LOCAL PERSPECTIVE | City Mouse, Country Mouse
by Seth Cagin
Nov 22, 2012 | 3294 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Older, less educated, more Christian, whiter: Romney. Younger, more educated, more secular, more diverse: Obama.

Obvious, right? All of the post election polls point to these conclusions.

Here’s another way to look at it. Rural: Romney. Urban: Obama. Or, states with a bigger urban population than a rural one: Blue. States with a bigger rural population than an urban one: Red.  

For example, George is bright red, but Atlanta is deep blue and growing faster than the rest of the state. New York State has plenty of red rural areas, but New York City trumps them. And in Colorado, it is the growth of the Denver area, and especially the increasingly urban character of suburban counties, notably Jefferson County, that has tilted the state blue.

I have lived in New York and L.A., and have lived in a small town, Telluride, for the last twenty years, although Telluride has many of the characteristics of an urban area, including strong support for Obama.  But I have done a lot of work recently in Montrose, hardcore Romney country.  

The trends seem inexorable to me: As the country becomes increasingly urban, it becomes less conservative.

Urban life teaches liberalism. When you live in a city, you appreciate public services: reliable mass transit, fire and police forces, safe and clean parks, orderly land use planning, and all sorts of regulations to keep the place humming. And you learn to live close to people who don’t look like you and may not have the same sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. You eat a lot of ethnic food and recognize that one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.  

When you live in a rural place, you learn that you can’t really depend on government for much support. Instead, when times are tough, you have to count on family, friends and church. And mostly you live among people who look and think pretty much like you do.  

The urban-rural divide is made all the greater because those who don’t like the interdependence required by city life, but find themselves living in a city, migrate to the country just as soon as they can afford to. Those who don’t like the lack of cultural diversity and public services characteristic of the country move to cities. Mostly people move to cities because that is where they find economic opportunity, and where they may quickly become liberalized. In the country, the lack of economic opportunity may add more fuel to stereotypical conservative resentment of alleged “elites.”

Of course, generalizations this sweeping are especially invidious, and there are countless exceptions to these tendencies, even if they are generally true.

Still, it’s plain to see that many of our rural friends and neighbors, here in the Western San Juans and across the country, were shell-shocked by Obama’s second-term victory.  Historically, Americans have long romanticized country life and have been skeptical of urbanity. But the frontier has now been settled.  

And so for the country mouse, there’s something not right, something that doesn’t compute, in the reality that rural values of self-reliance, religious faith and hard work did not carry the election. For the city mouse, it is equally obvious that America can and will modernize into a nation that, yes, is younger, more diverse, less religious and more educated. In a word, a country that is more urban.

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