Princeton University professor Robert Wuthnow (@RobertWuthnow), author of the book The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America, joined Ana (@anamariecox) this week to talk about his research. He and Ana began by exploring common misconceptions of rural America, and how rural Americans often conceive of themselves. Robert found a common theme among people: “Living here, in this place, we have a responsibility to do what we can to be a good neighbor, be a good citizen.”
Although he often found a perceived sense of “we-ness” within rural communities, that dynamic broke down when people shared their true opinions about things like marriage equality or a woman’s right to choose. Although many people held similar beliefs, the group was much less homogenous than they may have thought.
Ana asked Robert about how the group dynamic can change, and he explained that the boundaries of the groups get complicated, because the divide between us and them is never as obvious as people may think it is: “Within the community, people that they knew, the Hispanic family that lived down the block, and maybe they didn’t know very well but were part of the community, and the Muslim family that had moved in, or the Korean family that had the local restaurant, it was a matter of people having to negotiate the boundaries of who was in and who was out.”
Ana also asked whether Robert had foreseen the rise of Donald Trump (spoiler alert: he didn’t). Yet, he wasn’t surprised that people in rural America supported a Republican, as it merely continued a pattern established by the anti-abortion movement. He then discussed and dismissed the hypothetical that anti-abortion voters would vote for Democrats if Roe v Wade is overturned: “I tend to think the divide has been deepened, not just attitudinally but structurally, thinking about gerrymandering, and thinking about some of the changes having to do with campaign finances and all that… I have to imagine that the divide is going to continue.”
Then, former Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges (@BetsyHodges) joined Ana to answer a listener question about allyship from Teresa, a listener who joined them on the line.
You can find Robert’s book here.
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