaded Scots-Irish horse thieves”.

    2. Charles LeSeau

      The problem as I see it is that two-centuries-old descriptors of political divide connecting to modern ones may not be quite so relevant at all anymore in the era of ubiquitous media, marketing, and advertising culturewashing. And I say this without detracting from their legitimate influence in shaping these areas to be this way in the first place.

      I moved to rural farm lands in NY this past year, and people here largely fit themselves into the same stereotypes of those in the rural south, including all their cultural tastes, from country music to confederate flag license plates to monster truck show bumper stickers, military worship at bull testosterone levels, etc. The conservative politics fit right into it, and they and all these other things are advertised literally everywhere. This stuff is advertised directly to them and their demographic, and I don’t mean to imply this sort of thing is only restricted to ruralites. I saw different expressions of it in both the affluent suburbs I grew up in (extreme preppiness, mostly conservative even in NY) and the city I lived in most of my life (more spectra, but mostly people conforming to a few distinct urban cultural patterns, tastes, and politics that one can find in Anycity, USA).

      My new local country liquor store stocks no French wine. When I moved here I was a little taken aback by this and asked the owner why. He said, “because of 9-11,” apparently forgetting why he was supposed to hate the French at all. I was a little shocked that the boycott of France by the Right was still going on and being taken seriously here 9 years after the Iraq invasion though.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Charles, ‘ubiquitous media marketing’ is vastly overrated, and has little impact on deep cultural trends. It is interesting that your remarks well-illustrate my larger thesis. You see, Rural New York was settled by exactly the same case that settle the Rural South. And as you now show, the cultural symbols of the South have been adopted to show that _continuing, pre-existing, caste identity_ EVEN THOUGH rural New York fought and fought hard for the Union in the American Civil War. Look around your new locale, and you’ll find monuments to those Civil War volunteers and dead, while their great-great grandchildren drive by with confederate flags on their car listening to Southern country pop. The cultural identity won, it’s the imposed political patronage (supported by ubiquitous political media in times past) which fell apart.

        1. Charles LeSeau

          Yes, I agree very much with your larger thesis – again, having lived in multiple examples across the country of the three most prevalent geocultural paradigms and having seen the trends you describe reflected in all of them (rural, urban, suburban). I do think it has less to do with the “north-south” bit and more with – as you point out – rural vs not rural. I guess my hypothesis is that the regional has been grafted to national metacultural characteristics through all manner of pop media and that it is not very specifically political at all, but rather something that permeates all manner of a person’s cultural identity. The politics just goes along with it.

          I guess we disagree about the level of the cultural establishment marketing and identity spam as major determinant, and I might be wrong about it. I have been wrong before! It seems obvious to me, though admittedly empirical. Identity packages are sold to people that transcend their locations and aim more at their station or other generalized factors. The appeal to conformity is incredibly strong in America, and it starts young. Kids can be brutal as early as grade school when they discover one of the group is “different.” But what determines different is of course not the same in a suburban environment versus a country one. Nowadays though I think people’s exposure to extensive media can override purely local traits while still maintaining sympathy with one’s local normal – hence all these stereotypical things I see up here that are traditionally associated with down there, and even other cross-regional graft jobs. As another example, when I lived in Buffalo I heard daily next door the sorority girls from New Jersey talking like California valley girls (their parents did not), and it struck me that they adopted an affectation – I assume from TV – that was nevertheless perfectly in line with their NYC/NJ princess status but certainly not 100% from their location. Of course, the dead give away was how they pronounced words like “call” (i.e. cawl).

          1. Richard Kline

            Selective listening. Folks pic out the meme and media stream which corresponds to the cultural parameters they absorbed. So yes, current media fuzz—“Barack wasn’t BORN here—propagates widely, but only on top of, for instance, reflexive nativism already in place. And I agree that the politics simply follow the cultural background. Not necessarily immediately, but the drift is strong.

    3. Richard Kline

      So Goin’ you mis the point. I’ve read many of them and others besides, and am well-aware of rural diversity beyond what you cite. Large categories are blunt instruments, as I say above in comments, which can be misused if used in a knuckleheaded fashion. Now _I_ didn’t tell you to use these categories that way, but I can’t stop you if you’re so determined to continue . . . .

  10. ScottW

    If I were a republican strategist, I would be worried that Obama could receive 8 million fewer votes than in 2012 (12% drop), and still win, while Romney received only a million less than McCain (2% drop). Doubt many of those 8 million went for Romney, so the republicans only hope is they will never vote again. Voter suppression will be the republicans’ goal.

    1. crosscut

      Pilger’s latest book shows that voter suppression serves both sides, since it removes the excluded and poor from political calculations. That simplifies corporate predation and attacks on economic rights. The one big bloc excluded from this analysis is people who know not to waste time voting. If no party represents you, there’s no point. That’s almost 40% of the voting-age population, absent immersive propaganda of fabricated partisan threats. Instead of dicking around with our synthetic factions, we could broaden the arena of conflict by giving me and my ilk something to vote for.

    2. Richard Kline

      So ScottW, yes, you raise a good point which I only spoke to tangentially in the post. The Republican base is a minority of the entire populations. Moreover, it is a minority which is in demographic decline, a trajectory which is permanent. Rural areas are aging, and population moves to the city. Urban areas are growing overall. In a base-on-base contest, the Republicans will lose by larger and larger margins over time, nationally and in ‘Blue’ states. Look at California. Republicans could still win their statewide even twenty years ago. Now, their rejectionist nativism is pushing them into a super_minority_ status. Same in Mass., going that way in Jersey and Washington state. Rejectionist Red is locking up all rural states such as Wyoming and the Dakotas but trending into marginality in urban states. I don’t expect Republican strategists to change, but yes, I’m sure they’re very concerned. . . . Rots of ruck to ’em . . . .

