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Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman: White Rural Rage

March 22, 2024
Notes
Transcript
Rural white voters wield outsized power in our democracy, yet they are also more likely to support violence as a political tool—and to nurture antidemocratic ideas. Meanwhile, rural whites enjoy the perk of being seen as the “real” Americans. Waldman and Schaller join Tim for the weekend pod.

show notes:
Tom and Paul’s book

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Hello, and welcome to
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:09

    the Secret Podcast. I’m your host Tim Miller. I am here today with a couple of gentlemen who have a new book White World Raid, The Threat to American democracy. It is Tom Shaller, professor of political science at the University of Maryland, a former columnist for the Baltimore Sun and Paul Waldman. Journalist and opinion writer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:27

    He’s a former columnist at the Washington Post. The Washington Post misses you, Paul. You had some good stuff over there. How’s everything going, gentlemen?
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:34

    Great. Thank you.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:35

    Great. First off, for folks who, have not heard you on your podcast tour, give us the premise of the book, what went into it, white roll rage and a top line takeaway. Maybe Tom, you can kick us off.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:47

    Yeah. So Paul and I have known each other for twenty years. And as we were researching around and thinking about the Trump era and the manga movement, we started to look at some polls. And we kept finding this pattern. And let me just preface this because I kinda came out hot on on MSNBCBC with Mika Briszanski and say that what we find doesn’t apply to every rural white American, and it doesn’t apply exclusively to rural white Americans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:11

    In terms of the threats that we discussed. But what we found and we used very careful and superlative language that on many things, not everything, rural whites are sort of the tip of the spear. They’re the most core of the coalition of the Trump Maga Coalition, which, of course, trump gets a majority of white votes by substantial difference from his share of the Bulwark vote, and he finds his greatest support in rural corners of the America. So why wouldn’t he get his strongest support from Royal White Americans as a geo demographic group. They were voted for him sixty two percent in twenty sixteen and moved nine points toward him to seventy one percent by twenty twenty.
  • Speaker 3
    0:01:45

    And what we found is we started to look at polls, and it wasn’t every issue, it wasn’t an abortion, for example, But on issue after issue in terms of racist attitudes, xenophobic attitudes, conspiracies, anti or undemocratic attitudes, white nationalism, white Christian Jonathan Last, and justifying violence against the state, usually, that white world Americans were the highest or lowest or, you know, most likely or least likely to agree with various principles, like, you know, immigrants improve the life of the country, least likely degree. Anti gay sentiments, anti immigrant sentiments, the belief that the president should act unilaterally without checks from Congress, their subscription to white nationalism and white Christian nationalist principles, which are a threat to our secular constitutional democracy. And so we said, jeez, It’s okay to criticize Trump and the manga movement broadly, but do we wanna put a name, a face, a race, and a place to who that movement is, not exclusively and not exhaustively, but the fact of the matter is that the leading edge of the Maga Trump movement is both white and rural, and a substantial literature by our fellow political scientists and sociologists backs that up. And so we made the case.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:57

    We knew it would be a controversial argument. We knew there would be mail and death threats, which there have been. But at a moment of existential crisis, and with the US democracy, the oldest constitutional democracy facing what could be our last free and fair election, thought it was important to come forward with this argument, critics be damned. And so here we are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:15

    You know, Paul, there have been a lot of effort to talk to rural white Americans by the mainstream media, you know, that that maybe have been somewhat illuminating at other times, maybe things more opaque when you talk about all the diner stories, that you see from the New York Times, etcetera. Talk about, like, how you view those efforts and and what went into what you guys did. I mean, I saw y’all in Arizona. How do you see the diner tourism, the the jungle safari to White World America.
  • Speaker 4
    0:03:44

    Yeah. It’s become really just a cliche that, you know, a reporter goes to a diner, talks to some red hat wearing trump fans about why they still love Trump. And the assumption is that their views and their complaints are kind of inherently legitimate and need to be listened to them. We all need to pay attention. Unfortunately, it never really gets below that surface, especially not to investigate the political context of those places where those people live.
  • Speaker 4
    0:04:12

