Fault Lines: The Urban-Rural Divide in America (a History Talk podcast)

Fault Lines: The Urban-Rural Divide in America (a History Talk podcast)


Jessica Blissit: Welcome to History Talk, the podcast that brings together a panel of experts to discuss current events in historical perspective. I’m your host, Jessica Blisset. Brenna Miller: And I’m your other host, Brenna Miller. Today in the United States, about 85% of people live in areas defined as urban while 15% of the population are considered rural residents. In recent years, urban-rural distinctions appear to have intensified and relationships seem to have become more acrimonious than ever, as approaches to solving even common problems have diverged, and states like Washington and California have even explored the possibility of breaking up. Jessica Blissit: The growing rift between urban and rural areas was also on full display during the 2016 presidential campaign, which brought rural America into the national spotlight. While urban areas tended to be democrats, rural voters leaned republican and differentiated heavily from urban voters on issues like the economy, gun control, abortion and international trade — issues which helped to launch Donald Trump to power. Brenna Miller: Today on History Talk, we speak to three experts on the history of urban rural relationships, where their interests align and diverge, and how these divergences have changed over time, and what this all means for the future of America. Jessica Blissit: From Miami University, we have Dr. Stephen Conn, W. E. Smith, professor of history at Miami University specializing in 19th and 20th century American culture, cultural and intellectual history, urban history and public history. Dr. Steven Conn: Hi. Brenna Miller: And in the studio, we have with us Clay Howard, an assistant professor of history at The Ohio State University whose interests focus on the history of American cities and suburbs, sexuality and political history. Dr. Clay Howard: Hi, thanks for having me on again. Jessica Blissit: And finally, we also have Dr. Mark Partridge, C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University and a professor in the agricultural environment and development economics department, specializing in rural-urban relationships and interdependence. Dr. Mark Partridge: Thank you. Brenna Miller: Thanks for joining us today. So our first question, Clay, we’d like to direct to you. When we think of rural versus urban, we tend to think of farmhouses versus skyscrapers. Is this an accurate depiction of the past and present of U.S. demographics? Or is there a more useful way of thinking about us populations by residents? Dr. Clay Howard: Yeah, it’s a great question. And as you said in your intro, I do urban and suburban history. And I think it’s a meaningful distinction that there is an alternative to just city and rural that most Americans live in a suburb, defined in one way or another. Most voters live in suburbs in one way or another. I think most elections are fought and won or lost in the suburbs. And so I think that there are very real differences among urbanites, Brenna Miller: Can you maybe give us a little bit of a history of the suburbs? When did they first emerge? Is this a new demographic population? Dr. Clay Howard: Essentially, earlier cities, like in the 18th and early 19th century, were all walkable, I think like London in the 18th century had more people than present day Boston does. But you could walk from one end to the other in a couple of hours. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, more and more people have moved to the outskirts and that in the United States, in particular, wealthier people first left cities, and the federal government subsidized their movement outward after World War II. So the post war period is the the big boom in suburbanization in US history. Brenna Miller: Steve or Mark, anything to add? Dr. Steven Conn: Well, I guess I would just add to this, that part of what I think defines suburbs versus rural areas, or one of the ways that we can, that we ought to think about this is the relationship to that urban core. Those suburbs that Clay just mentioned, that begin to develop, let’s say, you know, with the advent of the automobile in the 1920s, and then really accelerating after the Second World War. Initially, those residential areas were tied really tightly, to the economic, cultural, the institutional framework, that were still in those urban cores. Later on, these suburbs would themselves develop employment opportunities, retail opportunities, and would become in some ways more autonomous, but that relationship between the suburb and the urban center, I think, is important to keep in mind. Dr. Clay Howard: Yeah. And then later their suburbs of suburbs of suburbs. Dr. Steven Conn: Right, exactly. Just keep sort of going on. Yeah. Dr. Mark Partridge: You know, from, from an economist point of view, we tend to look at it a little bit differently than say, what Clay or Stephen would and that in the sense that they’re focusing on cultural things, what defines people and say, how that affects what’s going on their community, in terms of how an economist looks at it is functionally what they’re doing. So say 100 years ago, it was reasonable. The distinction was, well, it’s farmland, its rural. You know, and people thought themselves as rural and they functionally acted rural in terms of how they were economically. And