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View Diary: A scary but enlighting map that gives me hope on second thoughts (130 comments)

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  •  I have been struck by this too . . . (9+ / 0-)

    over the past few election cycles looking at the Virginia statewide map.  This is especially true if you look at the map of the west of the state.  Anywhere the population density is 1,000 people or more per square mile, there's a very good chance that the locality went Blue.  These aren't even major cities -- we're talking about small cities with a population of 40,000 or less, even a small town near the West Virginia border -- Covington, VA -- a population center with fewer than 6,000 people -- went blue.  If you just look down I-81, which runs parallel the West Virginia border about 30-40 miles east of the border -- there are these cities Winchester, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Roanoke, which all went for Obama in a sea of red.  In some cases the vote of the population center partially counterbalanced the vote of the surrounding area.  Harrisonburg is a college town, but most of the towns are largely majority white.  Some of the towns further south are old union towns, with ties to organized labor.  

    I find it interesting, with respect to organized labor, that there really was a split between unions connected to manufacturing and the older mine worker unions.  Tradiitionally -- even as recently as a couple election cycles -- these coal towns went blue, but in those towns there has been a red-ward shift -- especially this last election cycle.  Not so, with smaller union towns connected to manufacturing.

    When I think of "urban" I tend to think: areas with a few buildings that are at least 10 stories or more, heavy congestion, multi-racial.  But in many cases, these are just small towns that are perhaps a little more racially diverse than the surrounding community, but not close to majority minority (e.g. in most cases over 80 percent white in Virginia).  So there is something about people living in close proximity that tends to shape perceptions and attitudes.  It's not even really "urban" in the conventional sense.  Many of these are small cities or relatively small towns.  But the voting patterns are similar to much larger, more densely populated areas.

    Definitely a good subject for a graduate thesis.

    •  It's about diversity. (12+ / 0-)

      Urban doesn't just mean buildings that are big. The real definition of urban - and of what makes someone an urbanite - includes significant diversity (racial, ethnic, national origin, social class), close proximity, a population of at least 2500 people where there are at least 1000 people per square mile, and several other factors. There are a lot of people who think they're rural, too, but they actually live in exurbs (places with lots of space around them but all the comforts of suburban life). A rural area has less than 2500 people, less than 1000 per square mile, and most importantly, minimal diversity.

      The diversity seems to be key. You can have 10,000 people living in an area, but if they're all white people, that's going to be a much more "rural" minded place. You could have just 2500 living there, and if it's a really diverse area, you're going to see people with urban mindsets.

      Urban in the cultural sense means less friendly, less willing to help strangers, more blasé, more liberal, more educated, and more tolerant. Rural, in the cultural sense, may mean more friendly and willing to help, but not as welcoming to the stranger, more conservative, less educated, and far less tolerant.

      There are positives to rural living, but the fact is, there's no such thing as the family farm - the traditional image of "rural" - any more. Fewer than 1 in 60 people in this nation live anywhere that could be considered a "family farm" anymore. 80% plus of the US is urban - they either live either in the city center, in a suburb, or in an exurb. This is inexorable and unavoidable.

      I wrote a diary about this a little under a week ago that was somewhat badly received, because there were people responding who did not want to believe that their "rural" area was automatically bigoted and prejudiced and all those things we associate with rural areas. Conversely, some urbanites insisted that they knew plenty of bigoted and prejudiced urban people. I'm not denying either of those things. But I'll bet that the bigoted and prejudiced urban people lived in what are called "little villages," which are very, very low-diversity areas within the city limits, and I'll bet that the "rural" areas were actually diverse exurbs with an urban mindset.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." - Hubert Humphrey

      by Killer of Sacred Cows on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 06:54:43 PM PST

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      •  I have always thought about rural as primarily (12+ / 0-)

        being closer to the natural rhythms which is nowhere near the definition being used in this diary. It has been a problem for me because I love being places where the natural earth features are more evident, but I don't always enjoy the folks who live there.