    And, you know, I think most people are familiar with the fact that rural America tends to be overrepresented. We all know about the the electoral college and how small states get more representation in the senate, you know, that Wyoming’s six hundred thousand residents get the same amount of representation as California’s thirty nine million. People are familiar with that. It’s actually worse than that, actually. The house dramatically over represents rural districts.
  • Speaker 4
    0:04:36

    And, within states, there’s a lot of ways in which rural votes kind of get leveraged into greater power. But one of the things that becomes clear and became clear to us as we went around the country to different kinds of places talking to people about Not only about the situations of their lives, what’s going on in their communities? What are they concerned about? Where have they felt like they’ve been left behind? And often, they have legitimate reasons to believe that.
  • Speaker 4
    0:04:59

    But what does politics look like in a lot of these places? And even though rural people tend to have this greater influence of the ballot box, oftentimes there’s a real kind of hollowness to politics and rural places. You know, Democrats always get told, you know, you you abandoned rural America, and you need to go back there. And that’s largely true. But the flip side of the story that people don’t tell as much is that Republicans have abandoned rural America too.
  • Speaker 4
    0:05:24

    They’re the ones getting elected at all levels. You know, in a lot of rural places, especially white rural places, every single person who represents the people there from US Senator all the way down to dog catcher is gonna be a conservative Republican. But what you don’t find is any kind of active political engagement. Those votes are just taken for granted. And so Democrats aren’t going there because they think they’re not gonna win.
  • Speaker 4
    0:05:46

    And Republicans aren’t going there because they think they don’t they don’t have to do anything to win, and they’re right. And so all that happens is that, you know, come election time, the Republican candidates can just come and say, don’t you hate people who live in cities, don’t you You know, aren’t you mad that there’s a trans girl, two hundred miles away who wants to play in our middle school softball team? Aren’t you mad about the border that’s a thousand miles away? Everyone nods and says yes. And then they just keep voting Republican, and nothing in the deep and profound problems in their community ever gets addressed.
  • Speaker 4
    0:06:17

    And so there’s this extraordinary lack of accountability for the politicians that rural Americans keep electing. And that’s one of the things that we found as we as we went around is this really kind of this sort of political vacuum that is of great benefit to Republicans because they don’t have to do anything. That’s a part of the story that that really doesn’t get told as much.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:37

    I wanna get into what the Democrats should do and what Republican politicians do do, but before we do, talk about the sentiments, a clear eyed view of what the sentiments are of White Pearl America broadly, and and and how you get into that in the book. Because I I think that caveat granted of you, Tom, at the start, Diane laws are white rural Americans, and they’re very lovely people that vote for Democrats and there are plenty of white rural Americans also that vote for Republicans that are lovely and kindhearted people. But so so we acknowledge that we’re painting this with a broad brush. Like, what were the trends and the sentiments that you saw when you’re looking into this?
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:17

    For full disclosure, I mean, my parents are white evangelicals and trump supporters and conservatives and, you know, so our wide number of people I went to high school and college with that I stay in touch through Facebook and what have you. So, you know, there are trump people in my life, and in Paul’s life just says there are and your life, and, yeah, there are good people in some cases whom I love and have spent, you know, years and decades knowing as friends or or family members and so forth. So The prototypical or stereotypical depiction in the media of White Roll Americans is that they love their country. They love their family. They leave their doors open.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:51

    They help their neighbors. There’s certainly a lot of truth to that. Even though the cooperative election study shows that urban Americans, fifty eight percent of them go to church seldom or never sort of twice a year, Catholics. And then the same percentage is for rural Americans, fifty seven percent. It’s basically identical within the margin of error.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:07

    So some of these things are a bit of a myth. Yeah. I mean, Sarah Longwell of the daily yonder, online web publication as a piece about that. This is not our data. This is other people reporting this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:18

    So, you know, some of these are border on myths, but some of them are true. I don’t think that rural people are less friendly, they might even be more friendly or more helpful to their neighbors because they do know each other. I’ve lived in DC for twenty three years. And, you know, I previously lived in a building with nine stories at a hundred and forty units. And I lived there for eight years.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:35