  11. billwilson

    I prefer Dowd’s comment. “The Republicans are an 8-track party in an iPad world”

    Essentially stuff in the rural areas doesn’t change much year to year and you can feel pretty self reliant. In a city though you KNOW that you can not be self reliant – you depend on the work of others every single day in order to survive. It should be no surprise that the party that wants to get things done together is in the city, and the go it alone party is in the sticks.

    1. steve from virginia

      Hmmm … modern agriculture is industrialized, it is credit/energy/subsidy dependent as airline industry. “Niewe Ag” on the CSA- and organic models requires urban customers (directly through subsciption or by way of farmers’ markets): this form of agriculture represents the smallest part of farm production — and is most liberal/progressive/pinko enterprise in the country!

      There are very few subsistence farmers in the US.

      Most of ‘red-state Ruritania’ is made up of petit-speculators waiting for suburban developers to arrive and buy their land for tract house development. The red-state anger emerges from the realization that suburbia died with the end of cheap barrel crude oil … convulsions began in 1973, rigor set in starting in 2004. With developers vanishing, so are the chances to get rich quick.

      The GOP impulse is to steal petroleum by military force from ‘barbarian infidels’ overseas so that suburban expansion can continue undisturbed. Here, Obama’s ‘betrayal’ of progressivism is exposed! The Democrats have coopted the GOP organizing meme: Americans love their cars and will sacrifice any- and everything to keep them.

      At every administrative level (intra-county, county, state-regional, etc.), the dynamic is political support for real estate speculators, highway builders, big box retailers, car manufacturers/dealers and finance at expense of ‘non-competitive’ small-scale agriculture which has taken it in the neck since 1920.

      Small-scale ag in 2012 is likely to be supporting actions in court and on the streets against ConAgra, Chesapeake Energy and Monsanto. Kline needs to go outside and find out what’s happening in agriculture before grabbing that red paint.

  12. roger mcfreeley

    “although the rich are both conservative, anti-labor, and anti-immigrant so in those respects naturally of the same party.”

    minor quibble: on the whole, the rich love immigration as a means to keep labor costs down—whether it’s H-1B visas for programmers and nurses or looking the other way when hiring your local line cook or groundskeeper.

    it’s true in America and every other industrialized nation, ex. Japan.

      1. ambrit

        Dear roger;
        You aren’t loony. That strategy, of importing outside labour to keep down local wage levels, is as old as this Republic. I would bet one could find compelling evidence that Roman elites did the exact same thing with slave labour versus free.

        1. Noe G

          That strategy has come back to bite the gopers, however. Because they want to pay pennies, with no concern for how the nanny feeds herself outside the house.

          And with an ever larger % of the population paying NO income tax – the bill for educating, feeding and housing a minimum wage population falls to the same creeps who want to employ them and ignore the social costs.

          That may change the tone of the legalization conversation in O’s second term. In New Mexico, illegals are a problem on the roads, disproportionately drunk and uninsured.

          Ditto for their Native Nortenos.

          Anyone who thinks illegals made legal will become sterling citizens is delusional. The migrant that shows up here is NOT someone you want living near you.

          Electricity is strung across fields from a paying customer. There is no copper left in the lines of any business near by. There are never less than 3 dead animals in the drive way. And – best of all – the countryside is always littered with offerings to the roadside gods of Bud Lite.

          We don’t get the good ones… we get the dregs.

        2. J Sterling

          I think the Ottomans did the same thing, both moving populations around in their empire, and taking in Tatars from the Crimea, outside the empire.

          Having two groups in one place gives you the ability to pick and choose who to employ, with each group bidding the other down for labor. And if they get angry, you can divert the anger of each group against the other (in theory, the two groups could unite, but you can repeat endlessly, always bringing strange new migrants in as fast as the old ones can get used to each other)

          This is why the Balkans are still a by-word for ethnic slaughter over a hundred years after the empire that ruled them dissolved.

  13. Schofield

    The analysis is blown apart by the notion that if the English had understood the true arguments over usury in 16th century England in regard to money creation by both government and private banks they would have eventually rescinded Henry VII’s 1545 Parliament Usury Act. This Act made it unnecessarily legal for a large amount of debt to be attached to the creation of both government and private sector creation of money which has since formed a hidden tax for the benefit of a rentier class. Indeed it has led to the current Great Recession and China’s continuing economic ascendancy over the Western styled economies because it follows the Catholic Church’s Middle Ages teaching against usury via Karl Marx and minimisises debt attachment to money creation.

    1. Stephen Nightingale

      Nun: Those ‘richest counties’ are populated by the educated upper income professionals. The really rich live in the Cayman Islands – well, at least their loved ones live in the Cayman Islands.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Nun, ‘rich counties,’ as Stephen says have high _median_ income, but are on the whole upper middle class. Numbers of those counties are exactly the urban liberals who back the Democratic steal, of course most of them voted for him. The genuinely rich live in smaller enclaves, and keep most of their money away from local government.