        Yeah, it's sort of a pointless comment I guess. But you enlarged my understanding of the word.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 07:33:01 PM PST

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        •  Good point (5+ / 0-)

          Depending on where you live, many rural people take great pride in living with the agricultural calendar. I suspect that one of the reasons a lot of rural people are resentful of urbanites is that the cities are growing do fast and take up so many resources that the environment and working conditions families have been used to for generations have been upended in a world of factory farms, pollution, exotic plant diseases, and aberrant weather patterns. They look to the suburbs that spread over formerly green fields like mushrooms after rain and feel resentful.
          Country people are conservative with a small c, and think their world has been turned upside down. What more fertile place to plant the big C conservatism, racism, and resentment of professional rabble rousers like Limbaugh. It's a pity that city folks blame them for listening. They don't understand that cities have been dirty and teeming with people and also interesting, exciting, and diverse since ancient Rome. They haven't changed that much.  The countryside, on the other hand, has done so profoundly.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 01:57:13 AM PST

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          •  The ironic thing, I suppose, is that rural (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            dwellers have a way worse environmental footprint compared to their urban counterparts.

            But whatever, their whole lifestyle is built on deliberate or at least blissful ignorance about the realities of life.

            •  Oh for pete's sake. If you are going to be (6+ / 0-)

              that ignorant, why don't you join the right?  

              I am amazed at the arrogance and ignorance of many of these posts.  Clearly many of the people posting on this thread haven't been in "rural" areas as defined by that map.  The idea that rural=farms is ridiculous.  Most people in those areas aren't farmers.  Their lives aren't "built on deliberate or blissful ignorance of the realities of life."  SOME of them have their political views built on the far right media bubble but that is a far cry from what you are saying.

              A big factor in people living in rural areas is that they are BORN there and their FAMILIES live there and most of them stay there for that reason.   There are university towns, zillions of small businesses, schools and so much more than you simply ignore with your vision of the farmer couple with their pitchforks.  Give me a break.

              I was born and raised in one of those red areas and live in one now.  I also lived in Pittsburgh, PA, Cincinnati, OH and Arlington, VA for much of my life - deep in those cities, not in the burbs.  

              •  It's not so much ignorance, but science . . . (2+ / 0-)
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                fuzzyguy, Killer of Sacred Cows
                City lights may burn bright, but overall the greenhouse gas emissions of large cities are far below those of rural areas, a new report finds.
                from City dwellers 'harm climate less'
                •  I didn't challenge the environmental footprint (1+ / 0-)
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                  statement but the following one.  I think that is pretty clear from what I wrote.

                  •  Well, you went on and on about farms (0+ / 0-)

                    I didn't say a single word about farms so I had no freakin' idea what you were talking about then.

                    Because what I just re-posted was spot on consistent and corroborating of my initial post.

                    •  Sorry the farm stuff confused you. It actually (1+ / 0-)
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                      referred to other posts in this thread from people who clearly have no experience with rural areas.  The part that was specifically responding to your statement was this and what followed it:

                      Their lives aren't "built on deliberate or blissful ignorance of the realities of life."  SOME of them have their political views built on the far right media bubble but that is a far cry from what you are saying.

                      •  Rural people, as a whole, do tend to be (1+ / 0-)
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                        Killer of Sacred Cows

                        blissful unaware of the most important thing in their lives - namely that they are considerably more dependent on government than city dwellers.  Yet they maintain the myth of "rugged individualism" which - IMHO - is the main reason they vote GOP.

                        •  I suspect the most important thing in . . . (0+ / 0-)

                          life is probably family and friends.

                          There are some services that cost more to build on a per person basis in rural areas -- e.g. energy generation, communication, perhaps even some transportation infrastructure, but the rugged individualism bit is not entirely a myth.  If some cataclysm hit, I have no doubt that many people with some experience living in more rural areas would be more self-sufficient than people who live in communities with a high degree of specialization.

                          Also, the bit about "carbon foot prints" is absurd.  Obviously some people in rural areas might consume more energy per person, but much of this is in service of producing goods that are consumed in more densely populated areas.  The carbon foot print bit may take transportation into consideration, but it doesn't factor in all of the factors involved in the production of things like agricultural products.

                •  Yes . .. (1+ / 0-)
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                  For one thing, the countryside has always supported the cities.  Now not only does it practice widescale industrial-style farming, utilizing all the tools of modern technology to wring every last ounce of profit out of each acre of soil, but it is also the location for the cities' refuse, the mining and extraction industries, and the power plants which make those city lights gleam.  All of these productive activities, which must support the large populations of the cities, emit both carbon and other pollutants, none of which are created IN the cities, but all of which are necessary so that the cities might live.

