Let’s pretend you’re a hard-working urbanite or suburbanite. You commute five days a week, breathing fumes from the traffic-clogged highways. You fight for parking spaces. You deal with long lines at the grocery store and post office. And you long to breathe the clean fresh air and experience the slower pace of rural life.
Finally you snap. Something happens that makes you think, “Enough! It’s time to get out of here!” You throw a suitcase into the car and talk your family into a weekend getaway at a rural bed-and-breakfast, to test the waters and see how you might like country life.
Fresh and eager, you drink in the lovely sites: cows placidly grazing in a field, maples arching over the gravel roads and dropping a carpet of colorful leaves, shocks of corn tied picturesquely to gateposts. Gosh, it doesn’t get any better than this.
So, full of hope and promise, you chuck it all and move to the country. It doesn’t take you long to realize you neglected to consider one important aspect of rural living:
The stupid hicks are all politically conservative, dammit.
I know this thought makes you wince in pain, but it’s true. The vast, vast majority of rural and small-town America will not agree with your prevailing liberal urban attitudes. And unless you happened to choose a location that already has a lot of urban transplants – meaning, they’ve overrun the natives – chances are high you’ll never see eye-to-eye with the locals.
I’ve seen this happen numerous times. Folks will buy their little piece of rural paradise and then realize with a shock of dismay that their neighbors have guns and like to use them (and even sport license plate frames lauding their support of that horrid Second Amendment). Our urban transplants begin to wonder if they will EVER have anything in common with their rural neighbors. Adjectives start to drop from their lips, adjectives such as “redneck” and “rube.” Say what you will about the characteristics of city people, they are seldom referred to as rubes, much less rednecks.
When pressed to explain what, precisely, defines a “redneck,” an urbanite will start to stutter a bit as he refines his thinking. A lack of higher education, blue-collar occupations, a penchant for large families, church attendance, and gun ownership all seem to be contributing factors.
But above all – and most annoyingly – a redneck is almost always associated with a conservative political philosophy. “Redneck” and “conservative” are as entwined as bacon and eggs. Bread and butter. Organic whole-grain oat cereal and raw milk from “happy” cows.
Because good urbanites, you see, wouldn’t be caught dead being conservative. They’re too elite for that.
Which begs the question, Why? Why are urban folks primarily liberal and rural/small town folks primarily conservative? What kinds of differences can be found between rural conservatives and urban liberals that could explain these differences?
For starters rural people are a little more obsessed with doing things for themselves. They like to milk their own cows rather than buying jugs at the store. They like to can their own veggies rather than buy Libby peas. They like to drive their own cars (well, trucks) rather than taking public transportation. (Of course public transportation is virtually unknown in rural America, so they have little choice.)
In other words, conservatives are almost definable by the fact that they don’t utilize the usual cadre of public services available through the government. Not always, but usually.
The most ardent and vocal and unabashedly PC liberals often work either for the government, or work for an ancillary group that has government affiliation such as nonprofits organizations, conservation groups, or charities that focus on social justice and egalitarianism. This means their livelihood depends on the forcible redistribution of resources in our society, which is why they’re in the liberal camp.
The lack of higher education in rural areas is pretty much the saving grace for folks with conservative values. Rather than spending tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars to put a couple letters after their name, rural folks are busy dealing with the real world. They learn skills. They start businesses. They build homes.
Since those living in the country often have less education, and since public education is overwhelmingly progressive, rural folks tend to be less contaminated by liberal doctrines. When someone goes to college, they are inculcated with elite liberal values that shred any naïve beliefs about personal independence and a free-market economy. Such brainwashing generally leads to a future in the city, not the country.
And by definition, living in the city fosters dependency and a beholden attitude toward government. It can’t be helped. Government is everywhere. Parking is regulated, gardening options are restricted, livestock is virtually impossible to keep. Your very existence – food and water – depends on the labors of others, usually rednecks who live comfortably far away. It’s natural that this dependence and lack of contact with providers translates into a tolerance of, and even approval for, further government regulation and other intrusions into personal affairs. Those rednecks need to regulated all the time or they’d, I dunno, goof up or something.
Inevitably, elite liberals conclude that “uneducated” rural folks are objects of pity and scorn, hence the terms rube, redneck, hick, and other endearments. They are dumb, they’re not smart enough to realize how good socialism is, they just need a little more condescending explanations and then they’ll “get it.” Savvy?
So frequently liberals don’t last long in the country; not because they’re run out of town, but because they have nobody to talk to. Or at least, nobody who will agree with them on anything of political significance. It can get very lonely being a liberal in the country.
I realize this column is full of vast and sweeping generations. I know there are hordes of “country” people living in the cities, as well as hordes of “city” people living in the country (usually, I hate to say it, divided by politics).
But when Obama sneeringly spoke about us rural folks bitterly clinging to our guns and religion – and when his minions clearly feel the same way – let’s just say it struck a nerve.
’Cuz let’s face it, I’m proud to be a hick.