today, with, as Stephen noted, with automobiles and the advent of widescale commuting, that in terms of economic connections, cities’ influence spread out for, you know, for 10s of miles, in some cases, even a medium sized Metropolitan, like Columbus can go out nearly 100 miles in terms of its larger metropolitan area. So we tend to look at it, what are people doing? Are they functionally tied to the city in terms of their economic behavior, in terms of commuting, in terms of what they’re purchasing in terms of public service delivery? And that in terms of certain kinds of governance, like if we want to do economic development, we should do it for the entire region. That’s a fact itself? The way economists look at it, it’s less, less of a distinction in terms of what you would get culturally because they are so much integrated economically. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, that’s a good point. Jessica Blissit: Well, in the last few months, we’ve heard a lot about the conflicts between urban versus rural areas. What is the history of urban rural animosity? And what drives this animosity? Steve? Dr. Steven Conn: Well, you know, I would argue that the the urban rural tension, the animosity goes back, at least to the founding of the United States, and arguably into the 17th and 18th, centuries before as well. This is a nation that was founded by people who, for the most part, were deeply suspicious of cities. Thomas Jefferson, maybe the most flamboyant of these people arguing that cities were in one of his famous lines, that “cities were cancers on the body of the nation.” And he imagined a nation in which we would all be a self sufficient, independent Yeomen farmer. That, you know, again, I’m not certainly the only person who observe that, that sort of anti urban bias got into the political system, in the Constitution, and then in a variety of state constitutions as well. So I think this tension, this friction, these these animosities do go go way, way back. I think the first time they flare up in a politically significant way happens at the end of the 19th century, with the original populist movement, which grows out of the, you know, that the the economic crisis sees that, especially the Grain Belt, especially the Midwest and the Great Plains faced in the 1870s, and 80s, and it sort of all came to a head in the 1890s. And the populists as they moved into politics really framed their grievances against the urban financial centers, especially in New York, but, but others as well, those places where the were the ones that were bankrupting, and ruining the lives of the good honest farmers, which, after all, in that American mythology are the foundation of the nation. So that’s, as I said, that’s the first time this erupts into a politically significant movement. Dr. Clay Howard: You know, it’s funny, when you ask that question, all of the examples I can think of were late 19th, early 20th century. Once people left the populace, I thought of prohibition, this big backlash against immigration, and you know, saloons, and kind of working class cultures and industrial centers, which is why I think it’s important to make the point about the suburbs, and I bring it up not just to sort of nerd out about the suburbs, although they are they are really interesting, but that the periods we’re, the period we’re talking about are a period in which most Americans either were urban, or rural. And then in the late 20th century, most people do become suburban. So what’s interesting about the question is, to what degree to people in the late 20th century think of themselves as rural even when they’re not, right? Like, since there are relatively few people who actually live in rural areas, you said, 15%, I think? I’m more interested in the kinds of voters who have like, like country music, kind of trappings of some kind of rural imaginary that is, perhaps different from their commuting everyday existence. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah. And I guess, you know, I want to just add to what I said that even while, you know, we were creating a kind of national mythos of Yeomen farms and agricultural production, and so forth, the arrows that you described at the beginning, about about where people live and where they work has been pointed in the same direction from the 1790s onwards. That is to say, people have been moving toward the Metropolitan centers, since the very beginning of the nation. And so by the time of that populist political uprising of the late 19th century, one of the pivots that, going on at that moment, is that the total value of the manufacturing economy has eclipsed the value of the agricultural economy, for the first time in the nation’s history. And just yet again, those those those arrows are just going to continue to point in the same direction as more and more people and more and more economic activity gravitate to the Metropolitan hub. Dr. Mark Partridge: And I’ll just add to what Stephen just said is that, you know, taking it forward beyond say, the 1920s, another factor was technological change and farming and in mining, yet fewer, many fewer people were needed to produce more than ever. And so that set off just massive rural urban migration. And at some extent that mitigated this divide in the sense that couple generations ago, you always had your grandparents were still on out on the farm and there was still a lot of rural-urban connection among families