How's Your Hearing?

A sociologist talks to rural voters for eight years. His results?
Robert Wuthnow
They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington’s interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

Sean Illing
But that’s just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact.

Robert Wuthnow
I don’t disagree with that.


Sean Illing
I’m still struggling to understand what exactly these people mean when they complain about the “moral decline” of America. At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?

Robert Wuthnow
It’s an interesting question. What does it mean for us to take that seriously?


Sean Illing
Which is why I’d argue that the divide between rural and urban America is becoming unbridgeable. We can talk all we like about the sanctity of these small communities and the traditional values that hold them together, but, as you say, many of the people who live in these places hold racist views and support racist candidates and we can’t accommodate that.

Robert Wuthnow
Yes, this is one of the most difficult aspects of the discussion we’re now having about morality in America. What counts as moral varies so much from place to place. In the South, for example, you have clergy who are vehement about abortion or homosexuality, and they preach this in the pulpits every Sunday. But then they turn a blind eye to policies that hurt the poor or discriminate against minorities.

Sean Illing
I know a lot of people who don’t live in rural America are tired of being told they need to understand all these resentments.
I'd have thought you'd have had to have worked harder at something before it tired you out.

Sounds like they've got their candidate for 2020 all lined up, though. She, at least, sees the world just the very same way that they do.


Anonymous said...

Shrillary: Still Fit As A Fiddle

Watch the video.

and thank God for the blessings he bestows on America.


Stephen said...

He may have talked to them for eight years, but he certainly wasn't listening.

Tom said...

Well, he already knew why they did everything before he went. He just needed data to fill out his theories and gain academic capital for them.

Dad29 said...

'Can't understand the reasoning behind moral decline...'


Well, no further discussion will be useful.

Anonymous said...

I went to the article, and I swear I lost 10 IQ points reading it.


J Melcher said...

What I see is intolerance.

Rural people, it seems to me, are willing to put up with all sorts of urban behaviors they might deplore, while Urban people are nowhere near as willing to reciprocate. Very few small town churches muster a busload of protesters to picket the annual San Francisco Folsom Street Gay Pride parade; nor does one newcomer to San Francisco, finding herself surprised and aghast at the local custom, make national headlines or TV appearances denouncing the participants. On the other hand, one drifting urban snowflake can draw national attention -- condemnation -- to a small town Christmas Nativity Scene, or a WWI era "Cross" in the cemetery, or the process of local parent citizens assisting teachers and administrators in reviewing public school textbooks before approval to purchase several hundred for use the next three years.

The current dispute about "Gerrymandering" makes it worse. Consider a hypothetical rectangular state that has one central, modern, "progressive" urban area at the crossroads of the interstates comprising half the state's population, is otherwise rural, and qualifies for 4 seats in the US House of Representatives. If the district-mapping authority quarters the city diluting the urban vote (creating 4 districts of comparable population size, each about 50/50 Urban/Rural) the area accustomed to the traditional moral and civic virtue of turning out and voting will generally dominate every election.

Let me make that explicit: A perfectly fair districting process will have a biased result in favor of rural, traditional-value, voters. This because they value voting more than neo-transgressive-counter-culture citizens. In the alternative, in order to create a perceptually "balanced" outcome -- two representatives for the urban population, and two for the rural -- the state will necessarily be gerrymandered in some fashion to create districts that are assigned a larger percentage of urban voters who are less likely to actually vote. It's necessary to "pack" districts and create "Safe Seats" for the counter-cultured. And in the recent, Hillary Clinton, revealed worldview, the counter-culture, progressive urban area that has the higher economic activity (as Bobby Kennedy noted, government productivity metrics include the wages of prison guards but not the value of stay home moms; the purchases made with food stamps but not the gardens grown in the backyards...) SHOULD, by right of dollar value, be assigned MORE weight or more districts. The whole "Electoral College" idea of balancing small states and large states and rural and urban and North and South -- according to Hillary -- was the old-fashioned nonsense that cost her the presidency she deserved and was by-gahd destined to hold.

But my saying so is "... just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact."

douglas said...

Since they never valued what we have (had?), how can they understand the sense of loss many of us feel? It's completely alien to them.

The concern, of course, is that if we are unreconcilable, the possible futures are not offering too many good paths forward.

Texan99 said...

It's surprisingly difficult to get a guy like that to consider how he decides which moral issues deserve attention. He's been brought up to believe that relieving poverty is the only important standard--even though he doesn't believe it enough to do it himself rather than tax other people to accomplish it at no obvious cost to himself. But he probably can't even imagine that anyone feels a moral dilemma over the conflicting standards of "leave people alone to make their own important moral choices" and "stop people from killing infants even if their own moral philosophy allows them to think of the infants as mere fetsuses." So all he sees is a bunch of knuckle-draggers who resent a moral drift that he has no understanding of, because they believe in spanking.

RonF said...

"At one point, you interview a woman who complains about the country’s “moral decline” and then cites, as evidence, the fact that she can’t spank her children without “the government” intervening. Am I supposed to take this seriously?"

I was confused upon reading this, and the article itself isn't clear to me either. Take what seriously? The concept that it's moral to spank one's children, or the concept that doing so will invite government intervention?

jaed said...

My guess is that he regards spanking as either obviously immoral or obviously trivial, and has no idea whatsoever that "having the government in your face about every interaction with your children, potentially forcibly removing them if a functionary disapproves of your childraising technique" might be something that has a moral dimension. Either directly or by implication. It's a foreign thought.

Ymarsakar said...

Comes from thinking they evolved from monkeys.

Given the inherent learning rate of crows and parrots and other bird brains, this whole macro evolution concept that INT came from brain size and ape evolution is not something scientism wants to talk about.