  14. Robert Dannin

    does anyone honestly believe that the republican party leaders are as stupid as currently portrayed by the press? if there’s one nate silver, there are hundreds, offering their services to the highest bidders, who explained early and often that demographics made romney, or for that matter any other gop candidate, a long-shot at best. why else would they have allowed him to choose a nut-job like ryan as running mate? the dark money pacs accomplished their goal of maintaining a vise grip on congress. (this by the way is the same result from france’s general elections last may; a new socialist president alongside an extreme right national assembly.) the banks remain in full control and … since obama no longer faces an electorate, he becomes their plaything. don’t think he’ll mess with social security or medicare? just wait a few weeks until the white house in full collusion with congress proposes a solution to the bogus debt crisis and begins an austerity regime modeled on spain and greece. even krugman knows that the way to reduce debt is through inflation — a fundamental keynesian principle — yet bernanke already announced a freeze on the 0% interest rates until at least 2014. why? because the inflation that allows wage earners to pay off their debts faster also lowers profits for the banks. welcome to the second obama administration where every assault on the working class and poor will now be spun in praise of an ‘historic’ presidency. supreme court? i don’t even buy the democratic party bromide any more. it’s a myth that the justices render decisions according to their personal beliefs within chambers hermetically sealed from the prevailing political winds. usa patriot act, citizens united? done deals that will never be reversed. roe v wade too. all legislation in the name of equality is without exception used by those who have the money to spin it to their advantage. take the 14th amendment giving full citizenship to former slaves. in the two and half decades between reconstruction and 1900 it was at issue in approximately 300 supreme court cases of which 75% concerned asserting the civil rights of corporations!

    in the final analysis the democrats and republicans are two branches of the same plutocracy. fuck’em both! according to aristotle, democracy is when the indigent and not the men of property are the rulers. if liberty and equality are to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons share alike in government to the utmost.

    1. Valissa

      does anyone honestly believe that the republican party leaders are as stupid as currently portrayed by the press?

      Does anyone remember the Bush era MSM articles where Democratic party leaders were often labeled as stupid, out of touch, and ridiculously liberal? Even though they weren’t?

      And many other good points made here as well.

      I enjoyed this post, and think Richard made many good points but it also fell into the dualism trap… mostly the urban-rural duality. I think it would be more useful, though more work and more complexity, to look at all the various trends in place resisting the urge to simplify to dualisms.

    2. Richard Kline

      So Robert, the _leadership and whiz kids_ of both major parties are mercenaries for the plutocracy, sure. But their demographic bases had deep cultural identities which substantively shape their views, their votes, and their lives. The media is ‘all meme, all the time’ in service of the plutocracy, but the voting patterns are there result of long term cultural trends and the demographic realities which shape them. My prime motivation in writing this post, hosted by Yves, is exactly that so many confuse the media spiel for the real pattern. I recommend not doing that . . . .

      Culture is not imposed by the media, it’s deeper and slower to change.

      1. Valissa

        All very true… but there are many subcultural groups within both the Democrats and Republicans (or whichever dualism you want to use) that hold a wide variety of views rarely shown in the media. Some people belong to more than one subculture which also effects how they vote. The “bases” are not as homogeneous as the MSM and bloggers tend to portray and there are many interesting subtrends. For instance within evangelical Christianity many of the youth are more GLBT friendly than their parents, and also more environmentally conscious. On the the “left” and “right” there has been increased interest in organic gardening. There is also an trend of decreasing partisanship and more true independents, as a reaction against the hyperpartisanship and being annoyed at both parties is becoming more common. It’s a complex tapestry.

        1. Richard Kline

          So Valissa, agreed. And the complexities of the tapestry personally interest me. I’ve had to speak to the broad sweep here, however.

          But cultural parameters have gravity which draw people back; they are always there. Consider those more LBG-friendly young evangelicals. The young are typically more liberal than their parents. Don’t be surprised if that same cadre become markedly Redder as it ages, particularly if the individuals in question continue to live in exurban Red areas. This is part of why deep structures matter. They endure for many generations (and centuries) even when we notice them less or the events of a day or a decade look different. Things revert nearer to the cultural mean over time, though. The mean can, and does, shift, but much more slowly than our perceptions of it, as has come to be my view.

    3. casino implosion

      “…don’t think he’ll mess with social security or medicare? just wait a few weeks until the white house in full collusion with congress proposes a solution to the bogus debt crisis and begins an austerity regime modeled on spain and greece…”

      Of course this is what’s going to happen, and then all the liberal pundits will be sqwualking in outrage, as if their memories don’t extend back to 2011.

      “Why is Obama negotiating as if he wants to lose???? He holds all the cards!!!”

      Get ready to hear a lot of that.

    4. damian

      the dark money pacs accomplished their goal of maintaining a vise grip on congress

      The control of the House by Republicans is due to rigged -rube goldberg districts created by state legislatures which went republican – due to obamacare issue – in 2010 simultaneously – with the census taking in 2010 – this will be the same pattern for ten years – not due to “big money PACS”

    5. Nathanael

      “does anyone honestly believe that the republican party leaders are as stupid as currently portrayed by the press?”

      I have learned never to underestimate the stupidity of Republican Party leaders.

      They are canny, but they are deeply unwise and don’t seem to understand anything about long-term history. Psychopathy might be the reason.

  15. Ron

    When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act the South which had been solid Democrat and was its electoral base of power went Red by 1980 with Reagan. The Democratic power base was broken so it re-branded itself and offered a wider modern agenda focused on lifestyle issues including closer ties to Wall Street. Since the 92 election they have been successful in countering what Richard calls the rural or Bible Belt that has gone completely Republican.
    In many ways we are looking at one large Party, the Democrats that have split with the re-branded version attracting lifestyle vote and the old Southern Wing calling itself Republican losing on the national stage. The Southern bible belt history is rooted in slavery and extreme religious dogma and much of those attitudes continue to be expressed.
    Clinton and Obama elections both reflect the old Democrat Party tensions and the power plays that existed between the Bible Belt policies and the rest of the country but without widespread internet and cable TV those differences did not get aired as they are today.
    The modern Republican Party has a brand, Bible Belt political party, rather then small government or business first. The leadership cannot shed its brand without losing its electoral base so it continues to nominate none
    Southerner to head the national ticket hoping to pick up enough electoral votes to generate a victory but as Wis and Mass recently showed it doesn’t matter. Looking at the 1980’s electoral map its clear that the Republican Party has fallen off a national cliff while the search for wedge issues and acceptable top of the ticket moderates will continue to be offered the rest of the country says NO MAS.