so people could identify with each other. Now that rural urban migration is much more of a trickle in a relative sense. There’s less of that connection. And then one feature though, I’ll just say that that one won’t go away, but one it was kind of a temporary feature in rural America that came up in the election was rural America was hit by a perfect storm. It was the end of a commodity cycle of high agricultural prices, high energy prices. It was world manufacturing, which was the mainstay of many rural American communities beginning in the late 1960s, really struggling from international competition. And then even when you talk about the housing bust that really put an end to real estate booms, and ex-urban American and recreation, high amenity rural counties. So at least the latter one is more temporary, but that and a rural-urban migration, meaning there’s less connection within families between the two. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, that’s a really interesting point, I’ll just say personally, before I became a faculty member at Miami, I did teach along with Clay and Mark at Ohio State. And, and I would always ask in my classes, who here grew up on a farm, and very rarely with anybody raise their hand, because that really is no longer a part even in the state of Ohio, which we think of as a you know, and it is, an agricultural state with a big agricultural economy. They’re just fewer fewer people that have any kind of personal connection to that as, as Mark was just saying. Jessica Vinas-Nelson: So you guys are painting in more of an economic process. But what about the concept of “The Big Sort”? What is that? And do you think that has a role to play in this? Dr. Clay Howard: You’re referring to the book of the same, the same title? Well, so the idea for the idea is that over time, Americans have increasingly sorted themselves or been sorted by various processes into different demographic areas. You know, in my own research, in my own field of study, again, with housing markets and suburbanization is that increasingly, people are divided, not necessarily urban and rural, but there’s, you know, communities defined often by race, defined by class, income, as well as like, educational status, marital status, sexuality, and that over time, the growing number of various kinds of lifestyles that get marketed to people to people have means has, I think, really encouraged Americans to see themselves divided along a whole number of lines. Dr. Steven Conn: I think that’s a really interesting demographic observation. And I’m not sure how I myself just how much it plays into the conversation we’re having right now. Because part of what it’s predicated on, is, as Clay just mentioned, the idea that some people can afford to be mobile, and they can choose to go here or go there. And I think for some number of people in rural areas, at least some of these rural areas, economically, they’re either not able to simply pick up and move where they might want to go, or for a whole set of related reasons, family members, property ownership, right? They’re not quite as mobile, as the big sort thesis would lead you to believe. Dr. Clay Howard: I’ve not always convinced that we are the same thing as the definitions that marketers give us. Like, I think we often identify across whatever lines and boundaries that separate us. Dr. Steven Conn: That’s right. Yeah, that’s a good point. Brenna Miller: Alright, so to kind of go back a little bit to the theme of migration, can we get a little bit of an idea, again, of the history of migration and America? And then also with the demographic landscape gradually trending towards urbanization and metropolitanization, does this ultimately mean the death of rural or non-metro America? And if so, should we care about that? And why? Dr. Mark Partridge: Well, that’s a that’s a great question. And I think one of the stereotypes that’s out there about rural America is that it’s all, to completely in decline. It’s completely stagnating, there’s no hope for it. And that really is an overstatement in the sense that rural America is really diverse, in that there’s three kinds of rural America in a simple fashion: [1] those that are near urban, that have some urban economic opportunities, stay through commuting, [2] those in high amenity areas that have been actually growing and doing very well. [3] And then you have more remote, tend to be commodity dependent areas, say picture the Great Plains, in particular. So you know, in that sense, you know, these these store, one common story about rural America is too much of an oversimplification. In terms of migration patterns, it was exclusively as Stephen and Clay said, it’s exclusively rural to urban. Say, you know, through most of the 20th century, up until the 1970s. And then there was this, was a big U turn that some people call it, where, suddenly since the early 1970s, on average, not every year, and right now we’re in a little bit of a negative period, on average, it’s about equal people moving from urban to rural. And a lot of that is they’re moving to high amenity areas that will, oftentimes relatively wealthy urbanites. So the point is, it isn’t just one story of decline that you might get, say, out of the New York Times. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, Mark, I really appreciate that three part taxonomy because that I hadn’t really put it like that before. But that really clarifies a lot of the things that, that I’ve been observing and not quite making sense of. So I think that’s really useful. You know, I wrote a piece, a short little op-ed piece a couple of weeks ago, in which I described the rural America as the new inner city. And what I meant by that was that 40 years ago, in the 70s, and even into the 80s, we talked about urban America, especially that inner city America as a place of economic crisis and despair, which then led to all kinds of other social pathologies, breakdown of families, drug addictions, and so on and so forth. And that’s, of course, the way in which we’ve been describing certainly parts of Appalachia, parts of the Great Plains, Midwest, etc, with with the opioid addictions and whatnot. So I don’t know if the analogy is any good, but I was just sort of playing with it. And I guess one of the things that I wonder about, that’s not the story, we’re telling about urban America anymore, right? We’re in a period where we’re talking about an urban Renaissance, at least in certain places. And so you want to ask yourself, how did that come about? What, what were the foundations, the building blocks? That turned cities like Boston and New York, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh around? And what could you imagine in these more struggling parts of rural America? What’s there to build on? And and I guess one of the things that I find, politically, a little ironic is that for cities, at any rate, one of the stories of that Renaissance is immigrants. In fact, there’s a new book out and edited collection of essays on this topic about immigrants to cities in the 70s, and 80s, and how they really help stabilize economically and in other ways, urban neighborhoods and so forth. And this is, you know, it’s in Miami, it’s in Boston, it’s in Washington, DC. Well, you know, parts of rural America, large parts of rural America really identified themselves as anti-immigrant, xenophobic, whatever it is that you want to call it. And it’s not clear to me that, you know, you’ll attract in migration, that way, in the way that cities were able to do so and benefit hugely in the last quarter of the 20th century. Dr. Clay Howard: The thing that unites the two places, right is a kind of middle class to wealthier discourse about poverty. The thing that unites the urban discourse with the rural discourse is usually a set of wealthier people looking at a poor area trying to diagnose what’s, what’s wrong. And I think that the urban discourse is actually still present, because cities are not just places of the Renaissance. They’re also places of extreme inequality. So they kind of exist alongside each other. But the thing that Steve’s comment makes me think of, and your question, actually, and you asked about migration, I was thinking, “Well, yeah, there’s people who move, but also sort of capital.” And you know, one of the things in this discussion is that you were talking about rural areas, but a lot of rural area areas, industrialized, in the 60s, 70s, 80s, as like car manufacturers moved to places like Kentucky and South Carolina and Oklahoma. And if I haven’t done like a study honest, my sense is that a lot of the places that are that are really hurting economically that we’re talking about, have de-industrialized, right? So it’s like a another cycle and a process that was going on in cities in the 50s, 60s and 70s, that that’s also hitting smaller cities. Dr. Steven Conn: And let me let me jump on that claim and bring up a point that Mark made a few moments ago. I think that’s right, when you go to a place like Connersville, Indiana, which by the 60s had, had the nickname The little Detroit, because it had these car manufacturers that had moved out, right? This was part of that first wave of deindustrialization in the urban centers. And now all of those kinds of the small factory operations have closed in Connersville and it’s really struggling. But, but Mark’s point as well, is, is the way in which agriculture has continued to industrialize. And I was just looking at some numbers from the state of Iowa. And I’m going to get these approximately right, if not exactly right, but 25 years ago, there were something on the order of 60 or 70,000, pig farmers in the state of Iowa. And now there are fewer than 10,000. And that’s because of the consolidation into, yes, we call them factory farming. So what happened in the grain, grain production, you know, and let’s say in the first half of the 20th century, even has happened now increasingly in animal production, and you just need fewer and fewer people. So that industrialization process of the agricultural economy has also just meant fewer people have jobs. You know, that’s what it ultimately comes down to. Brenna Miller: Mark? Dr. Mark Patridge: In terms of it today, looking at it today, saying the death of rural America would have some real consequences for urbanites. A lot of urbanites tend to put a lot of weight on environmental issues, clean environment, recreation, and if rural America really suffers, one of the consequences of that is what you’re seeing, say, in coal country. Well, let’s get rid of all these regulation, let’s try to get any any kind of economic opportunity, regardless of the cost. And that’s going to have real consequences for urban America as rural America is the shepherd for most of our environmental areas. Dr. Steven Conn: And even, you know, even as the demographics shift, and so I’m