As the 2020 Presidential election Nov. 3rd dragged on through the night and into the morning, then afternoon of Wednesday with no outright winner, by Thursday, Nov. 5th I noticed something on the various election maps displayed in newscasts on TV, online, and in various political articles of the United States’ two-party system. The color-coded 50-states and various key swing states of Red or Blue, or trending to Red/Blue, and then the many counties within each of those states going Red or Blue, one thing seemed consistent in all of the states.
Just as large Red-Blue maps showed in the elections of 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and then again in 2016 and once again Nov. 4th, 2020 it became clear that for reasons not fully known to me—although I had an educated hypothesis why at the time—most all urban areas, counties, and major cities tended to go and have gone for decades to Democrats (Blue). The rural areas and counties tended to almost always go to Republicans (Red). How interesting.
The distinction is not only stark, but it has also been the evolving political landscape in America for a number of decades (see below slide-show of swing states). Why is that? What is going on with large metropolitan areas and what has gone on in those populations? What has been happening in rural counties? And why do many suburban areas flip-flop between the two parties every 2-4 years? Matt Grossmann at the Niskanen Center in Washington D.C. says “Election maps are showing stark divides between liberal cities and conservative countrysides, advantaging Republicans in our geographic electoral system.” Advantaging Republicans? I wanted to further understand why these clear political demographics have become so predominant, so unmistakable. Here is what I found, the data according to several scholars and political savants explaining population densities and how those densities shift on the political spectrum.
There was another data-set I was also interested in myself, personally, to see what correlations might be shown pertaining to the education levels attained by rural residents, suburban residents, and urban residents. Was there any patterns of education correlating to population densities and political affiliations? What I discovered was also quite stark and unmistakable. But lets first examine the dynamics of population densities and their political alignments.
U.S. Population Densities and Political Divides
Jonathan Rodden is a professor at Stanford University in their Political Science Department. He is a graduate (BA) of the University of Michigan, Fulbright student at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and a post-grad (PhD) in Political Science from Yale University. He works on the comparative political economy of U.S. institutions.
Rodden draws back to unionized industrial railroad hubs, but he finds that today’s growing divisions reflect the changing cultural values of the parties’ new coalitions. Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center finds that U.S. geographic areas are becoming economically and psychologically distinct, with cities concentrating those open to new experience and working in the technology-driven economy and rural areas, retaining those averse to social and economic change. They both find our geographic divide central to contemporary politics, including the election of Donald Trump. Wilkinson says urbanization and geographic polarization help explain where we are today.
In his research at the Niskanen Center Will Wilkinson finds:
…that we’ve failed to fully grasp that urbanization is a relentless, glacial social force that transforms entire societies and, in the process, generates cultural and political polarization by segregating populations along the lines of the traits that make individuals more or less responsive to the incentives that draw people to the city. I explore three such traits—ethnicity, ideology-correlated aspects of personality, and level of education achievement—and their intricate web of relationships. The upshot is that, over the course of millions of moves over many decades, high density areas have become economically thriving multicultural havens while whiter, lower density are facing stagnation and decline as their populations have become increasingly uniform in terms of socially conservative personality, aversion to diversity, and lower levels of education. This self-segregation of the population, I argue, created the polarized economic and cultural conditions that led to populist backlash.— Will Wilkinson, “The Density Divide: Urbanization, Polarization, and Populist Backlash,” June 2019 – Niskanen Center, accessed Nov. 4, 2020
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution (1880’s) the American GDP (gross domestic product) has moved from a primarily agricultural economy in the Southern and Midwest states, and a manufacturing economy in the Northeastern states to a much more heavier manufacturing GDP by the end of the World Wars (1918, 1945) and significant decline in agricultural regions. For various economic factors the Midwest states moved more and more from family-owned agrarian farms to buy-outs by large corporate farms such as the six biggest: TIAA-Cref, BlackDirt, Hancock Agricultural Investment Group, American Farmland Company, AgIS Capital, and Gladstone Land Corporation. Over the last century and a half this has contributed to a gradual stagnation or decline in rural America.
