Rural America Told To 'Suck It'

It is no surprise to anyone not living in an urban area that there is a disconnect between those of us living in rural areas and those living in “the big city.”

This disconnect is causing increasing friction between cityfolk and those of us in flyover country. The needs of the urban areas are becoming paramount while the rest of us have to 'suck-it-up' and be ignored by the urbanites.

Much of this disconnect can be seen in the electoral map of the last presidential election. The granularity of each map changes the perception of who voted for Obama and who voted for Romney. At a state level, it looks like the states for Obama and Romney were split roughly even. But at a county level the map displays a sea of red with some urban islands of blue. So in effect those blue islands affect the rest if the red areas. The voices of those in the red areas are drowned out by those living in the urban blue areas. In effect, we countryfolk are being ignored and the wants and needs of the cityfolk are the only ones being addressed...at least until problems in the rural areas start affecting the urban areas. Then and only then does attention turn towards us until the crisis passes and we disappear from the perceptions of cityfolk. This continuing split isn't healthy for the country and in the end will cause problems for everyone.

With each passing election, rural and small town Americans have ever less influence on their state and national governments and ever declining control over the governance of their own communities. Their lives are increasingly controlled from distant state capitals and from the even more distant Washington, D.C., by politicians with little incentive to pay attention to their country cousins. To some extent, their disenfranchisement is the inevitable result of a century of urbanization and economic centralization. But the erosion of self-governance in rural America is also the result of a generally well intentioned but simplistic understanding of democracy and the associated elimination of institutional protections of local democratic governance.

Two ideas have been central to this effective disenfranchisement of rural America. First, that one person/one vote is an inviolable principle of democratic government under the United States Constitution. Second, that the winners of elections owe allegiance only to those who voted for them, no matter how close the margin of victory.

One of the biggest problems with this disconnect is that problems in the rural areas are addressed as if they are urban problems and urban solutions are applied. But something that works fine in the city won't necessarily work in the country. And what's worse, is even if the proper solution is applied, what works in one part of the country won't necessarily work in another part. But the big city folk don't seem to be able to comprehend this truth. On top of that this disconnect is even worse within the Beltway, with the politicians and bureaucrats believing that the metro Washington DC area is no different than the rest of the country. If only that were true (and only if Washington were more like the rest of the nation rather than the other way around).

Can this schism be healed? I don't know, but if it isn't bigger problems will arrive, dividing the country even more than it is.