bringing up a point I made earlier, there are certain kinds of political structures, that mean rural America will still demand to be heard, if you know what I mean. Jessica Blissit: So even though so many people live in metro areas, is there a rule bias baked into political system? For example, California has 38 million people, and Wyoming only has 600,000. And yet they have the same representation in the US Senate. How and why did rural voters get so much power? And is this fair? Dr. Steven Conn: I would just say that it does go back to the founding assumptions that the framers of the Constitution had. So the idea that you would give these more or less artificial, political jurisdictions, that is to say state boundaries, equivalent representation in the Senate is a way of guarding against, and the founders were very scared of this, guarding against the influence of popular majorities. Those founders were pretty suspicious of democracy in the way that we think of it. They really think that the majority ought to rule, which is why they created the system that they did, with the Senate, the electoral college. And I guess I would only add to this, that those biases also got translated into the states themselves when they set up their own systems of representation and voting in districts. You know, there’s a famous Supreme Court case from the middle of the 20th century, which is really the first time that jurisdictional boundaries were challenged on the basis of the fairness of representation. And it came out of the state of Illinois, you know, something like 50% of the state population, at that point lived in Cook County, which is Chicago, and it’s ended suburb. And Cook County had something like 10% of the representation at the statehouse in Springfield, because those boundaries had been drawn early in the 20th century to reflect the way the population was then. And they had not been changed, though the demographics had changed dramatically. So both at the national level ended individual state levels, I think you see these biases against the large concentrations of people, right? That’s, that’s what that’s what the founders were afraid of. Jessica Blissit: In the case of Chicago, is there a racial component there as well? Because the black population of Chicago was tripling at this time. Dr. Steven Conn: My own sense is that it’s not initially racial, because when when Chicago really first begins, the population of Chicago really begins to explode. It’s really European immigrants of one kind, and another, and then African Americans second. So the system of boundary drawing in those legislative districts, I think, predates the arrival of African Americans in large numbers. That’s my sense of it, but I could well be wrong about it. Dr. Clay Howard: I have a couple things on that that I mean, I think that a lot of Americans in the late 19th and early 20th century thought of immigrants racially, right, there was an Italian race and Irish race. So race matters in that way. But I also know, I don’t know the specifics of it, but there’s a court case out of Georgia where rural voters were over represented in the state legislature and in Congress, I think, and that was one of the ways in which the white supremacists and the Democratic Party kept control of the state and kind of marginalized African American voters. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, a court case last year that, well, it made it to the Supreme Court last year, which came out of Texas, which was challenging. Now, there’s this assumption that we have about one person one vote, yeah, because what this case claimed out of Texas was that it should only be one voter, one vote, which would have again, reduced the census populations in areas with large numbers of children with large numbers of unregistered immigrants, etc, etc, which was a way again, of trying to swing the representational pendulum back towards less populated areas. Now, the Supreme Court actually ruled eight to nothing on that one against the folks from Texas, but it’s still there, right? I mean, that this, this question of how we represent ourselves, and the way in which rural America has has sort of gotten over representation is still out there. Dr. Mark Partridge: And I’ll just to add to spring it up until today, in terms of with this little bit of a rural bias baked into the system already, then you throw in modern geographic information technology that can just delineate representation lines, you know, districts very perfectly. It is, you know, in the last 20 years, this is this, this bias is now increased because of these reasons. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, that’s right, the micromanaging of all of this has become, it’s a precision science now. Brenna Miller: So when we typically think of rural areas, there’s kind of a long list of issues that we think affects them, things like employment, and healthcare. Are these issues in those rural areas as serious as they’re often being depicted? And is how we address those issues different in those different places? Dr. Steven Conn: So you know, poverty is poverty, and there is rural poverty, and there is urban poverty. And there are all kinds of ways those phenomena and experiences are different. But, but poverty is poverty. One of the things that I think is is useful to remember is that the poorest places at least measured in, in just sort of those gross terms like like average income and