By the end of the 1980’s and 1990’s the American job-force and GDP had shifted from a heavy manufacturing economy to one of an information economy and knowledge-based work. This nurtured an increasingly higher job-demand for highly skilled, highly educated workers and a departure from a less skilled, less educated service workforce. This has concentrated our higher economic production counterintuitively. Our shift from agrarian to manufacturing to an information, knowledge-based economy actually facilitated the dynamics we see today: talking and working from hundred of miles away. What is more ironic is that this latest shift did not usher the death of distance or mobilization, it actually amplified the many advantages of clustering highly educated, highly skilled workers together. As Will Wilkinson explains:
…the productivity of better educated workers is augmented more by each new technological development. But the productivity of those people is enhanced yet further by being near other people with similar skill sets.
In other words, many creative, highly skilled, highly educated workers all bumping heads weekly, challenging each other, enhances all aspects of ingenuity, cutting-edge research, and an inspired workforce on most occupational levels. This is less so and a bigger challenge in rural areas where seclusive lifestyles or aversions to diversity, and sheer distance prohibits many social and economic potentials for that community. To be more candid, removing one’s self from constant opportunities to learn, evolve, compete, and engage with those different than you increases ignorance and chances of social-economic extinction.
If you are able to read or listen to the 51-minute podcast on the Niskanen Center’s website hosted by Matt Grossmann (here), then I recommend it. It thoroughly explains at least two contributing factors to the United States’ current polarized politics. Finally, Will Wilkinson surmises two poignant reasons why Donald Trump was able, against all political odds and predictions, to win the Presidential election in 2016. Wilkinson’s last bullet-point is particularly telling:
- Related urban-rural economic divergence has put many lower-density in dire straits, activating a zero-sum, ethnocentric mindset receptive to scapegoating populist rhetoric about the threat of “un-American” immigrants, minorities, and liberal elites who dwell in relatively prosperous multi-cultural cities.
- The low-density bias of our electoral system enabled Trump to win the majority support in areas that produce just 1/3rd of GDP and contain less than 1/2 the [U.S.] population.
Education Levels Attained in Rural, Suburban, and Urban America
As I mentioned in my opening paragraphs, with the last five Presidential elections and this one in 2020, all of them have unequivocally shown that with population densities rural counties in America go almost always Republican, and urban counties go Democratic, with suburban counties fluctuating every 2-4 years, I asked What are the highest education levels attained by those resident voters?
In an April 2016 report by the Pew Research Center it found many interesting distinctions between America’s Republican (Conservative) and Democratic (Liberal) voters.
Highly educated adults – particularly those who have attended graduate school – are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.
Among adults who have completed college but have not attended graduate school (approximately 16% of the public), 44% have consistently or mostly liberal political values, while 29% have at least mostly conservative values; 27% have mixed ideological views.Pew Research Center — “A Wider Ideological Gap Between More and Less Educated Adults” April 26, 2016, accessed Nov. 6, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2016/04/26/a-wider-ideological-gap-between-more-and-less-educated-adults/
A 2018-2019 Pew Research Center report found that among registered voters in the same period, 41% with post-graduate work identified as Democrat, 37% as Independent, and 20% as Republican. Those registered voters with a four-year bachelor’s degree 34% identified as Democrats, 38% as Independent, and 26% as Republican. By contrast, 2018-19 registered voters with only a high school diploma or less, 34% identified as Republican, 31% as Democrat, and 31% as Independent (click here for report). For a visual correlation of these educational levels versus rural, suburban, and urban counties as well as by state, see maps below.
“Advanced degree” means either 2-years of college or junior college or in a trade school. Compare these two maps to the first map above of Red/Blue states or Republican/Democrat states. Notice the correlations?
What the data has been telling political scientists and sociologists over the last three decades and especially the last decade is that the current political landscape of the United States is clearly divided by not only population density, but by highest education levels attained. To say it another way, one of the most striking patterns in this 2020 Presidential election and the last five is this: a major bipolar divide between white voters with a college degree and those without one.
