For the past 8 years, the people who live in rural areas of the U.S. have had their social values ridiculed, their religious beliefs made fun of, their educational levels laughed at, their industries regulated, firearm rights threatened, and their character called “deplorable.” So, is it any surprise that it was a very angry and resentful voter that went to the polls on Election Day? While not all rural voters voted Republican, it was largely the rural vote that put Donald Trump in the White House.
Those of us who work with farmers and rural residents regularly were not surprised by this outcome. But for much of the rest of the media, political establishment, and liberal millennials, the election night results came as a total surprise. During the campaign, the feelings, opinions, and attitudes of those outside of urban areas were discounted and generally ignored. Most pollsters and reporters never ventured down county roads. The few that did had an early warning of what was to come. “The clues were there, but I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. At that time, I had no inkling of the depth and breadth of rural dissatisfaction that would elect a Donald Trump as President,” writes photo journalist Edward Speed who traveled in rural Ohio just weeks before the election. “What I learned is that agricultural America felt not only ignored and forgotten, it felt rejected and despised by America’s political elite, and that any candidate who could hurt that elite was worth their vote.”
Rural America has been forgotten for the most part by the political elite of both parties. Even after the election, the media and the political elite think rural America voted for Donald Trump because it likes Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s lifestyle and values are not things that rural folks admire, but his willingness to put America first, articulate the concerns of farmers and factory workers, and his promise to shake up Washington resonated well with what one pundit called the “Cracker Barrel crowd.” MSNBC was proud to report that Trump won 76% of counties with a Cracker Barrel and only 22% of counties with a Whole Foods grocery store. This is code for the dumb people in America voted for Trump.
This kind of cultural bigotry is rampant in our country and is just as divisive as racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination. Most of the time the urban folks ignore this because it does not impact them. But as they learned last week, ignoring rural American can be a dangerous thing — not only at the ballot box, but economically as well. Rural areas are where 90% of the food and energy is produced. Urban areas are where that food and energy is consumed. The economic prosperity of one is important to the economic prosperity of the other. The “we are better, smarter, more important than they are” attitude being fostered by the media and urban liberals is a case of biting the hand that feeds them.
My advice for farmers and rural residents is to stay angry. Don’t melt back into countryside and expect Mr. Trump is going to make things all better. There are plenty of things for which you need to stand up and fight. You got American’s attention, but you have not educated them about who you are and what you want. The media and liberal elite will continue to ridicule you into irrelevancy unless you continue to make your voice heard and political muscle felt.
By Gary Truitt