I live in the country. I have a farm. I’ve spent most of my career in high-tech: I’ve lived in the city, too. So I’m fluent in two languages: urban and rural.
I rarely post here about politics, since politics doesn’t get the cows milked. And this isn’t about politics anyway: it’s about mindset. I’m just using the election as an example.
Take a look at the 2016 presidential election map, showing the results by county:
The Urban/Rural Divide
What we’re looking at here is not a division between Republicans and Democrats, but between rural and urban. The urban areas mostly voted Democrat; the rural ares mostly voted Republican. What’s up with that?
Let’s do a cross-check. Here’s a map of population density by county:
Pretty close, right?
The City Mouse and the Country Mouse
For all the talk of diversity and cultural tolerance, the mutual incomprehension between America’s city and rural populations is awfully high, and generally unacknowledged.
It’s not a new thing. Aesop has the fable of The City Mouse and The Country Mouse dating to around 600 BC, whose moral is:
A modest life with peace and quiet is better than a richly one with danger and strife.
Of course, the moral isn’t about the city vs. country per se, but it allowed “city mouse” and “country mouse” to become proverbial phrases.
A New Phenomenon?
While the social split between city mouse and country mouse has been around forever, the political split is new, at least at the national level. It actually became dominant during Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political careers.
Here’s the 1992 presidential map, where Bill Clinton won his first term:
Notice all the blue in the heartland states, especially along the Missisippi and Ohio river valleys. That’s missing in his wife’s 2016 results.
And here’s the 2008 Map, where Obama won his first term:
Even in victory, the Democratic Party had lost quite a bit of the heartland, becoming more and more “the party of the city mice.” The Big Tent is smaller than it used to be.
Speaking as someone who isn’t a member of either party and has no particular insight into the process, my concern is that any city-mouse, country-mouse division at the party level will lead to lousy policy decisions by whichever party is in power. Our policy decisions are bad enough already.
(I’m curious to see whether a Republican administration plus a Republican Congress shows a country-mouse bias. But I expect it’ll all be drowned in the bipartisan Washington D.C. “follow the money” strategy, which is more of a fat-cat thing.)
So here we are, with a city-mouse, country-mouse split in our country that’s masquerading as a division between two parties. And hardly anyone seems to comment on this.
I once had a San Francisco resident ask me if it was difficult for me to live “among all those ignorant country people.” He seemed to believe that, as soon as the sidewalk ends, you step right into a scene from Deliverance.
I’ve also met people who believe exactly the same thing about San Francisco! Go figure.
My answer to his question is, “No, not at all. In the places I’ve lived, people tend to be about equally ignorant. They’re just ignorant about different things. (They’re also about equally prejudiced.)”
What’s to be done? Well, my mind-control machine is on the fritz, so I don’t have a quick solution. But the Cubs won the World Series, so all things must be possible! So I leave you with the following two proverbs. Go spread the good word!
When you feel especially good or bad about a group of people you’ve never met, you’re probably wrong.
And the second is from my grandfather:
You kids: knock it off.