According to exit polls in the 2018 midterms, 61% of non-college-educated white voters cast their ballots for Republicans while just 45% of college-educated white voters did so. Meanwhile 53% of college-educated white voters cast their votes for Democrats compared with 37% of those without a degree (see tables below). This has played out again in 2020.
Adam Harris, a political and education journalist concludes what I have learned the last 20-years regarding the U.S. political landscape today:
The diploma divide, as it’s often called, is not occurring across the electorate; it is primarily a phenomenon among white voters. It’s an unprecedented divide, and is in fact a complete departure from the diploma divide of the past. Non-college-educated white voters used to solidly belong to Democrats, and college-educated white voters to Republicans. Several events over the past six decades have caused these allegiances to switch, the most recent being the candidacy, election, and presidency of Donald Trump.
The million-dollar question then is Why the leftward shift by higher educated Americans and the rightward shift by lower educated Americans? Well, the jury is still out on that answer, or they are gradually filing in the courtroom these last two or three federal elections. Typically three influencing factors are offered by American political scientists, savants and scholars:
- General polarization (Populism?) — Pew Research Center has found that the entire U.S. has become more ideologically polarized due to: distrust in government, racial and religious politics through the 1960’s and ’70’s, and renewed again with police brutality of the last 3-5 years. Also a growing income inequality across the American middle- and lower-classes, the latter not seeing mobility or growth in earnings or minimum wage stagnation in most states. These divisive events and movements inside the U.S. the last 20-years have not significantly changed for a highly educated American consistently engaged in liberal ideologies and institutions. This probably furthers the political chasm.
- Women — More women are increasingly entering the workforce and obtaining college and post-grad degrees. They then tend to gravitate to Democratic, liberal ideologies more so than men. This trend may have contributed to higher educated Americans aligning with Democratic values.
- Insularity — This condition could be summed up simply as we like our echo-chambers of like-minded people and friends. As Bill Bishop popularized in his book “The Big Sort,” Americans are increasingly clustering with their political, religious, and social circles those ideological bubble-walls are getting thicker. It’s suggested that this is particularly true with the post-grad set. This factor goes back to what Grossmann, Wilkinson, and Rodden above explained and postulated. Reviewing that Niskanen Center podcast above… highly educated Americans in particular seek out jobs that use their highly educated skill sets; it ends up sorting them into more homogeneous communities near and inside urban areas.
The flip-side of this political trend in the U.S. is that the rightward shift by Conservatives and Republicans is in age groups, or generational groups. Pew Research has also found that Baby-boomers, Generation X-ers, and to a lesser degree the “Silent Generation“—Americans born between 1928 and 1945—all of which makeup the bulk of Republican and GOP-leaning members, have shifted more and more to the Right since the 1990’s. Again, why is that?
What is unmistaken these last two or three decades in the U.S. political landscape is the increasing lines of geopolitical distinction—Republicans residing mostly in rural counties and with lower educations while Democrats, Liberals, and Independents reside mostly in urban counties with higher education levels by comparison. And for the most part the suburban populations fluctuate, despite a newer (slight) trend that they too are trending a bit more to liberal Democratic ideas.
While it is looking increasingly day by day, hour by hour that former Vice-President Joe Biden will be our next President—as of 4:00pm CST—what are your thoughts about our political landscape to date and the last 20-30 years? Share them below in comments if you feel and so desire. I and my regular followers are interested in the feedback!
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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Biden?! HA!! Donny Jr has declared WAR on this!!! WAR, I tell you, WAR!!! Therefor, what will happen is…..is….well….Biden will be Prez!!! Thank fucking Thor!!!! Oh, Donny!!! I hear the bells of serious indictments coming on or about Jan 20th, do you?
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😄 Well Jeff, I know this: not even Al Gore or George W. in 2000 made such a childish, immature stink about voting fraud, corruption, counting, and recounting. But everyone knew months ago Donnie tRump was going to throw tantrums and lawsuits around like they are popcorn & peanuts at a Yankee baseball game. 🙄
Either late tonight or tomorrow, perhaps Monday night, I will be celebrating and drinking that the USA can now hopefully start taking COVID-19 a lot more serious, stop it, and then healing the country, on every level!