  16. ex-PFC Chuck

    A fascinating analysis; thank you. There are, however, some fissures in the red part of the universe that were visible here in Minnesota during the election. There were two amendments proposed to the state constitution that were put there by the Republican dominated legislature that was in control over the past two years: the first one would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman; and the second would have required a picture ID be shown in all future Minnesota elections. Fortunately, both amendments lost, but the voting patterns against the two were quite different. Support for the marriage amendment mapped as you described. It was overwhelmingly focused in the rural areas whereas opposition was limited to those few counties that have significant urban populations. Opposition to the voter ID amendment however was much more widespread, but less intense in the urban areas. The differences are shown graphically on the two maps at the following link:

    For those interested in more detail you can find the County by County voting totals on the Minnesota elections at this link:

    PS: FWIW the Democrats take over both legislative houses come January.

    1. Nathanael

      Minnesota, and to a lesser extent North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, still have the Populist/Progressive/Farmer/Labor/Non-Partisan League/Greenbacker rural bloc. Pops right out in the county maps, solid blue.

  17. Jim

    Interesting thesis. But has the tea party started to decline in interest. Or have the news cycles taken the seat again and started their conservitive spin. Unknown yet, but the margin of win was over bush2’s and he declared tht he was mandated to do whatever he wanted. This man says he will work with the “loyal” opposition. Could this be a return to civility in politics? Nope. Bohner said the opposite. A nice drop in the market, minor effect/affect for the people.
    The people have seen services necessary for their survival given to a few higher up’s that don’t need the services. They have seen America desentrigating before their eyes because of the neglect. They have seen their children lose hope because of the lack of funds to the services needed. They have seen socialist countries become cleaner, neater, and healthier then americans, because of the neglect of the few. Is that why they voted the way they did. To try to get back some gleam of the city on the hill for all to achieve?

  18. Greenguy

    The urban/rural divide is a strong narrative, but it doesn’t delve into the utter devastation of the rural economy in the past half-century that feeds into the culture wars. Thomas Frank’s book on Kansas did this fairly well – and I think a very class-conscious left-party could build a base in urban and rural areas if you had a real program for the rural white working class and small farmers. It’s hard not to see and understand the rage of Appalachia or the Midwest when you drive through.

    1. Richard Kline

      Class consciousness _should_ make way in a rural populist fashion, but it is closed out by evangelical Christian bedrockheadism. That has often been true in the past, and is very much true now. Pew trumps wallet, in short. We’ll see real populism only when and where church membership goes down. Is it any surprise that the rich find ways to subsidize Big Bibleism?

      1. Nathanael

        Religion is frequently used as a brainwashing mechanism to manipulate people into obedience.

        This is why religions want to get kids before they’re old enough to think. It’s easier to brainwash kids — they’re much softer targets. Personally I think religion should be restricted to consenting adults, but that seems to be a very radical view. :sigh:

  19. diptherio

    Well, from out here in the sticks (i.e. Montana) I can tell you that it’s not so black and white as Mr. Kline would have it. Yes, we went strongly for Romney in the Presidential race, but our junior Dem senator retained his seat against a popular Repub (former)House member. We also elected another Dem Governor to replace our outgoing one; largely, I think, on the strength of Bullock’s fighting corporate personhood and unlimited secret campaign contributions as state AG. Our lone house seat went easily to the Republican. Altogether, a mixed bag.

    On the national level, it’s more a matter of brand loyalty than of policy preference for most “rural” voters (although I think the term is misleading since most of our population lives in cities that are by no means “rural” in character). It seems to me that, at least as far as Montana goes, Kline’s analysis basically holds up for the Presidential elections, but that there are a lot more people than he might suspect who are voting split-tickets further down the ballot (i.e. closer to home). Like many Western states, we tend to pride ourselves on being independents, not easily fooled by political labels. That’s all BS, of course, but it does lead to a more varied politics than this article seems to point to.

    1. Ron

      Hard to find rural lifestyle other then long distance drive to work, the idea that large number of Americans are living off the land is a non starter in fact most rural areas have been the center for significant suburban built outs and various old age lifestyle outposts. The Republican Party has morphed into the Bible Belt party and its pockets of strength outside the South can be found in strongly traditional religious white christian sectors.

    2. Noe G

      and Montana also re affirmed its belief that corporations are not people… that intiative won handily.

      Montana and Wyoming, Utah and Colorado all have rural populations that HATE corporations – multi national mentality, and big polluters.

      BUT Dems have no chance of getting their votes because of the gay agenda – not abortion, not contraception, not drugs

      The Rocky Mtn west could be won if the Dems rein in the most outrageous aspects of homosexual parity. Remember, those of us who’ve seen a Doo Dah parade, do NOT want it in our towns.

      Sorry.. TV portrays this lifestyle as all homey and suburban.


      1. Noe G

        and its not just the gay thing… Dems like to give the government way too much power over the individual.. like life guards in 3 ft hotel pools in Maryland.

        Boxer’s amendment to take our passports if we owe the IRS.

        And of course.. Obama’s bull dykes at the airport groping our grand daughters… sorry.. it won’t wash in the West.

        New Mexico still makes everyone go though the scatter image screeners or be felt up. Colorado does Not.

        Utah does NOT.

        I think it has more to do with pliant latinos… and Santa Fe crazies.. but the TSA is another sticking point between urban and rural.

        I think Napolitano is a creepy brownshirt dyke.. sorry

        1. Nathanael

          Everyone under the age of 40 is more and more cool with gay people. That’s going to be a non-issue soon.

          The issue with authoritarian abusive government behavior — well, urban people aren’t happy about that either. And historically the Republicans have been far, far worse than the Democrats when it comes to thuggish groping. But right now if you want the government to not grope or irradiate you, you have no party to vote for, except some third parties.

          1. Noe G

            The TSA bull dyke problem is REAL. Tolerant YOUNG women who don’t want to be irradiated do not want to be groped by a lesbian.

