Was Rural America Angry?

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Was Rural America Angry?

By Kim Vail, Executive Director, Photos by Steven Knudsen

Published December 1, 2016

Kim Vail

It has been very interesting to read about, watch and listen to events as they unfolded regarding the results from last month’s Election Day.  It has also been both somewhat understandable and equally disheartening to witness the level of unrest that accompanied the presidential results, but as anyone who has participated in the political system knows, elections tend to bring out the extreme differing positions on both ends of the political spectrum.  In so much as searching for a path forward, it is probably time well spent attempting to understand what may have been a reason the electoral map of the country turned out as it did.

By examining the electoral map, there are several indicators that the presidential election was not necessarily decided primarily by voters’ decisions about either candidate in particular, but rather on a wave of disillusionment and anger that was wide and, by many appearances, intensely felt on both ends of the political spectrum.  An enduring trend of coastal areas of the country being more progressive leaning than many areas throughout the rest of the nation remained in place, especially on the west coast. Additionally, the more urban and populace areas of the nation also tend to reflect this mindset. 

The indicators were present early on in the election cycle – the two primary candidates  that appeared to garner the highest level of excitement and energy were the candidates who positioned their campaigns as anti-establishment and professed to shake things up.  A USA Today exit poll revealed that two thirds of voters were either dissatisfied or angry about the operations of the federal government – those who were angry supported Mr. Trump 77 to 18; those who were dissatisfied supported Mr. Trump 49 to 45.

So who was angry? Those who regularly work with farmers and rural residents were not as surprised by the outcome. During the campaign, the opinions and attitudes of those not in urban areas were discounted and largely ignored. Most pollsters and reporters never ventured down county roads. While not all rural residents voted Republican, it was largely the rural vote that determined who won.  For the most part, rural America had been forgotten by the political elite of both parties, thus agricultural America felt forgotten and somewhat rejected.  Someone who could articulate the concerns of farmers and factory workers along with a message to shake up the federal government and those in charge was worth supporting.

There is still contention across the country dividing it racially, ethnically, by gender and may I suggest even urban vs. rural.  Our elected leaders need to reach across the aisle and come together to resolve the challenges we face.  A lesson learned is ignoring rural America can be a risky thing – at the ballot box and economically. Rural America has gotten attention but still needs to educate about who we are and what we want.  Farmers and ranchers are working overtime to provide a safe and sustainable food supply.  What we need is regulatory reform that builds farm businesses, not closes them down.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.