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Just a thought … could it be that the less educated and economically deprived turn to the Republican philosophy because they think it will bring them more and better opportunities, whereas those who already have the education and wherewithal to function comfortably prefer the Democratic party because of their philosophy and desire to help the less fortunate.
I can’t speak to the state of government/politics of earlier years as it’s only been since Obama that political matters have held any interest for me at all.
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That’s an interesting hypothesis Nan. Not sure how it would align with the actual detailed explanations from rural Republicans with no under-grad or post-grad experience/degrees. As far as the Democrats and Independents, generally speaking, they do indeed tend to favor or understand (embrace?) the many benefits of helping the disadvantaged, having a bigger idea of A/The Greater Good that often circumvents ideas of self only.
What I have found discussing/debating with rural Republicans (or suburban & urban too) is that our ideas of helping the less fortunate, i.e. rewarding hard work to CHANGE what your birthed zip code, economic and/or social class designates how much “equal opportunities” are truly available to you no matter ethnicity, race, or gender… does NOT translate to 1950’s or 1960’s Socialism in the least! I loathe how Conservatives/Republicans today throw around that derogatory term liberally when that isn’t really at all what modern highly educated Liberals today are advocating, or examining forms of Social Democracy and Direct Democracy with versions of the Nordic Economic Model. Nan, when I bring up the details of these governmental power structures/sources and economic models, they look at me like I have one eye in my forehead and antennae sticking out the top of my head as if I’m from another solar system! 🤦♂️
Perhaps that right there is the ideological bubble with super thick walls that Grossmann, Rodden, and Wilkinson spoke of in the Niskanen Center podcast. Their knowledge is so elementary and way outdated they think I’m talking Greek to them. Lol 😉
Just read this via The Guardian: a student from Kerala, India, who is studying chemical engineering and math-econ at Lafayette College had this to say: “I can’t vote but this is a high stake election for the world because America dictates global policy. Four years ago I can understand that some people gave Trump the benefit of the doubt, but this time, we know that another Trump victory will lead to more polarization and misinformation not consolidation. He’s shown his true colors in the pandemic so that more people have voted for him this time… that’s really troubling.”
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Hmmm. I cannot argue against her/his assessment too much. It’s pretty accurate, except maybe for the “America dictates global policy.” Fortunately, that is not totally correct. We are a major player/influencer, sure. But when the balance of global power and wealth is spread out more—i.e. parity nurtures better levels of equality, quality knowledge, quality education, progressive social-economic reforms, etc.—humanity generally tends to benefit, with exceptions of course. I am VERY HAPPY that the USA is NOT the be all, end all in global policy! I just wish those rankings were more than the USA, China, Japan, Germany, U.K., and India. The world needs more big players! 🙂
Successful and lasting political parties build civilizations through coalitions across a majority of people. This means in effect one must ‘capture’ the middle ground where the vast majority of us live. And that is what’s missing today when partisanship over liberal principles becomes the defining political identity. It creates populism. And this is very bad.
There is great danger correlating education to partisanship, correlating income to partisanship, correlating race to partisanship, correlating urban/rural/geography to partisanship. It’s this metric that is doomed. It’s dangerous because it is a move away from principle and always towards populism, and move away from finding and uniting people from the vast center into a stable, creative, building political force.
Our news media, social media, entertainment media, shopping media, all use our preferences to shape suggested content. The gross effect of this algorithmic pool in which we swim every day is to shape a reality, a partisan reality, we presume everyone else shares… not realizing just how partisan it is in fact. The typical Democratic supporter does not even recognize the world in which the typical Republican supporter lives (even if side by side in a family or neighbourhood), and of course the opposite is true. We shake our collective heads and wonder how on earth anyone can possibly not ‘see’ what we see, vote for something or someone that we define as deplorable.
And you can immediately recognize this dismal state of affairs usually by the negative language used to describe The Other… but not ourselves!
I think the central problem is believing that there really is The Other described this way and not grasping that we are just as much The Other to those partisan people as are those we categorize not in our own partisan bubble.