    And by the time I left, I probably only knew six people by first and last name, and there was a rotating set of professionals coming in and out of the building who worked in politics or the media or, you know, the arts community or in the restaurant industry, and there were maybe ten kids in our entire building. So there is truth to the sort of anonymity of the city versus the more interconnected life of rural America. I make a joke of it. I’m a big thirty rock fan, and and and a big point that we make in the book is that, you know, Tina Fey, my television girlfriend, you know, says that nobody’s more real than anybody else. And we have to stop with this pathology of saying that there’s something inherently more real and more virtuous about rural Americans and rural white Americans specifically.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:15

    A sixty five year old grandfather who worked in agriculture his whole life. It was a white evangelical and veteran who lives in North West Iowa is no more real than a single twenty two year old Afro Latina who’s working on our art history master’s degree and waiting tables and Ubering on the nights and weekends to provide for herself in Brooklyn. Everybody is equally real. And as Tina Fey would say, they just wanna have a sandwich and a diet sprite and be left alone for lunch. Sandwiches may differ.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:43

    It might be a po boy down in New Orleans, and it might be a hoagie or a grinder or a hero somewhere else, Tim. But the fact is nobody is more real. And the privileging of white roll Americans and saying that they’re more real or their values are are more American is very dangerous business. And Paul wrote a piece in the Washington Post about how we never talk about city values and getting along with diverse sets of people and dealing with unique complications of an urban life And he got attacked for that. He got attacked by Doug Bergam saying, see, they hate you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:12

    And there’s all this cultural outrage. And we’re not picking on White World American specifically. We’re just saying they’re no better, but no worse.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:18

    I would even go a little further than that, and I’d be interested in Paul’s take on this. In a lot of ways, White Roll America hates America. Donald Trump hates America. Like, Donald Trump complains about America more than anybody since, like, nineteen eighties cold war leftist. Like, nobody complains about America more than Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:37

    And, certainly, America, how it is, you know, I think that, maybe for whatever reason, a lot of younger liberals, progressives, feel I think they don’t wanna get yelled at by their more woke counterpart or whatever, so they won’t that they like America, but but the people that appreciate America for how it actually is in the real world and our culture and our values, like now tend to be more, like, Joe Biden supporters, more suburban or urban Americans. And that’s my kind of assessment of who actually loves America as it exists, not as wish it did. I don’t know, Paul, what you think about that.
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:11

    That’s true. I think conservatives have long gotten kind of a pass on saying that, you know, our country is terrible. It’s going down the tubes. Everything is awful. You know, the cultural trends, the demographic trends all make this a terrible place.
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:24

    Liberals have always gotten excoriated for the even a hint of saying that there’s something problematic with America. But conservatives have kinda gotten to pass, and Trump himself is the Apotheos of that. You know, he literally says, like, this is a terrible country. Everything is bad. And somehow that doesn’t seem to be something that a lot of people wanna criticize.
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:43

    And what we say in the in the book, you know, a lot of rural Americans are are proud of their patriotism. And they say, you know, we we send more people to the military, which is true. And they say we fly American flags on our front porsches. But in a lot of cases, the way we put it is that they love their country, but not our country. It’s not the collective.
  • Speaker 4
    0:12:03

    And they have a very kind of visible sort of performative patriotism, which is fine, but when it comes to, looking at what’s actually the nature of the country, oftentimes they are deeply uncomfortable with it. And, you know, I should say about about the different kinds of people who live in these places. There are a lot of liberals who live in rural America too, and I think that shouldn’t be ignored. There are also a lot of non white people who live in rural America. We have a a whole chapter about non white people.
  • Speaker 4
    0:12:29

    They make up about twenty four percent of rural Americans according to the census. Seventy one percent of white Americans in twenty twenty, according to peer Research Center voted for Donald Trump. That means a twenty nine percent voted for Joe Biden. And that’s a lot of people. But one of the things we found we went around to a lot of places is that especially the liberals, it’s some conservatives too, but especially the liberals would tell us that politics in the trump era has just gotten meaner in their communities.
  • Speaker 4
    0:12:53

    That they used to be able to to get along with their neighbors. And, you know, yes, they didn’t agree about politics, but that was okay. And one of the things that we heard again and again, people saying that it just taken on this really hard edge, and you have conflicts over things like what books are gonna be in the library that have really set people against each other. And I think that that is one of the consequences of the Trump era. And one of the consequences of the messages people receive from the media that they consume and from the Republican politicians who are constantly telling people you should be resentful.
  • Speaker 4
    0:13:23