whatnot, the poorest places in America now are all rural counties. Which again, is not to is not to say that urban America is just thriving, and so forth. There are plenty of desperately poor areas in urban centers. But, but I think the problem you get when you think about rural poverty is the larger context in which people have to live that experience services, schools, and access to jobs and things like that. When you’re in an urban environment, the chances are, you do have access to some kind of healthcare institutions pretty easily. When you’re in a rural area, you may have to go for a long time before you can find medical help. There are areas and Mark probably knows this better than I do, areas, let’s say out in the Great Plains where where kids are commuting two hours in each direction to go to school, because the density of school children is so light, that that’s the catchment area now. So as I said, the experience of poverty is different in some ways because of the access that people do or don’t have to all kinds of other institutions. Dr. Clay Howard: Then also part of that is competition. And one of the things that I found interesting, I should, I should footnote, Sarah Kliff and Ezra Klein at “Vox.” One thing I found really interesting that they were talking about is, why are so many rural voters against Obamacare. And one of the realities is that there’s no competition in certain counties and places like Kentucky, and so you’ll get one ensurer or one hospital chain that essentially controls whatever, you know, healthcare there is in the area. And then they are facing higher premiums and deductibles and so forth, which is one reason why people on the left wanted a public option, but without the public option. There’s no competition. Brenna Miller: Mark, I want to make sure we get you on here. Dr. Mark Partridge: Well, I think Steven and Clay raise some really important points, I’ll just kind of reiterate one of them, and that is that the key disadvantage rural areas face is that in a city, if you’re going to have business or government services, there’s this tremendous advantage. Your customers are there. Your suppliers are there you have lower transportation costs, businesses are just going to do better in urban areas. So that puts, already puts rural areas at a disadvantage, economically. And then, secondly, in terms of public service delivery, as noted, there just isn’t the population density for a wide variety of public services, another area that puts especially poor, rural households at a disadvantage. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, exactly. I agree entirely with that. Brenna Miller: So did that in part play a role in the recovery from the recession in 2008? Dr. Mark Patridge: I would say no, I mean, in the sense that rural America, you know, a lot of forces came together. And you know, more factors more like the end of the housing boom, which affected ex-urban development and far high amenity areas, things like a decline in manufacturing in rural areas, which is, though some of the things we said is true, but also relates to you know, if you’re low cost manufacturer, you can’t compete if you’re in the United States, with the low cost countries Dr. Steven Conn: You raised in the introduction, that part of the way people’s anger got, or frustrations got focused, was over international trade agreements in this last election, and, and so Donald Trump has pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and recently he’s now threatening either to pull out over to renegotiate NAFTA. And I guess one of the things that I find perplexing about that is that, is the phenomenon of Walmart, which built the world’s largest retail operation and I think maybe the world’s largest single largest employer, corporate employer at any rate, mostly in rural America. And doing so by delivering tremendously low prices, but arguably, with some real damaging consequences to the business environments in those areas where Walmart shows up. Main Street gets shut down, because Walmart got built on the end of the bypass. And now that’s everywhere everybody’s shopping. But of course, Walmart, built that empire on Chinese imports. And so rather than turning the sort of people’s anger towards Walmart, for what it has done to the ecology of businesses in rural areas, people have somehow blamed China for it. Does that make sense? I’m, I’m just as I said, just sort of thinking about this a lot recently, and I’m not sure myself what I what I’m going to make of all of that. Dr. Clay Howard: I followed you. Jessica Blissit: On that note, you guys already raised the issues of Obamacare, and international trade agreements, all things that were very prominent in the 2016 election. Many of the republican appeals to voters were designed to appeal specifically to rural voters. But paradoxically, many of these proposals could actually hurt rural voters. Is this the case? And is there a precedent for this in US history? Dr. Steven Conn: Is there a case for people voting against their economic self interest? Sure. It’s called the American South from 18, you know, 65, to, to the present, where time and time again, you know, certain, let’s say, certainly during the segregation era, white voters were the only ones who had access to the polls, were consistently more concerned with preserving that system of racial segregation than they were with the kinds of, you know, bread and butter economic