And so the center is lost, not by malice but by correlation, by handy convenience, by the veneer of depth understanding The Other’s position that is really just pabulum, by believing in a narrative of partisanship without recognizing being in it, by replacing liberal principles of respecting what’s independently true with rising partisan populism defined by the ‘alternative facts’ of narrative. We’ve been here before, but we do not learn because no one seems to be teaching us anymore; it’s too dangerous to make a mistake.
So here’s my teacher, to put it another way, Yeats…
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
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Ah, Tildeb. I was hoping you’d cast your great feedback! Thank you Sir. I will need to read your comment two or three times so bear with me a bit while I digest correctly your valued thoughts. 🙂 I’ll then return here to respond fully. 👍🏼
This is a very valid point Tildeb. And I take it to heart completely. As I mentioned early in my post, I’ve just noticed the Red-Blue political maps since 2000 and they all clearly show that rural counties almost always go Red, and urban counties almost always go Blue. It is what it is. HOWEVER, that is not the end of the story or the implied causes for this multi-decade pattern/trend. It is always more complex than a silly oversimplification. Rodden and Wilkinson in the Niskanen Center podcast did a good job of breaking it all down. I think what was best discovered was none of us, no matter what our political-economic affiliations might be, we cannot live in a bubble amongst like-minded friends who echo 24/7 our own beliefs, ideas, lifestyles, and one dimensional educations and experiences. Mark Twain spoke to this mentality, exclusiveness, and their degenerating cancer to a Greater Good for humanity in The Innocents Abroad (1869).
As you probably remember Tildeb, I have been a political Independent from 1981 to 2018. I still hold firm to that designation because I have cast my votes for Republicans, Democrats, and other minor parties before. I also know full well that in other areas of life, especially my personal life, I am a LOT MORE liberal than even most liberal Democrats! HAH! You might remember that I have been active in the BDSM and Open-Swinger Lifestyles (not 24/7 but regularly) for the last 24 years. I say that to give an idea of just how truly “Independent” I am. That said however, I know that sometimes my own political, social, and economic views come across as The Other while sounding as if I am not. LOL I readily admit that. I am a man after my own heart! 🤭 😉
I love your Yeats poem!
In any Red or Blue district, always remember than probably one out of every three or often far more voted for The Other. It’s easy to confuse winning with a totality when, in fact, it’s simply a majority of those who voted! I say this to show the correlation is demonstrated not to be causation. And this is a point to get more people to think of the limits of the explanations for partisan selection, and hopefully to get past these to the real understanding that The Other is us. The differences are very often sleight in reality. There is a HUGE ground of commonality once partisanship is put aside, and that is the fact that will heal these strongly entrenched but artificial divisions. It requires understanding and appreciation rather than insults and combat.
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I have to completely agree with you here Tildeb. If there is one big lesson I have learned among many diverse populations in the U.S., particularly the Deep South, and a bit less so on both coasts, is that there is RARELY 100% certainty/truth on any one sociopolitical issue, so much so that one can “never” compromise. No! That mentality is just utter ridiculousness and honestly very self-righteous. But you didn’t read that from me, okay? 😉 😛
Partisanship is a symptom of identity politics hard at work. It will ALWAYS create division and make unity less achievable by undermining attention to commonality. It’s the wrong focus. Further, it’s not true.
Belief that partisanship is a real attribute – rather than a simplistic and convenient construct to describe differences in belief narratives – I think is the same as a religious belief broken into partisan camps; what the belief claims is true breaks down when examined because it isn’t reflective of reality itself. Belief in partisanship, that it’s a real attribute is imported and applied to what’s real (ie. a Christian child is the general descriptor, a Baptist child the particular descriptor) shapes and molds a narrative that is believed to be descriptive of a reality when it does not. And we know this because the claim does not exist independent of the belief that it does. (The child is what’s true, the descriptors applied to shape a narrative about that child is what’s divisive and takes away from finding one’s self reflected in The Other, divides children into religious partisan camps of the parents). We empower the divisiveness of partisanship when we go along with the belief that the false descriptors are attributes that are real rather than a narrative we’ve imported and applied TO what’s real.
