Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Author chronicled rural Wisconsin voters' sense of resentment of being ignored by politicians

Rural Wisconsin carried Republican Donald Trump to victory in a state that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took for granted. She should have listened to Kathy Cramer, political-science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who traversed 27 rural communities in the state to find out how they feel about politics for her 2015 book The Politics of Resentment, Jeff Guo reports for The Washington Post. What she found is that many rural Wisconsinites feel a "deep sense of bitterness toward elites and city dwellers; just about all of them felt tread on, disrespected and cheated out of what they felt they deserved."

That feeling of anger helped Trump nab 63 percent of the state's rural vote, compared to 34 percent for Clinton, according to analysis from NBC News. Overall, Trump won 1,404,869 votes in Wisconsin, compared to 1,377,880 for Clinton, showing that rural voters were definitely the difference.

In her book, "Cramer argues that this 'rural consciousness' is key to understanding which political arguments ring true to her subjects," Guo writes. "For instance, she says, most rural Wisconsinites supported the tea party's quest to shrink government not out of any belief in the virtues of small government but because they did not trust the government to help 'people like them.'"

Wisconsin results (Wikipedia map)
Cramer wrote: “Support for less government among lower-income people is often derided as the opinions of people who have been duped. Listening in on these conversations, it is hard to conclude that the people I studied believe what they do because they have been hoodwinked. Their views are rooted in identities and values, as well as in economic perceptions; and these things are all intertwined.”

Cramer told Guo, "What I was hearing was this general sense of being on the short end of the stick. Rural people felt like they not getting their fair share. People felt that they were not getting their fair share of decision-making power. People would complain that they weren’t getting their fair share of stuff, that they weren’t getting their fair share of public resources. That often came up in perceptions of taxation. People had this sense that all the sense that all the money is sucked in by Madison, but never spent on places like theirs."

"People felt that they weren’t getting respect," she said. "They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists. So it’s all three of these things—the power, the money, the respect. People are feeling like they’re not getting their fair share of any of that." (Read more)

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