Look at the Evidence

Readings from Heather Cox Richardson and Paul Krugman.

Facebook, Heather Cox Richardson, October 20, 2022 (Thursday)

A great thing about Richardson’s essays is that they are long sequences of solid paragraphs that explain history and issues. Not just sound bites and slogans shouted at the top of politicians’ voices. Also, she supplies her sources in the first comment to each post.

Here is a discussion of how Liz Truss, and her downfall, are like MAGA Republicans, and what they promise. It has 52,000 likes.

This same anti-immigrant, nationalist isolationism fed the rise of the MAGA Republicans. They joined with the supply-siders to create today’s Republican Party, and today’s illustration that their ideology cannot survive contact with reality sparked an astonishing leap to the right.

In The Federalist, senior editor John Daniel Davidson announced, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives.” “The conservative project has failed,” he wrote, “and conservatives need to forge a new political identity that reflects our revolutionary moment.” Western civilization is dying, he wrote, and to revive it, those on the right should “start thinking of themselves as radicals, restorationists, and counterrevolutionaries. Indeed, that is what they are, whether they embrace those labels or not.”

They should, he said, stop focusing on the free-market economics and supply-side principles of the Reagan years and instead embrace the idea of wielding government power as “an instrument of renewal in American life… a blunt instrument indeed.”


What Davidson is suggesting, of course, is indeed radical: it has most of the hallmarks of fascism.


Heather links her sources; Paul provides maps and charts.

NY Times, Paul Krugman, 21 Oct 2022: Wonking Out: Facts, Feelings and Rural Politics

The hard-right turn of rural America has become a key factor in our nation’s troubled politics. Rural voters are a declining share of the electorate, but their turn to the MAGAfied Republican Party has been so sharp that, combined with the way our political system underweights urban voters, the radicalization of small towns and the countryside may determine the future course of American democracy — indeed, may lead to its demise.

What’s causing this radicalization? Political scientists have found that rural Americans believe that they aren’t receiving their fair share of resources, that they are neglected by politicians and that they don’t receive enough respect. So it seems worth noting that the first two beliefs are demonstrably false — although I’m sure that anyone pointing this out will be denounced as another sneering member of the urban elite.

“The first two beliefs are demonstrably false” — that rural Americans believe they aren’t receiving their fair share of resources…

It’s been well-known for years that the blue states are in effect subsidizing the red states, and Krugman has a chart, showing that rural states get generally more federal spending than urban states.

The modern economy, with its growing focus on knowledge-intensive industries, tends to favor metropolitan areas with highly educated work forces. And highly educated workers also tend to prefer such areas, so the drift of economic opportunities away from small-town and rural America is a self-reinforcing process. Jobs, especially good jobs, are becoming scarce outside the big metros.

The decline in economic opportunity has, in turn, led to a loss of social cohesion. America has been experiencing a rising tide of “deaths of despair” — deaths caused by suicide, drugs or alcohol. Such deaths have gone up everywhere, but the biggest increases have happened in left-behind small-town and rural areas:

This time with a map showing deaths from drugs, alcohol, or suicide per 100,000 people, with the highest rates running in two swaths, one from Arizona to Montana, the other from Tennessee up to Pennsylvania.

While rural woes are real, however, it’s hard to see how supporting right-wing politicians makes sense as a response to these woes. Republicans in Congress have made it clear that if they take control, they will try to slash the safety-net programs that do so much to support rural America. On the other side, Biden administration actions, especially the subsidies associated with climate policy, represent a serious effort — one that has no G.O.P. counterpart — to bring jobs back to declining regions in the heartland.

Finally, do rural residents think that urban elites view them with disdain?

There’s surely some truth to this sense… On the other hand, small-town and rural Americans often trash-talk big cities, portraying them as crime-ridden hellholes, when the reality is that except in New England, homicide rates in 2020 were generally higher in more rural states:

Another chart, homicides vs. urban percentage. (Cue this item again.)

Yet, Krugman concludes,

The problem is that none of this may matter. When commentators call on Democrats to address rural needs, well, they’re actually doing that — certainly more than Republicans, who are preparing to pull the rug from under programs that rural areas depend on. When people call on urban elites to end their disrespect for rural Americans, well, perceptions about such disrespect may not have much to do with reality.

There have been many articles written about how Democrats need to reach out to rural voters, and of course they need to keep trying. But rural perceptions are so much at odds with reality, and rural America is becoming so monolithic politically, that it’s hard to imagine that they’ll have much success.

Believers gonna believe, and since they their beliefs are, no doubt, what is the phrase?, “sincerely held,” there’s no countering them with facts.

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