Thursday, November 10, 2016

Rural white voters in South and elsewhere made their voices heard loud and clear

Rural voters like Luke Garrett say Trump was able
to relate to common people (Jonsson photo)
Rural white voters in the South made their voices heard loud and clear in the presidential election, helping Donald Trump take every state in the region, Patrik Jonsson reports for The Christian Science Monitor. "Small counties had never seemed so overwhelming on election night maps. Trump won because white voters in rural areas and small towns chose him by huge margins, while urban voters were cooler toward Hillary Clinton." Luke Garrett, a chicken farmer in Between, Ga., told Jonsson,"Unlike past Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, he was able to relate to people, to common people.”

Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, who publishes The Rural Blog and writes a political column for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, told Jonsson the key was Trump's focus on visiting rural areas: "People asked why Trump was going to small places and having rallies, ‘To make yourself feel good?’ No, he was exercising his organic turnout strategy, to generate enthusiasm and a feeling of purpose and being part of a movement among rural people. And it worked.” Cross said rural turnout in Kentucky, which usually lags behind urban turnout, seemed stronger this time.

Another key was Trump's understanding of how to woo voters, Jonsson writes. Mac McCorkle, a public affairs professor at Duke University, told Jonsson, “Trump understood that the conservative side of politics is no longer a party in the sense that we think of coalitions of interest groups, and has become more of a social movement. While there is a prairie fire social movement in rural America, the Democrats want to say, ‘It’s all the Koch brothers or elitist manipulation.’ But it’s something that is clearly real and powerful. He may be riding on top of a tiger, but you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for understanding that.”

While Trump recognized a growing unease in rural areas with Washington politics, Clinton completely missed it, Jonsson writes. "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at one point offered his resignation to President Obama, saying the administration lacked any focus on rural America. Obama convinced Vilsack to stay by appointing him [as point man for the] opioid crisis, but he appears to have missed the underlying warning." Cross told Jonsson, “Here’s Vilsack, giving a warning that 15 percent of the country is feeling disrespected and disregarded, and Obama should have put two and two together there." (Read more)

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