            My daughter is the one who took me to the revolting Folsom St Fair – she thought it was a hoot. But when she flew out of Albuquerque recently she made it quite clear she was not going to be felt up by a dyke.

            I was amazed. But it makes total sense. Gay men don’t gravitate to enforcement work like lesbians. The army and police forces are crawlin with em.

            So men dont have this problem at the airport. Women do… and they don’t like it.

            Even compliant little liberals don’t want dykes feeling their crotch

          2. Nathanael

            Actually, there’s a type of man who gravitates to this sort of police / enforcement work who just likes to sexually abuse people and doesn’t much care whether he abuses men or women.

            So men do get the same sort of abuse from the TSA.

            I haven’t taken an airplane in years. I wish we had an anti-groping candidate. :-P

        2. different clue

          Those TSA Gropengrippers with their pervy patdowns are
          Bush’s TSA Gropengrippers. Bush’s TSA. Thanks to Bush’s carefully planned LIHOP (HIHOP?MIHOP?) of the 9/11 attacks designed to create the public opinionspace needed to create TSA with its Gropengrippers and their pervy patdowns. Black Bush Obama is merely entrenching the Bush legacy in this regard.

  20. Kevin Egan

    As Scotland and Catalonia contemplate secession, after the successful redivision of Czechoslovakia, isn’t it time to discuss a peaceful division of a nation that is too large to be managed into two separate states? People ought to be allowed to work out their destinies in communities of the like-minded: our two cultures have been at odds since the beginning, and now that slavery has ended, why should we continue to make each other unhappy?

    The fact that we have a strong governmental infrastructure at the state level would make this division feasible; we could dismantle the current Federal structure via the route of new, separate Constitutional conventions.

    I also see a hidden benefit for all Americans: this new trope on our founding would be a subtle, clever way to alter the course of empire, a path which never ends well, and which we are far gone along.

    I think this Utopian idea needs to move into the Overton window: I think its strength and truth is shown by the energy with which Obama, against all evidence, maintains the direct opposite, namely that we are one nation, as his master idea.

    We are not; he knows it better than anyone; his denial is Freudian negation and 180 degrees away from the truth.

    1. different clue

      Why just two countries? Why not several? Or many? Picture a Free Republic of Great Lakestan, for example.

      The biggest problem would be how to allow mutually alien parts of current states separate from eachother. What does
      Ohioppalachia have in common with Erieana (the Lake Erie coastline), for example? Erieana could be part of Great Lakestan, and Ohioppalachia could be part of Grand Appalachia.

      1. Kevin Egan

        I seem to recall proposals for 8 or so natural regions…your Great Lakestan is one, CalPortlandia in the W & NW (would include British Columbia), New England, Mid Atlantic, Old Confederacy, Appalachia, Plains, Rockies.

        Let a thousand flowers bloom….but dividing in two would have a chance to preserve American economic strength vis a vis the world economy minus the most egregious militarism–that would persist as a historical shadow that the rest of the world feared, but which wouldn’t need so much activation or funding.

        Thought experiments–but a 1789 Constitution is not going to work with these two “nations” so at odds and yoked together.

  21. Susan the other

    Carl Rove was just pretending to be surprised when Romney lost. It was pretty shameless theater. The only thing the Rs managed to do was keep the House, probably through all the pretense that Romney was going to win. I’m surprised Romney got as many votes as he did. Can’t help but suspect the Diebold software, because nobody ever checks, padded Romney votes substantially. Anyway the House will be the perfect vehicle for delivering ignorance and austerity. And Clinton (Elvis) seems to be in there too, giving Obama cover. Not a single soul is talking about a jobs program. Unbelievable. Tell me again, why did we hold this election?

  22. Andrea

    Kline wrote: “The further lesson from my perspective is that the primary antagonism in American politics is the rural/urban divide …. Take a look at some of the district returns for November 2012, ‘red vs. blue’ and the results are eyepopping; Ohio, Virginia, and Florida for instance. Dots and clusters of urban blue surrounded by unbroken seas of rural red. Now, in one sense this isn’t remarkable. ….It is the utter solidity of that rural and exurban Red vote as never before in American history which truly stands out.”


    A geographer from Mars would immediately explain that coastal areas, throughout history, are richer, more ‘urban’ because of settlements, trade, communications, ease of travel, and so on. (See e.g. spread of Roman Empire.) The livelier, denser, more communicative aspects lead to more savvy, connected ppl, and better education (in its largest sense, might just be speaking two languages instead of one, learning a trade, etc.) Coastal climates (at sea level not up in the rocks or in the desert to make it short) lead to a longer, easier life, less child death, miscarriage (independently of other factors like education, etc.) The interior, the heartland, is always harder, because of geo terrain, climate, transport, isolation.

    The urban/rural split in the US is due to a long standing competition. (Competition is good, right?..) The young and adventurous move away from the village to the City, as they have done since time immemorial. Talent and ambition go there. The sex is better! To counter, or compensate for such basic sociological facts, takes stiff re-distribution and regulations (see e.g. electoral college votes, resembling a mechanism used in many countries.)

    In the US, it hasn’t worked well enough, imho, mostly because of US agricultural policy (heavily subsidized to create cheap food ..), and a redistribution policy built on shunting monies from the arms and prison industries to Red States, making them dependent on occult circuits and obligated to be nationalistic, and so on. Furnish soldiers, cannon fodder, as well. So Red is Rah Rah USA ..not much choice. The ‘Blue’ creators, entrepreneurs and metro-sexuals (an extreme stereotype) can blithely scorn the outdated opinions and attitudes of country hicks, trailer trash, or Republican voters.

    The attitudes of the ‘Townies’ towards their less educated / more rural brethren is dismaying, of course the label of ‘progressive’ is calculated to attract.

