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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not Bitter. Cynical.

As a former small town dweller, city councilman and mayor I understand what Obama was grasping to explain when  he opined why small town middle Americans are voting directly against their own interests. He thought "bitter" described their mood, but cynical is much more on target. Rural America has been slapped around quite regularly in the last century. Un-urban America is falling more and more out of the modern global economy. This decline  is a function of free markets in action. 

The county where I lived between 1975 and 1990 had an economy based on logging, mining, cattle and transfer payments (welfare). Mining played out and moved on. Logging was unsustainable at the rate being cut, and the trees ran out. The sawmill closed. Cattle ranching is still going strong, but employs few people in that the processing and marketing of the beef is done in a more urban setting. Transfer payments are problematic in that welfare reform has booted most of the old families that have been generationally dependent on the subsidy off the rolls. I make no judgement here. The Democrats who used to represent the area brought a Job Corps facility to the county and forrest service facilities that oversee the leasing of government lands to ranchers and sale of the diminishing timber stock. As the economy faded in the last half of the 1980s Republicans began to edge their way in by telling the voters that the source of all their problems was "government interference". Retirees moved in, with their general rejection of school taxes, and the schools deteriorated. The politicians campaigned on privatization of the schools. Parents fearing the problems of urban schools flee to rural America and start private schools that have forced prayer  and don't pollute their kids minds with evolution and sex education. Limbaugh preaches three hours a day to the faithful on the liberal roots of their problem. Things just get worse and cynicism prevails.

Give Barak Obama a break. His word usage was wrong, but he wasn't playing the Kabuki politics that requires no analysis or criticism. Rural Americans are the salt of the earth and no naysaying will be allowed.

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