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A country with only 2 completely corrupted parties is no real demogracy. And deciding between 2 old white male persons without real programm or visions for the future shows that only having power is the remaining value overall. A highly disturbing and bizarre presidential election in your country.
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The answer, of course, is targeting. The Dems and the GOP deliberately targeted their “new” audiences. In the infamous memo after another presidential loss, the Dems decided to break up their former coalition (minorities, organized labor, working class people, the young, etc.) and instead go after the new majority: the “professional class.” After all, where else will all of those other groups go? The GOP had shown no willingness to claim them. Then, of course, the GOP scooped up the working class folks and even turned them anti-union (effing amazing) and skimmed off the wealthier end of the professional class, to go along with the aggressively religious crowd.
You can’t say there has been any seismic shift in the popularity of either party, but that have traded away parts of their bases.
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Ah Professor, (drifted in via C&L blog roundup)
I don’t think the divide requires white-paper depth research. Our rural voters’ understanding of urban life is primarily from television. Fictional shows and nightly news. That’s enough to scare the crap out of them. Hookers and killers and drugs! Oh My!
To them it’s clear. Cityfolk are trying to destroy their rural way of life. Rural politics weaponizes their fears and they vote accordingly.
In truth, cityfolk spend little, if any, of their time thinking about daily rural life. They don’t worry about it at all, unless they’re travelling through.
Thanks for your feedback -Bill. Please feel free to drop by again. 🙂
After a few days of consideration I wanted to say this in response to your feedback. I stated here from Wilkinson, Rodden, and Grossmann from their Niskanen Center podcast:
These consequences are just simple data, simple facts from the U.S. Census every 10-yrs and one (of several) reason(s) WHY the distinction of Urban-Rural Political Divides exist today—the simple amount and levels of BROAD education BEYOND a high school diploma that makes urban workers more attractive to corporations. 🙂
I think you may have made an erroneous oversimplification without corroborating some sort of support for it:
For me personally I can say this is unequivocally untrue. I have many extended family members that I see and visit with at least once or twice a year, if not more. All of them are QUITE rural in many tiny towns within a 75-mile radius of Austin, Texas. Hence, I am FORCED to think about their daily lives because they share it with me freely! And by default, I do not just “travel through” but instead spend many hours (an entire day & night) with them at our Family Reunions and other family organized events. 🙂
Therefore, though I appreciate your personal feedback… with respect, I’m not sure it is impartially based upon any real data or comprehensive facts… unless you have it handy? I am more than happy to review it if you have a substantial amount? 🙂
Again, thanks for stopping by -Bill and please stop by again.
You are correct. Purely first-hand anecdotal. I live in large, sprawling urban. Pop. ~10 million in six counties. (Chicago metro) My local population density is ~ 6000 per sq. mi. (Sardine stat?)
I too, have friends and relations in rural and have lived in both environs. There are stark contrasts in thinking, attitudes and experiences between the two. They are not typically interchangeable, but urban seems more backwards compatible.
The Chicago versus Downstate political divide is multi-generational and ignores reality in favor of mythology. In many conversations with DSers, Chicago is viewed as the enemy, a threat to all manner of right thinkers.
My diagnosis of the divide is not based on educational attainment, which presumes that intelligence is measurable by diplomas or degrees, but more on intellectual diet and exposures. We truly are what we eat.
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Thanks for the reply -Bill. I did have a few questions, please, to help clear-up my confusion. 🙂 You stated:
Not sure what you mean exactly. Would you elaborate in more detail please? Also…
This sentence I do understand (I think) and hence, would agree that as Grossmann, Rodden, and Wilkinson talked about in the Niskanen Center podcast I shared that there is certainly a generational gap, some significant, and a specific segment of the populations “ignore reality in favor of mythology.” If I’m reading correctly your implicit meaning in the last part of your sentence regarding those who much prefer “mythology” over reality, the hard data and evidence pointing to possible/probable causes of those distorted (political) realities or their completely delusional disorders in a mental-illness capacity, then I believe I agree with you there based upon an exhaustive study of Countryside vs. City politics. However, you may want to also further elaborate in some detail as to exactly what you mean, if I’m misreading you.