questions that we think, drive or ought to drive voter behavior. So you know, people in Mississippi have been voting against their economic self interest for 100 years, for 150 years. Dr. Clay Howard: Well, maybe it’s important to distinguish between, are people voting in their self interest, or do people think they’re voting and their self interest. And I don’t even know, the other thing that fascinates fascinates me so much about the Affordable Care Act in rural areas is that if there really is no competition, then it’s not surprising that a lot of people are are angry at the healthcare system in general, and voting to try and change it can have a progressive meaning as well as a kind of conservative one and tear it down. That, you know, when people vote for Trump or a Republican who says they’re going to do away with the Affordable Care Act, what does that mean? Right? I mean, it may mean the kind of little words of someone like Mitch McConnell or it might mean someone who just hopes for something better. Dr. Mark Partridge: I’ll just follow what Steven said is that I think a lot of it is this is yes, people are voting against their economic interests. And indeed, the skinny budget the Trump administration put out is going to be, you know, cuts a lot of programs that were for Rural Economic Development. But as Stephen said, I think what we’re missing what that that stereotype is missing, is that people have other interests in particular rural areas. Yeah, very traditional. They do, I mean, a stereotype, they don’t want change in that sense. And there’s been a lot of social changes in the last 15 years in the US. I think a lot of those urges, just they just want things to slow down. Dr. Steven Conn: I think that’s a really important point is that people define their self interest in all kinds of ways. And I think a lot of us somehow think that just, well we go back to Bill Clinton, right, “It’s the economy, stupid,” his campaign slogan of 92. For a lot of people, it just isn’t, or it’s it’s not the only thing I think that’s important to grasp too. Brenna Miller: Well so for our last planned, question here, kind of go right to the jugular, and ask about what affected the urban rural divide and your feeling had on the 2016 election? Dr. Clay Howard: I have, like a lot of thoughts on that. And I’ll try and keep it short. But I think that Americans, whatever that means, like a story about two America’s. We’ve been talking about the other America, the other side of the divide for decades, if not generations. The blue state, red state, and when I hear or read in like the New York Times the story about rural America and how Trump was fueled by kind of an angry white, rural, male voter, there’s, there’s got to be some truth to that. But I also, I also think it’s more complicated. And maybe at my comment would be about making it more complicated. And the point out that Clinton won the suburbs nationwide, but Trump won the suburbs in the kind of key states of Ohio, Michigan. And so for Delaware County, which is just north of Columbus here, and it’s a heavily suburban County, he won 57,000 votes, which is more than five or six of some of the rural counties combined. And he won by 17,000 votes, which exceeds most of, not all of the the differences in the rural area. So, and that’s just counting this the suburbs of Columbus, not Cincinnati, or Dayton, or Cleveland. So on some level, we have to be talking about people other than rural voters who supported Trump. Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah. There’s your pitch again for suburban history, isn’t it? Dr. Clay Howard: Yeah, sorry. I mean, it is! Dr. Steven Conn: Yeah, right. Dr. Clay Howard: That’s interesting. Brenna Miller: Mark? Dr. Mark Partridge: I was just going to say that, there was, I think a lot of that, a lot of that is true, that rural areas get, disproportionately vote for Trump, even relative to the past. However, there were a lot of things that were really going on in rural America that they would, they wanted a different party in there, that things weren’t very good. So I don’t want to over exaggerate the rural urban divide, but there’s definitely something there. And then the other thing is, is that some of the cultural and non-economic issues that were very appealing to rural Americans had, had somewhat in certain places, it was noted, had some appeal in suburban America, as well. And so between those two, he had a fantastic political strategy, Dr. Steven Conn: So depending on, I can’t decide myself whether it is a harbinger or whether it was just a fluke. And let me start with the fluke first. I think you can make the case that losing the popular vote by almost 3 million, by winnning the electoral college by a grand total of 77,000 vote strategically in 3 states, it’s just the luckiest presidential campaign in American history. And in that sense, there’s not too much to be made of this, or we shouldn’t make too much of this. I think when Mark mentioned a moment ago that rural Americans tend to be a ltitle more suspicious of certain types of social change, they’re a little more resistant to it, I think that a lot of thsoe kinds of voters, and I don’t think they’re all just rural as Clay pointed out, you know, going from the first black president to the first woman president was simply more than they could swallow. And so they either stayed home or they voted for Trump just because they weren’t gonna vote for a woman. And