    You should be angry. You should hate those people who are not like you. And in a country that is increasingly diverse and gets more diverse every year and that it is not going to stop for a lot of people that gives them a deep discomfort with what America is becoming.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:39

    What do you guys think undergirds? I I guess if we’re just going to accept the statement, which I think is pretty un impeachable at this point that there is an increase in rage, that there is an increase in, whatever the opposite of comedy is, hostility, you know, political affility resentment in these communities. What’s your view on what is the, you know, sort of source of because I I kind of look at it and see some things that are legitimate grievances, the ways that those communities have been let down. Other things I look at and say, wow, that’s pretty that’s not at all legitimate and it’s being exacerbated. How do you guys kind of assess the factors?
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:19

    First of all, and we have plead guiltiness in public appearances already. The title is bit provocative. We use the word rage, but we’re really talking about the academic and scholarly construct resentment, but white world resentment is a lot of syllables and doesn’t really fit neatly vertically. And as you know, publishers want, you know, One word blink, Malcolm gladwell kind of titles. We couldn’t get it down to one or even two words, but we got it down to three words and four syllables.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:43

    And so we’re really talking about resentment. And if you do a search on the galleys of the book as we’ve done, the word rage actually appears in the actual tests, a handful of times. But we’re talking about rural resentment. And you’re right, Tim. There are some legitimate reasons for that resentment, which we discuss at length in chapter two.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:59

    Declining health metrics, economic collapse declining populations, fifty three percent of American counties in the last decade between twenty ten and twenty twenty. Were smaller at the end of the decade, lost population. We believe that’s the first time in American history that a majority of county shrunk and sixty seven percent of rural counties lost population. There’s a massive brain drain as young people are being told. Sixty percent of rural adults tell their own children to leave and not come back.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:24

    So these patterns are disemboweling World America. And some of it’s, you know, not their fault. It’s late stage capitalism that replaces coal miners who used to be sent down holes with, you know, pick and shovels to dig coal out a pound at a time. Now we have mountain top removal. That blows the top off of a coal mine and removes it tons at a time with a shovel.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:42

    You can’t go to Congress. You could vote against globalization until China and other countries not to hire, you know, children for pennies on the hour and no environmental protections to out compete us, but they’re not gonna do that. And Trump who said trade wars are easy to win, found out the hard way when he composed tariffs on China that they would engage in retaliatory tariffs and had to pass a twenty three billion dollar bailout for farmers. And, you know, the suicide rates and dairy farmers in Northern Wisconsin and other parts skyrocketed during the Trump administration because his, you know, policies backfire So there are some things that are beyond the control of rural America’s white or otherwise to try to stand their communities back up because of just the natural movement away from rural farming and extractive economies into the technological age of education and health care and information age economies. That being said, if it were just the disemboweling of rural communities that drove rage, Then we would see, as Paul pointed out, that rage would be uniform across both rural whites and non whites, but it is not.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:47

    Why is it that rural non white rural minorities who, by the way, with the exception of gun deaths and opioid deaths suffer economically worse than their white neighbors and experience worse health maladies than their neighbors. Why is it they’re not as rageful and resentful? Why is it they’re not storming state capitals? Why is it they’re not justifying and excusing the people who attack the country in the capital on January six. This is a paradox that a lot of white world scholars, and many pundits do not want to engage in because what they’re gonna find at the end of that inquiry is that this rage is bifurcated between white rural Americans who have been, as we call them, the essential minority since the rise of jacksonian democracy part of every governing coalition, whether it was the Lincoln party era system from eighteen sixty to eighteen ninety six to the McKinley system up until the new deal in nineteen thirty two, and certainly part of the rural Southern New Deal Coalition.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:38

    Have now seen their power slip away. They don’t like it. And so we subscribe to the Ezra Klein belief that what really undergirds, this is demographic change. And that demographic change is to be fair numerically moving away from them. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:49

    The country is becoming less white, and it is becoming less rural. And they feel their power slipping away and their their potency as the rural essential minority dissipating. That’s true. And so I think it’s a revanchist sort of rearguard action to defend territory and political power in a way that they see slipping away.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:10