    A by-county coloring…

    Education, one simple chart:

    – I am a European who has never lived in the US.

  23. Ron

    Rural is not AG driven as AG is big business high volume production that requires large capital investments,strong cash flow and good connections at the local bank so the rural class is not dominated by poorly educated dirt farmers rather the opposite as they are mostly college AG educated. The politics today is not about rural vs city as most rural areas have been the site of extensive suburban built outs but rather the attempt of the Republican elites to use the Bible belt electoral college and its politics as the basis for dominating the national political landscape.

    1. Lyle

      To go a bit futher on Tx here is a link to estimates of the ethnic population of Tx over time Note that between 2010 and 2020 hispanics become the largest ethnic group in Tx 2010 11.5 m whiles 9 m hispancs, 2020 11.8 m hispanics, 11,8 white, 2040
      15.8 m hispancs, 11.5 m whites. Note blacks come in at 2.7m in 2010 and 3.4m in 2040. So due to the differing birth rates between ethnic groups change is inevitable.

      Stop the world I want to get off is not an option, its not the country you grew up in and in general never has been.

  24. Hugh

    79% of Americans lived in urban and suburban areas as of 2000.

    I don’t know that much about the West, but it seems like it has voted Republican for as long as I can remember. Following Nixon’s successful 1972 Southern Strategy, the Deep South also tended to vote Republican. Carter, however swept the South, including Texas, and excluding Virginia in 1976. He lost the interior West, the West Coast, as well as Illinois and Michigan in the Midwest, and a fair amount of New England. Clinton in 1992 won Arkansas, Lousiana, Tennessee and Georgia, as well as the border states of Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland. In 1996, the main difference was he lost Georgia but won Florida. In the West, the main flip in 1996 was that he won Arizona and lost Colorado.

    This site has electoral college maps 1968-2008:

    And more recently, far from seeing the South and West solidifying in the Republican column, we are seeing demographic trends breaking these regions up. In the West, states like Colorado and New Mexico are regularly in play because of the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote, and there have been predictions around for a while that Texas will join them in the not too distant future. At the same time, the Southern Atlantic Seaboard states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida have become swing states.

    I have not looked at the data, but perhaps if we looked at Congressional delegations, governorships, and state legislatures, we might see more of the underlying red-blue polarization. At the level of Presidential elections, the distinctions are far less clear.

    Finally, although Romney betrayed sour grapes and a fair amount of prejudice in his enunciation of it, his statements about a 47% bloc of voters supporting Democrats is probably not too far off.

    In general, Americans do not vote for someone for President. They vote against the other guy. For the last 6 cycles, they have also favored the incumbent (Clinton, Bush, Obama) regardless of their record.

    1. Noe G

      That’s a false paradigm.

      Clinton won reelection because only 49.1% of registered voters showed up… they didn’t like the choices.

      That was the lowest turnout in history. Anybody hear a peep about that in the news afterward. But that was exactly what gave Gopers the starch to go for impeachment. tbey knew the Dems didn’t support him BEFORE they knew he was boinking an intern with cigars.

      As to Bush – I stayed home … Hated the bastard, but would never EVER vote for Gore or Kerry… what planet was the DNC polling?

      As to O — he got back with fewer votes than McCain received… Americans said thanks but no thanks – and urban machinery got out the black and indigent vote in ways that should be lauded… they crammed those seniors into buses in Chicago and Phillie.

      So — it’s not about incumbency. It’s about CHOICES by the elites that are crafted to support the incumbent or give him the boot.

      If the Goop had put up a Ben & Jerry type libertarian entrepreneur — Wall St’s Lawn Jockey would be packing up.

      But they couldn’t find one that was owned and operated by the war machine, Israel, Wall St and the Banks.

      1. Hugh

        We have had three two term Presidents in a row. Every election has its own particular characteristics, and we can all speculate on what if scenarios. If Perot hadn’t run, if Bush’s National Guard records turned up, if Gore had fought harder in Florida, if Nader hadn’t run, if the Republicans had run someone more mainstream this time, and on and on. But this is what happened, three two term Presidents in a row.

  25. LillithMc

    Rachel Maddow broke down the women’s vote last night. Generally women voted for Obama by a 10 point margin regardless of whether the Republican was male or female. When the Republican won, the male vote was larger than the female vote. This is not so much what Obama will “give” them. It is especially the government control over their bodies in the Ryan “personhood” federal bill.

  26. kevinearick

    Middle Class Escapism

    The US middle class pays itself in tomorrow’s money to produce escapism, virtual expansion in a rapidly contracting Newtonian box, within which there are many boxes within boxes, a failed extrapolation of the failed Japanese economy of minaturization, which is why its participants cannot love. They cannot see beyond the box they have chosen, let alone make the leap of faith required to place the future needs of others ahead of their own addictions today. Their idea of parenting is denial at best, and government directive at worst.

    And now that their children and grandchildren have zero real work skills to support further expansionary escapism, and they see the future as a part-time WalMart security guard, pleading to the next generation of teenage female gatekeepers for welfare extensions, in lieu of social security, medicare, and civil service pensions, they point their fingers in all directions, except their own. Nothing prevents them from taking over the government; they are the government. And they just re-elected the same regime, ensuring more of the same.

    The eye is a lamp, for good and evil…beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Just yesterday, the church put malcontents on the rack, and much worse, for teaching that the earth was not flat, and the Irish hid books in caves. If you tell present administrators that we have moved well beyond Newton, they’ll take your children and declare you a non-person, in a world controlled by digital credit, to its own end. Nevetheless, Germany and the defense contractors are collapsing of their own dead weight, again. Who’d a thunk?