Hmmm, could it not be BOTH? Could not the hypotheticals or confirmed reasons be determined by education levels attained—which by the way ARE INDEED measurable by licensed educators, accredited educational institutions, and by testing organizations of all levels of education before diplomas and degrees are given—as well as “intellectual diet and exposures” during a lifetime? Does it have to be one or the other, or can it be both… and even MORE additional social and familial components, and/or several (many?) more influencing factors? I’m quite sure there likely are more components and factors, but had I done a much larger, broader, and time-intensive study/investigation, this post would’ve easily exceeded 5,000 to 7,500 plus words and garnered a much smaller response from readers/visitors, if at all, due to the average internet browser’s attention-span, i.e. they just typically don’t spend more than 6-10 mins on a webpage. If I have simply got the reader thinking closely, critically, and perhaps more objectively, then I am VERY pleased my blog-post accomplished its goal.
Yes indeed, we ARE truly what we consume. Hopefully, to follow your apropos analogy, it is a steady diet and exposure to ALL kinds of foods, drinks, smells, and tastes… including of course those items which might make us cringe with an upset stomach, huh? 😉 Nevertheless, if we want to be able to fully understand, sympathize and/or empathize, and learn methods of collaboration, teamwork, etc, then we SHOULD (must?) engage with people (foods) we may not agree with. Yes?
Thanks in advance for your further clarifications -Bill. 👍
I’ll try to provide detail…
That urban folks can function in rural, easier than rural folks can function in urban. Rural is much easier to navigate and more difficult (not impossible) to transgress. IOW, in rural, you can fake it `til you make it. In urban, generally, faking it can be costly.
The generational aspect covers family and villager beliefs as to the causes and solutions of society’s and personal ills. These are taught, passed on and reinforced, almost religiously. The success and reach of POG (Party of God, actual reflection of the opposite ethos engendered by the former GOP)) agitprop and revisionist history since Watergate targeted at (and by) rural outlets has had a lopsided impact on a population with a median age of ~ 38.
For half of the U.S how it has been since Reagan is effectively how it’s always been. Government IS the problem, Govt being run either by a majority party who believes, or is set to obstruct anything that might shift that paradigm.
So to return to the education, or lack thereof, of red state voters being responsible for the divide… This completely sidesteps the conversion therapy embodied in the modern POG feeding trough.
As to your BOTH hypothesis, when only a quarter of college grads are employed in their field of study, something else is happening outside of measurable education attainment. The Jumbotron scoreboard is not telling the score. The military, (a major rural avenue,) as job training/replacement isn’t particularly cost effective.
Finally, If formal education is the answer then a “free” public education should include college or its equivalent. Students should be exposed to a wide spectrum of real world paths and supported in their interests. .
I leave you with a bit of me…
You SAY you’re unhappy?
You blame it on me?
I can’t make you happy,
you won’t listen to me!
Meanwhile, I found this song to be SO apropos today and the coming days/weeks of lawsuits, courts, judges, etc, etc, from the White House trying to get in the judicial doors in futility. Check it out…
Ob la di, ob-la-da, life goes on, BYE
La-la, how the life goes on
Ob-la di, ob-la-da, life goes on, BYE
La-la, how the life goes on
Sing BA, BA, BA, BA, BYE-BYE!!! 👋
I hate to say it, but no matter how you say it, the real divide in the American electorate is racial and sexist. Rural vs urban is essentially white and chauvinist (rural) vs multi-cultural and feminist (urban). Anti-choice, pro-2nd Amendment, and anti-tax are just proxies for racial and feminist resentments.
The problem is convincing white people that we are going to be okay as our demographics change when you have one of the major parties and their supporting media outlets fighting it tooth and nail or ruthlessly and cynically exploiting it for electoral and financial gain.
