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In the News

US urban-rural divide

Mike McCartney

23rd May 2024

Yet more evidence that American democracy is in danger

I've posted on this site before about potential destabilization in the country that prides itself as being a beacon of democracy.

See earlier post here about Trump.

And this one about a new American Civil War.

Just this week, there was a reminder on Channel 4 News about the extreme polarisation between different groups on political and cultural issues. The report on the divide within the state of Oregon is here.

Questions on the video:

1. What is the main divide in Oregon that is causing tension?

2. How do rural communities feel about their representation in politics compared to urban areas?

3. Why do some conservatives in Oregon want to redraw state lines and join Idaho?

4. How does Matt McCaw view the idea of breaking away from Oregon to join Idaho?

5. What concerns are raised about further dividing states based on political beliefs?

6. Why does Matt believe that forcing people with polar opposite views to stay together is not productive for society?

7. What event in Bend celebrates cannabis culture?

Correct answers:

1. The main divide in Oregon is between rural conservative communities and liberal cities pushing a progressive agenda.

2. Rural communities feel that they lack a voice in politics compared to larger urban areas that dictate policies.

3. Some conservatives in Oregon want to redraw state lines and join Idaho because they feel more aligned with the values and lifestyle of Idaho.

4. Matt McCaw views breaking away from Oregon to join Idaho as a way to have politics that align better with the surrounding land and community.

5. Concerns are raised about further dividing states based on political beliefs leading to increased polarization and lack of compromise.

6. Matt believes that forcing people with polar opposite views to stay together will result in a constant power struggle rather than a healthy society.

7. The Homegrown Music Festival in Bend celebrates cannabis culture in Oregon.

There is more on the Greater Idaho Movement from CNN here. It would no doubt make an interesting US pressure group case study. Their weblink is here.

What's really fascinating is how this fracture between what in the UK we would call town and countryside is relatively recent. According to a recent research paper, until the 1996 Clinton v Dole election, urban and rural voters cast their ballots in pretty much the same way. But at subsequent elections rural voters have veered rightwards towards the Republican Party and rural voters have shifted left towards the Democrats, so by the 2020 Trump v Biden election, two thirds of voters in less built up areas went for Trump and just one third going for Biden. This by itself, the writers argue, should not give us cause to worry, but further research also indicates that rural voters are supportive of measures that are anti-democratic, such as placing restrictions on the freedom of the press. So, it is this combination of differences in policy preferences allied to intense partisanship that makes the rural-urban divide particularly dangerous to democracy. Read the full article by Mettler and Brown (2022) here.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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