                  A Thanksgiving dinner is neither the fault nor the fun of the turkey and the pig you eat.

                  •  On a per capita basis, some of those things (0+ / 0-)

                    are pretty much a wash.  

                    For example, a rural and urban person pretty much eats a similar amount of food, so their agricultural footprint will be the same in that regard.

                    But when there is a divergence, it is usually in the disfavor of the rural person.  For example, an urbanite can walk over to a neighborhood restaurant, a rural person has get in her pick up truck and drive 17 miles.   An urban person requires 18 feet of copper wire to get his home connected to the grid, a rural person requires 100x as much, and so forth.

                    Of course, if you had read the study I posted, you'd already know all this . . .. .

      •  There is something to this . . . (1+ / 0-)
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        but, once again, we are talking about small cities that are, in many cases, overwhelmingly white (e.g. over 80 percent).  Part of this may reflect diversity in other ways, perhaps education and income play into this as well.

        Family farms may not be the norm anymore, but there are still several of these in Virginia.  

        e.g. Google "Family Farm" -- one of these Polyface Farm caters to a bunch of higher end restaurants in the Valley as well as in Northern Virginia.  I suspect with Charlottesville, NoVA, Richmond, there is also a built in market for product from family farms.  

      •  You don't have to live in a diverse community to (8+ / 0-)

        have a diverse mindset.  TRAVEL, whether business or leisure, can go a long way to getting there.

      •  Diversity is a big key (2+ / 0-)

        Looking at my state of Florida, there are only two blue areas in the northern part of the state.  One is in the Gainesville area, home of the University of Florida, and the second is in the narrowest part of the panhandle, known as the Big Bend.  This is the location of the state capital, Tallahassee and the home of Florida State University and Florida A & M University.  Institutions of higher learning tend to attrack a more diverse community surrounding them.

        "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

        by gulfgal98 on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:40:09 AM PST

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    •  Comparing the 2008 elections with 2012 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NotGeorgeWill, radarlady

      and looking west of the Blue Ridge at Virginia and West Virginia the trend is the opposite.

      In 2008 7 counties in West Virginia were blue. In 2012 all 55 counties went red. The only county even close was Jefferson which has become an exurb of DC in recent decades.

      In Virginia Montgomery County plus the valley towns and Covington and Blacksburg were blue in 2008.

      This year all of the counties west of the Blue Ridge were red including Montgomery in a close race. The valley towns blue in 2008 remained "blue".

      Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

      by truong son traveler on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 07:25:29 PM PST

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      •  Think part of this is connected to . . (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radarlady, cynndara

        the issue of coal.  Romney made a play for SWVA, the owners of mines made an issue of coal.  

        Perhaps in 2008, Obama did better with union labor across the board.  In 2012 my sense is that there's a division between workers in mining and manufacturing.  The difference between Montgomery County turning blue in this election versus the last one is about 3,000 votes out of close to 40,000.  Much of this reflects the fact that SWVA went more strongly for Romney than it did for McCain -- by fairly significant margins.

        e.g. counties surrounding Montgomery were more red by about 6-8 points, Montgomery reflects the trend, although not to the same degree.

        •  Practically ALL of it is the issue of coal. (8+ / 0-)

          There isn't a square inch of WV that isn't affected by the coal business.  The coal companies wanted Romney and they spent a lot of money on it.  If you don't live in WV, you didn't see it, but it was pervasive.  They convinced most of the population that Obama is waging a war on coal and killing their jobs.  

          •  Handy to ignore all that fracking (0+ / 0-)

            and cheap natural gas ... which of course was the real reason that coal is not competitive. No sense for the Republicans to not get the political benefit of lying to whole bunches of people ... who swallowed it whole.

            It probably doesn't help that 'coal miner' is one of those multi-generational occupational identities. Much scarier to lose your identity than even to lose your job.

            Help us to save free conscience from the paw Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw. ~John Donne

            by ohiolibrarian on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 08:05:25 PM PST

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    •  I think it's an economic issue (1+ / 0-)
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      Rural areas have always been the focus of commodities extraction, traditionally the lowest paying jobs. Those jobs are becoming mechanized or outsourced, and they're drying up. If you live in a town of 5,000, there are multiple employment options. If you live two hours away, there's probably one employer.

      "A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer

      by CFAmick on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 09:25:30 AM PST

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