Lawmakers should look at citizens from cities AND rural areas as equals
I wrote last winter about the idea of a “rural elitism” taking shape across the nation and Wisconsin — that some individuals from rural areas believe their political beliefs and needs are more important than the beliefs and needs of people in cities and suburban locales.
My concerns with rural elitism aren’t so much that I believe city people are better or more deserving of attention. The needs of those who live out in the country should be addressed. And the Democratic Party, in Wisconsin particularly, ought to consider ways to reach out to voters who haven’t identified with them in recent elections.
But I do take issue with the idea that the cities should be ignored, or that the opinions of those in urban areas aren’t even worth discussing.
Recently while browsing through Twitter during the state Republican Party’s convention, I saw that GOP state Sen. Roger Roth made a very curious statement. According to the Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley, Roth warned that political history in the state would soon be written by “intellectual types who can’t even change a flat tire on their own car.”
That struck a nerve with me — I consider myself an “intellectual.” Though I would never claim to be the smartest person in the state, I do hold a college degree from a UW System school, and am very proud of that fact. I also know how to change a tire — this past winter forced me to change two, in fact — and to insinuate that intellectual types are somehow weak is something Roth should reconsider doing..@SenatorRoth says WI political history will soon be written by "intellectual types ... who can’t even change a flat tire on their own car."— Patrick Marley (@patrickdmarley) May 13, 2017
Belittling intellectuals is part of “rural elitism,” since intellectuals are more likely to live near city centers (that’s where Wisconsin’s four- and two-year universities generally are located). That isn’t to say there aren’t intellectuals in rural areas. There are plenty of college-educated individuals living outside of the cities.
|The farmer's market in Madison, Wisconsin. |
Image via Wikipedia.
Rural elitism prevents us from protecting the democratic wishes of the populace as a whole. President Trump, in fact, promotes the idea of the Electoral College specifically because it protects a rural elitism (coincidentally, his core voting base). The Electoral College, however, should be dismantled precisely because it pits the interests of one group of people above others, solely off of geographic location. A voter in Los Angeles, California, holds less sway than a voter in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It shouldn’t be that way: every voter in this country should have an equal voice when it comes to selecting the president.
I make frequent visits to rural areas in the state. On more than a handful of occasions, when I respond to people asking where I’m from, I’m told (through either visual cues or explicit rants) that Madison is a terrible place, and that people here aren’t “real.” Often, I’m told that we think we’re better than everyone else.
Some people in Madison probably do think that. And they’re wrong. But the people I’ve encountered in rural areas who scoff at Madisonians are wrong too. They are being elitists without even knowing it. And comments like Sen. Roth’s empower that kind of thinking to continue.
I have a better idea in mind: rather than encouraging a “conversational civil war,” why don’t we push for promoting both rural and city areas? City folk should understand the concerns of rural people, and tell lawmakers to support clean water, fund and increase internet access across the state, and find ways to help family farms stay in business. And rural folk should similarly stand behind increasing economic opportunities and reducing the effects of poverty for people in the cities.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other. And politicians like Roth should stop pretending it has to be.