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The roles (and realities) of rural America show up at the polls

Once again this week, the massive rift between philosophies, values and political priorities was gashed wide open. Half of the nation was left lamenting and pledging to flee to Canada and the other half was silently smirking at their televisions as newscasters tried to veil their confusion and outrage while blinking back tears to preserve their liberal media makeup jobs.

A quick glance though social media indicates that many on the losing side of this election feel votes were cast out of hate, fear, ignorance, and malice and that is the direction this country is now heading. The winning side seems to think finally things are on the right track to moving away from hate, fear, ignorance and malice.

This election very clearly had no perfect candidates running for President, but no election ever has. Regardless of which candidate you voted for, I don’t think you voted because you hate anyone, or because you are ignorant or because you harbor an underlying malice for anyone. Are there exceptions to this? Probably, but I do not believe that is the norm.

I do think that, by in large, people voted because their scope of reality, when combined with their knowledge base and personal priorities, pointed them in a general direction politically. They then voted for the candidate that best represented those views. Of those factors that shaped individual votes, the scope of personal reality and experience are among the most powerful, which is likely a very significant contributor to the rural/urban divide that was clearly indicated again in the 2016 Presidential Election.

The differences in daily realities in rural and urban areas are as impossible to deny as the red and blue counties on the U.S. map after this election. As a general rule, those in rural areas tend to be more in contact with the front lines of the realities of food, energy and natural resource production and use. Urban folks tend to reap the benefits of these labors with an extra layer or two of insulation from the tough realities on the front lines. Part of the difference between the red and the blue counties is that it is just easier to see the realities behind the thin threads holding up our civilized society from the porch swing of an old farmhouse than the balcony of a high-rise luxury apartment downtown.

In many ways, the political differences in this country are, at their core, largely based on the varying levels of insulation (and our level of understanding regarding that insulation) we have from the harsh realities that surround us. If the fridge is full of food, the lights come on with the flip of a switch and the furnace kicks on when turning up the thermostat we have the luxury of discussing the minutia of all the political whims of the day. When you are hungry, cold and sitting in the dark, none of those other things seem to matter too much.

We are all so fortunate to be very insulated from nature’s wrath on a daily basis in this country — VERY fortunate. And, there is nothing wrong with that insulation. It, in fact, should be celebrated. Rather than lamenting the voice of rural America, urban America should be recognizing the role of those in the countryside. And those in the countryside should be recognizing the fact that their efforts to insulate the rest of society from harsh realities have been so successful due to their urban neighbors. Those different resulting perspectives are a large part of what is great about our country and also a big part of the rural/urban divide that continues to show up at election time.

There was an excellent, insightful article from “Forbes” written after the 2012 election on this topic that incredibly foreshadows the trend of what took place over the most recent presidential race. Here is an excerpt from the article by Mark Hendrickson: “Affluent denizens of our metropolises see no inconsistency in supporting the Democratic jihad against ‘greedy corporations’ and ‘the rich’ while also expecting their every whim to be supplied, often by those same corporations and successful entrepreneurs. This is because they are removed from some of the harsher daily realities of life that confront those who are on the front lines of mankind’s ongoing economic struggle. They have forgotten that mankind’s natural state is poverty and that strenuous, heroic efforts are required to produce the astounding affluence and abundant paraphernalia of our modern, affluent lifestyles. To use Marxian terminology, urbanites have become alienated from economic reality.”

The people so quick to point to hate and ignorance as the cause of the outcome of this election (and others) seem to fail in considering the role of our nation’s rural front lines and the impact of how that scope of reality shapes their politics. The truth is that both rural and urban America are vital components of this great nation that provide valuable insights and views based on differing scopes of reality.

In the end, our philosophies, mindsets and political leanings are not really all that different in many cases, but the realities of our daily lives are, depending on where we live and our lifestyles. Within the wide rift between rural and urban America there is more common ground than either presidential campaign would have us believe. Both sides are missing something by failing to acknowledge this.

I think if we simply take some time to view life through the reality experienced by the other side, we’d go a long way in closing up the gaping rural/urban gap. And, rather than cry or celebrate, lament or smirk, we can all be more content that voters have spoken, realize that things won’t be as bad or as good as either side hoped, and rejoice that (mercifully) this ridiculous campaign season has ended.

Saying a prayer or two sure won’t hurt, either.

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  1. Matt, you nailed it!

  2. Excellent commentary – very insightful. Perhaps we can all begin to see our differences and appreciate them from God’s perspective. We each bring different gifts and talents to contribute to the whole. Instead of trying to stamp out these differences and create one homogenized group that all think alike and talk alike, we can learn to work together and not against each other. When comments are made that place 45% of the population in a “basket of deplorables” that are “beyond redemption”, that does not give the impression that other perspectives are welcome. Note to future prospective politicians, alienating half of the citizenry is probably not a good idea . . .

  3. I couldn’t agree more!!! Very well written. Thanks

  4. I don’t think of myself as a mean and hateful person but after the results of Tuesday’s election, some of the posts on my facebook page sure made me wonder. I wasn’t a fan of either candidate, but I couldn’t stand to see people struggle to make it financially because of the greed and poor decisions made by people in power. I think we elected a lot of good people to the house and senate and I think that they will do their best to help turn things around and help make things better in this country. Pray hard friends, pray hard.

  5. As someone who grew up on a farm in rural Ohio but has now lived in Cleveland for the past 15 years, I have struggled with the election results for the past few days, knowing that my home county largely supported Trump. This article initially made me feel better, giving me some comfort that my home county voters (including family members of mine) maybe didn’t vote for him out of hatred for those who are different. But as I really think about the reasons cited, I’m not so sure that I do feel better. You cite the different scope of reality, which I completely agree is one of the reasons there is a divide between the urban and rural areas. But part of the scope of reality in a rural area is likely less exposure to diversity. I know that was certainly the case where I grew up. If you want to talk about insulation, I don’t think you can ignore the insulation from diversity (whether it be racial, religious, or any sort of diversity) that largely exists in rural America and how that possibly affected the rural voters to vote for Trump.

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