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November 10, 2006

Urban vs Rural; Stranger vs Stranger

Posted by David Postman at 3:35 PM

Are rural voters the future for the Democratic Party? Or are they rubes responsible for the county's ills? Did they help urban liberals this year in taking back Congress for Democrats, or did beneficent city folk help the simpletons out of their backwards, backwoods heartland?

The Stranger can't decide. And that's a problem because I rely on the Stranger to keep my urban bona fides current. I'm confused about whether rural voters should be embraced for their "authentic in-between-ness" or cursed for being the primary cause of "the size of the mess that we are now faced with cleaning."

It started soon after the 2004 election when Stranger editors published their "Urban Archipelago" manifesto, blaming Democrats' defeat on worrying too much about rural voters and not enough about urban liberals. As the subhead said: "It's the Cities, Stupid."

It's time for the Democrats to face reality: They are the party of urban America. If the cities elected our president, if urban voters determined the outcome, John F. Kerry would have won by a landslide. Urban voters are the Democratic base. ...

Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They — rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs — are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.


From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains.

But last week, Stranger reporter Eli Sanders drove from Seattle to Montana to cover the Senate race between Democrat Jon Tester and Republican incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns.

You can tell by following Sanders' culinary chronicles that he went with some trepidation.

"I left liberal Seattle, soy latte in hand," he wrote. And later, "I pulled into Spokane and ordered a cup of green tea." In Butte, "I knew I wasn't going to be getting a soy latte, and when I tried for Earl Grey tea the waitress gave me a funny look and handed me Lipton."

Oh, the humanity. But once safely out of the urban archipelago, Sanders didn't share The Stranger editors' disdain for what they called "bovine, non-urban America." That may have been helped by his discovery that, "In red Montana, if one finds the right spot, there's still enough blue to get goat cheese and chanterelles."

Sanders shows a deeper understanding and a level of respect for life in traditional Red parts of America.

People, understandably, want to vote for representatives who seem to understand and respect them. Forcing rural voters to admit that urban liberals are culturally and morally superior as a precondition for entering the Democratic Party — well, it's probably not a recipe for Democratic success at the polls.

It's also somewhat hypocritical in that it embraces the same kind of Manichean worldview that liberals find so contemptible in Bush, replacing his "good versus evil" with another black-and-white binary, "urban versus rural." No surprise, it's not that simple out there in rural America, and in fact, ceding rural areas to Republicans gives up on places that aren't actually as red as they appear — areas that in elections such as this one may be winnable.

Not only does Sanders find the urban domination argument arrogant and insulting to rural voters, he thinks it's a wrongheaded strategy for liberals. He writes that "some have even gone as far as to suggest that the less-religious West, rather than the Bible-embracing South, could be the Democrats' route back to the White House."

A Senate majority with Tester in it will give Seattle liberals exactly what they want from Congress on the war, reproductive rights, Social Security, and habeas corpus, to mention only a few issues. Just as rural America benefits disproportionately from federal subsidies paid for largely with urban tax dollars, the Urban Archipelago benefits disproportionately on policy matters when rural Democrats win.

Tester won this week and indeed was a key to Democrats taking control of the Senate. But not everyone at The Stranger was ready to embrace their country cousins.

The day after the election Charles Mudede headlined a post on The Slog this way: "Rural Idiocy." It read as a rebuke to Sanders.

By the way, just because we finally tricked those outside of the light of the city, those who live in the middle-dark of nowhere and by the order of a moral system that was concocted two thousand years ago — because we finally tricked these muddy people into voting in a way that benefits them in the short and long run, this does not mean reason is spreading across the countryside. What it means is that we, in the city, finally figured out how to pull rural idiots out of the jaws of the lions. Yes, my form of cosmopolitanism is shameless, unforgiving, and knows no patience when it comes to these country types. But they, and they alone, are responsible for the size of the mess that we are now faced with cleaning.

Shameless and unforgiving indeed. I heard Nancy Pelosi say the other day that everyone in the country deserves a voice in D.C., not just those represented by Democrats. Mudede would disagree. I'm sure there's an argument for why liberals should now punish those responsible for the "mess" the country is in.

However, he does quote from the Communist Manifesto about how the bourgeoisie "rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life." And he says:

At first it was the bourgeoisie that did the rescuing, now it is the political left that must do this task.

It's taken me so long to write this post I see Stranger writers are now arguing about something else and touting the importance of the Suburban Archipelago.

How am I supposed to stay current?

SIDEBAR: Dan Savage is on a rant about people using debit cards to buy coffee because it means he has to wait in line too long.

Well, Dan, go ahead and tell rural America to take a leap, but you can pry my debit card from my cold, dead, fingers. You know, they — and you know who I'm talking about — lied to us about the future. Where's my personal jetpack? Where's my robot butler?

Oh sure, young people today have their iPods, artificial hearts and electric garage door openers. But the debit card is magically stuffed with cash and allows me to pay for just about anything, including my $2.75 coffee and bagel if I happen to not have enough cash in my pocket. So just be patient in your morning coffee line and thank your lucky stars you're not forced to drink Lipton tea in bovine America.

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