Politics & Elections: Rural People – the Last Group We Can Disparage with no Guilt

Social philosopher’s super powers apparently include the ability to read the minds of “hillbillies.” Giving up on rural voters. Tyson’s work to undo workers’ compensation.

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Two Los Angeles Times reporters say that the universal call among Democratic presidential candidates for new gun laws is a sign that they have little hope (or interest?) in winning rural voters.

Evan Halper and Mark Barabak note that Democrats suffered when President Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban in 1996. In 2000, Al Gore lost Tennessee and West Virginia. That led Democrats to steer away from the gun control issue. In 2008, Hillary Clinton talked about shooting firearms with her father.

But the demographics of presidential elections have changed, the reporters contend. “Democrats no longer rely on states like Tennessee or West Virginia to win the White House,” Halper and Barabak write. “The strategy that emerged under President Obama depends, instead, on a coalition of minority voters, urban dwellers and single women — groups that look far more favorably on restricting firearms.”

This election, therefore, Clinton pushes for more gun control at every stop.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg says that the gun issue has set off an “urban vs. rural clash.” And for Democrats running in urban America, that’s just fine, he contends.

People in Democratic metro areas don’t own guns and don’t know anyone who does. “To urban liberals, guns are like cigarettes — products that when used as intended only hurt or kill people, and that are also low-class and crude,” he writes.

A girl tests rifles at a trade booth during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, this year. Photo by Reuters.
A girl tests rifles at a trade booth during the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, this year. Photo by Reuters.

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Dahlia Lithwick warns in Slate that a case before the U.S. Supreme Court could shift power “markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones.”

The case is Evenwel v. Abbott and it comes out of Texas. The conflict is how population is counted when legislative districts are drawn. Should you count the total population, as determined by the Census? Or do you just count the number of eligible voters?

The Census count is the way things are done now. The plaintiffs in the case would exclude residents who aren’t citizens, felons (who have lost their voting rights) and children.

Lithwick and others contends this would shift power to whiter and more rural areas.

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In a time when any sign of disrespect is cause for a demonstration and a demand for an apology, it appears that the last group that can be disparaged with impunity is rural residents.

Here is Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, writing about gun rights:

“I am no fan of the Second Amendment, inasmuch as it tends to be the refuge of bumpkins and yeehaws who like to think they are protecting their homes against imagined swarthy marauders desperate to steal their flea-bitten sofas from their rotting front porches.”

And in the New York Times, philosopher bell hooks has this to say about people who live near her in Berea, Kentucky:

I’ve been to the Farmer’s Market, I’ve been to the church bazaar this morning. I really push myself to relate to people, that is, people that I might not feel as comfortable relating to. There are many Kentucky hillbilly white persons who look at me with contempt. They cannot turn me around. I am doing the same thing as those civil rights activists, those black folk and those white folk who sat in at those diners and who marched.

Bumpkins, yeehaws, hillbillies — why not include ridge runners, peckerwoods, rednecks and crackers? Once you start tossing around epithets, why stop?

Weingarten has won two Pulitzer Prizes for writing described as “humorous.” hooks apparently uses her skills as a philosopher to read the minds of people at farmers markets.

We doubt either would use such terms to describe any other racial, geographic or religious group.

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Propublica’s Michael Grabell tells in a story how Tyson Foods “has taken a lead in reshaping workers’ comp, often to the detriment of workers….”

Tyson is one of the country’s largest meatpackers. And Grabell contends that the company has used its “economic leverage — combined with time-honored wining-and-dining and behind-the-scenes arm-twisting —.,..(to) steer legislative change through several states in the South and Midwest.” In several instances, Grabell writes, Tyson engineered the removal of workers comp judges.

The company was particularly attentive to rules governing disorders resulting from work in poultry processing plants, such as carpel tunnel syndrome.

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A new group of Utah Democrats is trying to recruit a rare critter in either party, a centrist.

Eric Ethington of the Salt Lake City Weekly reports on the Utah Centrist Democratic Council, which “aims to recruit candidates that promote a more conservative fiscal and social outlook….”

“We want to show that Democrats are mainstream,” says Richard Davis, a BYU professor of political science and former Utah County Democratic Party chairman who co-founded the group along with Rep. Brad King, D-Price. Davis maintains that Utah Dems win rarely outside Salt Lake City “because rural voters don’t like the party’s stance on so-called social issues,” Ethington reports.

The Utah Dems have a model: former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat.

The same thing is happening in Minnesota, where rural Democrats are trying to revive the party outside the cities

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