I have to say, in my own you know sort of campaign volunteering, I heard that a number of times, that they just weren’t gonna vote for “that woman.” The flipside, you know, is that if this is a harbinger, what I am a little struck by, and this is apropos of some of what we’ve been talking about, between 1865 and 2000, there were two presidentail elections in which the winner of the popular vote did not wind up as the president. Now we’ve had that twice in 16 years. So I begin to wonder, again, because of some of the ways our system is structured, whether this might not be the increasingly common experience for Americans, where candidates are gonna win huge majorities in places like New York and California and they’re gonna wind up losing the presidency because of voters in less populated, more rural states. And I’m not sure. But I find that a little disconcerting. Yeah, fair enough. I you know, as I said, this, this one turned on 77,000 votes, which is, which is certainly a lot less than 15% of the total. So yeah, I don’t know, as I said, I just think you can now look at these electoral maps in such a way as to make it sort of easier and easier to see that we can continue to have split between the electoral college victory and the popular vote victory. Jessica Blissit: Okay, well, any final thoughts? Dr. Clay Howard: I had one that I was I was thinking about when you guys asked me about this podcast, most states including Ohio, fund schools locally. Like state, the state itself, redistributes some money to different school districts, but most of it comes through property taxes of one kind or another. And one of the kind of interesting things that’s been happening in places like Pennsylvania, rural school districts have teamed up with urban school districts against wealthier suburban school districts to force the General Assembly of the governor to give more money to underfunded schools. And so when we think about the political future, I mean, it’s Pennsylvania and several other states where this, this has happened that there might be some kind of unexpected bedfellows in future political coalitions. Jessica Blissit: An urban-rural alliance against the suburbs? Dr. Clay Howard: Yeah, sometimes sometimes. Yeah. Dr. Steven Conn: So this has also happened Clay, exactly around this issue in Michigan and Ohio, and maybe other places that I don’t know about, but I think you’re quite right, because, again, some of the most impoverished school districts are precisely located in rural places where they where they just can’t raise the kind of tax revenues that you can raise, say, in Delaware County, Ohio. Dr. Clay Howard: Yeah, the place in Pennsylvania is called, or the the group is called Campaign For a Fair Education in Pennsylvania. And they, they won a big victory last year. Dr. Steven Conn: I’ll just, my last thought would be, kind of more consistent with Clay’s, area of expertise, is one of the things we were going through looking at the vote, and one of the things that we found is if you look at all metropolitan areas, that were counties that were urban in 1950, they voted heavily for Hillary Clinton. But as you as you look at like the ones that became urban, say, in the 60s and 70s, and 80s, and 90s, then the 2000s, the more recent they became urban, the more and more they’re voting for Donald Trump. And indeed, by the time you get out the most recent additions to urban America in terms of counties that were added to metropolitan areas, they looked identical to rural America. So in some sense, Oh, that’s fascinating. Dr. Mark Partridge: There’s this you know, the longer you’re in urban areas, at least was correlated associated with how you voted, voted in the last election. Dr. Steven Conn: I’m sort of seeing of kind of fading color spectrum from dark blue to light blue, to light red, to dark, you know, as you as you move to geographically. That’s really interesting. Brenna Miller: Well, thank you to our three historians, Dr. Steve Conn, from Miami University specializing in 19th and 20th century American cultural and intellectual history, urban history and public history. Dr. Clay Howard an assistant professor of history at The Ohio State University, who focuses on the history of American cities and suburbs, sexuality and political history, and Dr. Mark Partridge from the Ohio State University, a professor in the agricultural environment and development economics department, specializing in urban rural relationships and interdependence. Jessica Blissit: For more on this topic, see Steve Conn’s article for Origins, “From Fat Cats to Eggheads: The Changing American Elite.” Thanks, everyone. This episode of History Talk podcast was brought to you by Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, an online publication of the Public History Initiative, and the Goldberg Center in the History Department at The Ohio State University in Columbus and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Our main editors are Steve Conn and Nicholas Breyfogle. Our executive producer is David Staley, our audio and technical advisor is Paul Kotheimer, our audio producers and hosts are Brenna Miller and Jessica Blissitt. Song and band information can be found on our website. You can find our podcast and more on our website origins.osu.edu, on iTunes and on SoundCloud, and as always, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for listening.

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