    How many times have we seen gold trotted out for the occassion of excessive asset and associated currency inflation, in our lifetimes alone? Every empire is the latest and greatest suit of bells, whistles and sparklies, and every empire gets replaced, while every middle class feigns shock and horror when its tyranny of the manufactured majority is disrobed for all to see. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save the middle class; the middle class voted to crucify him, just as the current middle class seeks to crucify another, to save its own hide.

    This time around, the final bait and switch, normally capital to labor, is going to turn out a wee bit different. The trick, as always, is to let them “think” they have crucified you, and leave the rest to nature. How could anyone possibly survive beyond the authority of the all-powerful OZ?

    The US middle class is a sunk cost, pulling the entire empire down with it. That’s critters. They can no longer hide behind Jesus and the cave is running out of oxygen, because hypocrits cannot think for themselves. Step out of the way and the empire implodes. Basically, you add dead weight to your backpack as you climb the first half of the mountain, and drop it as you go up the second half. Start training your children right out of the gate.

    Why would anyone accept the empire’s definition of labor, trading a non-recurring carrot for a recurring sledge hammer to the head, like sex for syphillus? Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    “Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” TAE

    Watch what happens when the next 20% of the middle class gets gutted by the remaining 40%.

  27. juliania

    “…with the fourth being a near trivial sliver of mutually exclusive lefties and libertarians who numerically cancel out…”


    “….not only is an eccentric man ‘not always’ a special and isolated example, but indeed on the contrary it may sometimes be the case that he, in particular, bears within himself the heart of the whole, from which others of his era, for whatever reason, have been wrenched away as if by a stratospheric gale of wind…”

    [‘From the Author’, Fyodor Dostoievski, TBK]

  28. Hugh

    The Republican party could become a regional party in the next few years. Although I think it was only back in 2004, that the prediction was that the Democrats would be locked into permanent minority status.

    Both parties are bankrupt in all ways except financially. The country would be better off if they disappeared like the Whigs and Federalists before them.

  29. Wolverine

    The Scots Irish were the ‘Planter’s (colonisers) in Ireland and when they immigrated into the US they went rural.
    The Catholic rural population forced from the land in Ireland by various means settled in US cities and the trauma of the famine and its aftermath ensured these people wanted nothing to do with farming the land ever again.At least in crude terms thats my understanding.
    Regarding the coalition of minorities that represent the urban and Democratic party I would have thought they were inherently unstable as a political and economic bloc. The non debate in the Presidential campaign re the state of the American debt has blinded them to a deeply unpleasant reality that will soon visit them.
    The rural ‘whites’ on the other hand being homogenous in all respects are therefore more likely to remain a unified force regardless of the economic conditions throughout the country.
    Adam Ferguson’s book ‘when Money dies’ describes the savagery of the urban Germans scouring the countryside disembowling animals and murdering their country cousins for food during the 1920’s.I would speculate that if similar forays into the American countryside were made by starving city folk they would be met by well armed ,hostile and motivated rural militias.
    The question I would ask is when Obama and Bernankes’ magic wands no longer work where will the various factions in the Democratic coalition go? I would have thought there is a high probability they end up fighting each other.Surely ,at a minimum they will feel they were duped and react against the democratic political establishment?

  30. McWatt

    Hey Obama, I don’t care which you choose, Teddy or Franklin,

    but please, please, please “Roosevelt Up!”.

  31. Elliot

    Actually being a rural, farming resident of a rural area in a rural state, I don’t think Mr. Kline realizes what life in rural places is like.

    We’re not so monolithic, nor so evenly churched, nor so Red as he thinks. It sounds good, and it makes a convenient scapegoat for the urbanites, to think we’re all bitter religion-soaked racists, but there you would be wrong.

    From this end of the telescope it feels like class is the big divider, by which I mean MONEY. Education? True, it’s hard to afford education out here, now, with the grants all materialized into loans you can never pay back–but even the reddest folks I know, Marines and retired pilots and policemen from LA got scared of what the R’s are getting to be like now.

    Nobody out here, where our young men do come home in corteges from the middle east, wants another war. We see through Obama’s false concern for the citizens, we see Romney’s ditto, and we give up. The feeling here is that the deck is stacked against us by both sides, but there are still local issues to vote on.

    I’m old enough to remember when this state (Idaho) was firmly Democratic, and the vandalism & demonization that happened to people who supported Republicans.

    Things flipped, but the center it all hangs on is economic. We’re not waiting to sell our land for development, TYVM. We’re hanging on by our teeth hoping our kids can afford to stay farming. Republican garbage about illegals is just a way to pretend to care about poor job prospects without doing anything to change that–another 4 years of the same might see the tide turn again.

    Most of the people I know did not even vote the top of the ticket. Too depressing.

    1. gepay

      Kline’s article applies real well to now swing state Virginia. Area wise most of the state is sparsely poulated (relatively speaking) rural and votes Republican. The Republicans are basically divided into the the Walmart Republicans and the country club Republicans. The only reason Ollie North didn’t become a Senator is that the country club Republicans ran an independent candidate to punish Ollie for not taking the fall for Iran Contra.
      The rural-urban divide is a well known phenomenon for millennium. The world – wide country people have more in common with each other than they do with city people.
      In my county, the county seat has two conservative colleges but the professors are still mostly NPR liberals who voted for Obama and display cognitive dissonance when I point out the continuing torture and war or “why does a sane eloquent man continue almost all of the same policies (especially towards Wall Street) as the deranged little boy who preceded him.”
      I live outside of town so most of my neighbors sported Republican signs except for the rare retired Union electrician that mostly worked outside of Virginia.
      West Virginia, not having many slave owners went with the Union. It had some of the most radical unionism in the mines but that is all gone. Much of the coal “mining” is now mountain top removal. Much of West Virginia is part of what Chris Hedges describes as a US “sacrifice zone”.
      The county I live in used to have many factories but most have these have continued marching south to Mexico. A retired factory worker down the road even though he needs his SS check and his mother needs Medicare thinks these should be cut because his church told him so. Most of the new job opportunities in the counties around here are for prison guards. The “War of Northern Aggression” is still talked about and this is part of the Bible Belt.
      Virginia swung to Obama because of Northern Virginia around DC, Virginia Beach, and Richmond

    2. Dikaios Logos

      I agree with you that rural voters are not monolithic and that some of the most thoughtful and progressive voters throughout the land are rural. But the problem is that these thoughtful people are almost never, if ever, a majority in their districts. If 60% of an area reliably votes for a conservative narrative of grievance, it doesn’t really matter how thoughtful and disenchanted everyone else is.

