Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ag-policy editor's remarks about media depiction of rural voters sting panelists on 'Meet the Press'

Chris Clayton on MSNBC
Donald Trump's 3-to-1 margin in rural America may have been bolstered by resentment at repeated references in the news media to Trump's popularity among both rural and lesser-educated voters, said Chris Clayton, agricultural policy editor for DTN The Progressive Farmer. Chuck Todd of NBC News interviewed Clayton for MSNBC, and played part of the interview Sunday on "Meet the Press."

"Every time you heard about these polls, you had heard that educated white voters were going for Clinton, while people without college degrees or had no college, supported Trump," Clayton said. "I think they took some of these things that were said over and over throughout the last four, five months of the campaign, also very personally themselves. ... Rural America is not uneducated, even though maybe there are fewer people with college degrees than there might be in the metropolitan areas."

Todd said Clayton's observation "stung me because I, when we would say these things, it was an academic exercise. But the minute he said it, I was, like, 'Oh, my, my late father would've kicked me in the rear for that.'"

Moderately conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, on Todd's panel, said he had a "mea culpa" watching Clayton because while "people with college degrees voted very differently than people with, with high school degrees, but when you say it, when you actually don't have a college degree, you hear, 'Oh, they think I'm stupid.' I'm guilty of that because I use that shorthand too. And you saw so much sense of moral injury when you went around the Trump world."

Brooks said Trump voters told him, "I used to have a code of respectability, and those people are trying to take it away." He said he heard lots of complaints in middle America about being referred to by coastal elites as "flyover country." Katty Kay of BBC said, "The skepticism that has grown up about elites is totally justified." A transcript of the interview is here.

In the MSNBC interview with Todd and other journalists, Clayton said rural voters have long been reluctant to embrace Clinton. He noted that she lost the Iowa caucuses to Obama in 2008, and barely won them over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders this year: "I just don't think she was able to catch on and communicate with your average rural worker or farmer."

In response to a question from Chris Cilizza of The Washington Post, Clayton said race wasn't an issue with rural voters in the Midwest (he noted that Obama carried Iowa twice) but immigration was a huge issue: "People are concerned that they're losing their culture, somewhat."

Asked why Clinton did so much more poorly in Iowa than Obama did in 2012, Clayton said the farm economy was much better four years ago: "We've seen about two years now where commodity prices have continued to slip. The farmers are really tight on working capital and cash. . . . They were just not as willing to give a chance to a Democrat this time around."

Also, regulatory issues also cut against Clinton, especially the Environmental Protection Agency's new definition of "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. "Every farm group in the country, liberal and conservative, have really hammered on this issue; they want to get rid of it, they're terrified of it," Clayton said. Trump said he would abolish the rule, and "That really drove them to Trump in a big way."


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