Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Resentment of elites a root of rural-urban divide

The recent outrage over a Central Park rendition of the play "Julius Caesar" as President Trump is more than a simple dust-up, Alissa Quart argues in the The Guardian. It's the latest salvo in a war between mostly liberal urban "elites" and mostly conservative rural Americans.

The president, Quart says, is a "masterful populist" who has "manipulated this very real bitterness" that rural Americans feel toward wealthy urban dwellers who, they believe, seem to be the only ones deciding what tastes and values are acceptable. 

Political scientist Kathy Cramer of the University of Wisconsin, author of The Politics of Resentment, says that rural people she's talked to feel they've become caricatures in popular culture, and that their voices have been ignored in policy discussions. But they see themselves as living less stressful, more meaningful lives that place value on relationships with family and neighbors.

Because the schism is divided along lines of cultural tastes rather than economics, wealthy, urban politicians such as Trump are still able to connect with rural voters, Cramer says.

Damon Linker of The Week expounds on what he calls the "socio-cultural chasm pitting the city and the countryside against each other" around the world. He notes that rural voices and resentment have lately driven policy decisions all over the world, from England's Brexit decision, to an anti-democratic referendum in Turkey, to France's recent presidential election. 

"Cities tend to be more dynamic, marked by rapid change, with the people who live there assuming that such changes make things better over time," says Linker. "The countryside, by contrast, is less dynamic, with changes happening more slowly, along with the assumption that changes often make things worse. These clashing sensibilities contribute to political differences between the different regions."

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