      And to your point about the real divide, I tend to think of the economic weakness and the lack of education as symptoms, not causes of the urban/rural divide. It always struck me how low on information many rural voters were, including those that were well-off. I tend to think of urbanites and suburbanites as not too well informed, but I also see rural voters, in the main anyway, as being even less well informed and therefore very vulnerable to these out-there narratives.

      Here’s a question about information and rural voters. Do people in your area understand that your state’s most famous plutocrat made his money by stealing from farmers? I think given the fanfare that accompanied his passing, the answer is a resounding “no”.

      But your description of peoples’ pain and despair does seem to me to hit at the fact that urbanites and suburbanites have neglected opportunities to find common cause with rural voters. It will be work and there will be many failed attempts, but I’d really like to see folks work at more serious cooperation. The tough part is that these arrangements would all involve thinking about what is desirable and what is possible, things that need imagination and trust.

      I always lament that rural voters have made the mistake of supporting tax breaks for the rich, when the plain fact is that a rich person isn’t going to use his increased income to buy more potatoes or apples or whatever. But a lower-middle class person might buy more fresh food if they had less of a tax burden. Figuring out these areas of common cause should be possible, but given all the cultural divides they won’t be easy to do so.

  32. Eleanor

    Minnesota managed to return two Democratic-Farmer-Labor Congressmen to Congress from districts that look pretty rural to me: Colin Peterson, who has a district that runs down the western side of the state, and Tim Walz from the south. Walz’s district has Rochester and Mankato. Colin Peterson has no big town except Fargo, which is in ND. In addition, the DFL retook northeast Minnesota. Granted, Duluth is there, along with the Iron Range cities, but these cities are not exactly huge. The important thing about the northeast is it’s historically mining and shipping and lumbering and blue collar and union. It seems to me the suburbs and exurbs are more reliably Republican than the outstate areas.

    The early settlers here were from the East, especially the Northeast. Later, we got a LOT of Germans and Scandinavians, so Kline’s ethnic analysis doesn’t entirely work. The Upper Midwest produced a lot of left of center third parties — the DFL, the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota, the Progressives in Wisconsin — and a huge co-op movement. This region is a mixed bag.

  33. different clue

    I am at a “different” computer of deeply inferior capability and zero ability to bring links. (Also running out of time).

    Perhaps some of the red zone bitterness could be a fallout reaction to policies designed to impoverish and depopulate the farm sector ever since Truman’s accession to the Presidency. Over the last 30-some years, various authors as well as Charles Walters the editor himself at Acres USA have written about what “farm parity” is, what it meant, what it means, how parity was forced into existence by the Agricultural Stabilization Act and esPECially by the “Steagall Ammendment” to that Act, and how the prices agri-bulk commodity growers recieve for what they grow have been manipulated steadily downward through the clever device of “sliding scale parity” ever since the early 1950’s. Walters’s book Unforgiven might be informative. Another book called Night Came To The Farms Of The Great Plains might be another. Articles by Vincent Rossiter, a Vice President at the Bank of Hartington in Hartington, Nebraska seemed very informative to the extent that I could understand them.

    Perhaps a manipulated-into-existence policy and background matrix of Market Stalinism in pursuit of deeply anti-farmeritic policies designed to depopulate farm country and depopulate and degrade country towns might explain some of the red zone hatred.

  34. B c

    Really excellent observation. A few thoughts:

    Factories were in the urban centers but now, not so much. If manufacturing returns here (I don’t see how it cannot) it will be sited in the exurban zones.

    The phenomenon you describe is very much Internet enabled if not Internet predicated. Rural denizens are comparing notes through sites like Instapundit and they are asking what value added activities occur in the urban centers. Stock brokerage, banking, and politics, oh, and media seem to be the answers. The next step will be for the exurbanites to evolve a web based workaround that bypasses the urban toll booths now in place defending these franchises. It’s already happening. The Internet is a potent disaggregating force acting to place people outside the urban centers if they prefer having some space without the isolation that once came with that choice. IMO the cities have big trouble ahead as it increasingly makes less sense to live there.

  35. George DeMarse

    Haight Ashbury on steroids, Hepcat!

    Bottom line: Metro regions make the economy go because of clusters of smart, intelligent people who live there and generate innovation and ecomonic activity. The metro infrastructures are built for them and their mobility and utility.

    No matter how much the “red heads” (aka the “Ted Nugent” gun party faction) hate that–the red heads are simply being shut out of the economic global main stream. If they don’t get starved out (by voting themselves into austerity) they will decline demographically as the growth of metro regions slowly chokes them by sheer numbers politically. votes.

    How the vote is shaping up is actually a meritocracy–where smarter more productive people clusters get more political representation–and the rural whites lose. That’s ok.

    George DeMarse
    The Sage of Wake Forest

    1. different clue

      Can the urban meritocrats produce all their own food if the farmland zone is depopulated down to zero?

  36. Ed

    What I took away from your article is what I’ve been saying for a long time….that we are becoming more and more two seperate countries. We are ideolicially and culturally more separated than we’ve been since 1860. As Red States become more red and Blue States become more blue I really believe that a geographical split is inevitable. I just hope it happens without bloodshed.

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