Using voter suppression as the major tactic of electoral success is inherently anti-democratic. It is impossible to have a functioning democracy when one of the two major parties is no longer democratic. Reaching across the partisan divide becomes nearly impossible when one side views the other as not being legitimate and refuses to abide by the outcome of elections.
Yes, there is a rural-urban divide, but it may not be the most salient way to look at it.
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I have to say that your perspective is a wise lens, an understanding that is based on the pure data/evidence! Now…
…how to address it and move forward with it is critical! Wouldn’t you agree? 🙂
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I’m working on a blog post right now that will address this issue. It is not a nice answer though. The web of lies and deceit that is necessary to maintain the highly convoluted cognitive dissonance of Trump supporters relies on social support or a group of people willing to repeat those lies and act as if they believe them. How do you undo that social support? That’s the question. Without undoing it, we must await an incident in the real world that is clearer, bigger, awfuler, and suddener than the #COVID19 pandemic to befall us to lay the treachery bare for all to undeniably see.
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Thanks for the thorough and evidence-backed analysis. It’s good to have numbers behind the claims of blue intellectual superiority. I’ve been reading a history of the French language–a good distraction last week when I tired of refreshing the AP electoral vote map. I came to a chapter on the French Revolution and learned that in its aftermath, the newly formed National Assembly undertook a survey of French citizens and learned that only about 10% spoke French well, even fewer could read and write. In addition, peasants living in rural areas supported the king while educated people living in cities, especially Paris and towns that were home to universities, supported the revolutionaries. Sound familiar?
So began an effort to build schools and unify the country under a single language. It was a long road. By WWII, 150 years later, almost all French citizens spoke French but for roughly half, French was still not their first language. It won’t be easy to convert U.S. red states to blue any time soon, even in our high-speed information age. Our changing demographics, i.e. a shrinking percentage of white males, seems to be our best hope for now.
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Excellent post professor.
The article I tried to link to over at the other blog is from the NYT magazine. The title is “How do you know when Society is about to Fall Apart”. I think you would enjoy it, if you can open it.
Also I’d be interested to see the link in all this, for religion and in particular the more right wing ones. Personally I think religion can cause much divide and harm, as in the “right” vs the wrong one…the old “my belief is better than yours.” And the difference in most of Europe in their rural areas, if it is as extreme, since Europe, in general, is far less religious and leans much more into democratic socialism than the US.
Less religion seems to promote cooperation and inclusion, in my view.
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Thank you Mary. And thank you for that NYT magazine article. I will see if it opens for me; hope so. 🙂
Your question about a correlation with religious beliefs and place of residence is an interesting one too. You said:
From my own (wasted) 11-plus years in the Christian faith, in seminary, in church ministries, missionary tours, and relentless study in Biblical exegesis, I can totally agree with you Mary regarding radical religious beliefs dividing and harming. Just read and interpret this simple New Testament passage:
“Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Is there ANY possible way to misinterpret that passage!? 😄 One door and one door only! One method and one method only! One man and ONE MAN ONLY! He/That is the ONLY way into eternal bliss and heaven. IOW, there is, as you correctly stated Mary, “my belief is better than yours” could not be more sharply dividing, exclusive, elitist, and extraordinarily arrogant as that (supposed) declaration from Yeshua bar Yosef (Jesus). 🤭🙄 Talk about divisive, huh? It’s damn well hateful on so many levels if you ask me!!!
Mary, you couldn’t be more spot on. You echo one of my favorite Naturalist and scientist (entomologist), Harvard University’s Dr. E.O. Wilson:
“Exclusion makes us suffer. Inclusion makes us thrive.”
— E.O. Wilson
And Mary, Dr. Wilson has learned that simple concept in ALL life on Earth from a lifetime career studying the insects and how they are able to not just thrive, but survive even the most horrendous catastrophes this Earth (and humans) can throw at them simply because of their hundreds of thousands of years performing Eusociality and Superorganism behavior! Wilson makes the easy step from insects to Homo sapiens that we humans are and will forever be PART OF the animal kingdom, for obvious reasons, and we too THRIVE in and with inclusion. It is not rocket science is it Mary? So I think your point is exceptionally made. 😉