The Left Behind - A book Review

A well researched book about why there is anger in the rural areas of this country.  Claims and assertions are well supported.


“My argument is that understanding rural America requires seeing the places in which its residents live as moral communities. I do not mean this in the vernacular sense of “moral” as good, right, virtuous, or principled. I mean it rather in the more specialized sense of a place to which and in which people feel an obligation to one another and to uphold the local ways of being that govern their expectations about ordinary life and support their feelings of being at home and doing the right things.”


“Rural communities’ views of Washington usually emerge in two competing narratives: on the one hand, the government ignores us and doesn’t do anything to help with our problems, and, on the other hand, the government constantly intrudes in our lives without understanding us and thus makes our problems worse.”


[The obvious irony is that I don’t see rural agricultural areas surviving without government subsidy for crops and crop insurance.  I also haven’t heard of farmers declining to take government handouts that these subsidies represent.  There’s a disconnect between Medicaid  and Crop subsidies - both support segments in our society]


“Diversity for diversity’s sake is rarely valued, and if it is, it means something incremental and usually symbolic. Rural communities may not be as racist or as misogynist as critics sometimes claim, but the racism and misogyny are built into the patterns of life that nearly all-white communities have come to accept. And a part of their anger is assuredly the view that the promotion of diversity is a further intrusion of big government.”


[The lack of diverse opinion means there’s little chance that rural inhabitants have a chance to hear opposing opinions.  ]


“A truck farmer in a town that was nearly 50 percent Hispanic was proud of the diversity in his community and acknowledged that the apples and cherries on his farm depended on Hispanic labor. But he too thought more should be done to keep Hispanics out. They need to be stopped at the border, he said. Social scientists call this kind of exclusion “othering.” It ranges from negative stereotypes to overt discrimination. By no means do all rural Americans engage in”


— The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Small-Town America by Robert Wuthnow


What I was hoping to learn  is whether the author is able to develop a cogent argument as to why the rural areas have turned further to the radical right and have become stalwarts of Trumpism.  One would be lead to believe that the level of anger and distrust is so potent that rural voters voted for anything that is not already in Washington.   This would explain in some ways the 2016 election of Trump but not his continued popularity into the 2020 election. I call this “Blind Rage” as there is no accounting for how the rural resident identifies with Trump.

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