    Maybe these things are kind of related in a way and obviously there’s a strain of racism that is involved in a lot of this. I don’t know. Well, I look at this and the word that comes to my mind is that what drives it is entitlement, you know, that, like, they feel in idled to the country in a way that maybe some of these other groups don’t. I because I look at it and it’s like, why? For all of the legitimate concerns that folks have in rural America, Like, there isn’t an equivalent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:37

    Right? Like, urban, blight, people that went through urban blight, and, you know, black folks that went through. It’s the you know, having the right stripped away, we’re not then going out and nominating and endorsing somebody that wants to, you know, overthrow the government you know, though there was some extreme strains, obviously, in the civil rights movement. Like, you don’t you don’t see an equivalent. And that, to me, it’s like, well, they feel entitled to the country.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:01

    That is being taken from them. And so maybe there’s a racial element to it, but there is also just a sense of feeling like they can do whatever they want.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:10

    Yeah. And I think that Trump in particular tells them that they can do whatever they want. And that’s what what he offers in a lot of ways is kind of a a personal expression of that that the rules don’t apply to me and they shouldn’t apply to me. And that was one of the things I think that was thrilling about him to so many of his supporters. And this is true in, you know, suburbs and cities too, but I think it’s true in, especially in rural areas, is that he was telling them, you know, be whoever you want, be your worst self.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:36

    And you can just unleash that. But, yes, you know, the changing nature of the country with, you know, becoming less white all the time is something that feels very kind of disorienting to people, places where the number of immigrants have increased is often where you find the the biggest backlash not where there’s a lot of immigrants and not where there are few immigrants, but places where the numbers are increasing. And the white proportion of the population is in a county say, is going down. That’s where you see the most intense backlash. And so there is this idea that something is being taken from us just by the fact of these changes.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:09

    And then you also have a political context where people in small towns and rural areas are constantly told that they are the best of us. They are the truest Americans. They’re the real Americans. Their places are the ones that are that are kind of the storehouses of virtue. And this is a political message that you hear all the time.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:29

    And so I think that serves to convince people that, yes, there is something wrong when they feel disempowered or when they they look around and see that there isn’t a lot of economic opportunities that those things are slipping away and their country is is becoming something that they that they don’t recognize that know, they hear people speaking Spanish all the time. And they watch TV and there are you know, again, this you can’t disentangle race from this for a lot of people. That there is one ad after another with interracial couples. And the America that they understood from, especially from their childhood, if you’re talking about older people, is no longer the America that they that they see around them. And then someone like Trump comes along, and he says we will make America great again, and the keyword is again.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:11

    We’re gonna bring it back to what it was. And of course, you know, he can’t do that, and he didn’t do it. There are no fewer immigrants today than there were when he came into office. After the twenty sixteen election, America is still changing. America is still getting younger and more diverse all the time.
  • Speaker 4
    0:21:27

    He didn’t arrest that. But he gave them a kind of emotional satisfaction to say to them you’re right, you are the realest Americans, and you can be as angry as you want. And if politics is not a place, where you can actually affect change and do something about the things that you aren’t happy about in your community. Well, at the very least you can give a big middle finger to all the people you hate and that I will do that for you and we’ll do it together. And that was Trump’s message.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:53

    Nobody has criticized our chapter three where we talk about the inflated electro and political power for all whites because it’s not in dispute. It’s a numerical fact. So I have had reporters literally doubt me and then go and double check and say, hey, you were right. When I point out that Los Angeles County and it’s ten million people, which has to share two senators with the other twenty nine million California’s is larger than any of the forty forty smallest states combined, which have eighty senators among them. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:20

    LA exit. Lexes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:21

    Yeah. Lexes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:23

    Let’s get
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:23

    them two more senators.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:25

    Let’s get them two more senators. I mean, I’m for a system. We’ll never get rid of the senate. It’s the only surviving provision that our five, the amendment process, which I wrote my dissertation about, specifically exempts from amendment. You’d have to amend the amendment process and then amend it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:37

    That’s literally true. Anyway, The Republicans sometimes say the quiet part out loud. So save our states, which is a coalition funded by the Bradley Foundation, a conservative husband and wife team. Their executive director is a guy named Trent, England. And he published a piece in the USA today, saying if we get rid of the electoral college, the cities will treat rural Americans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:56

    This is his language. Servs Russian serves like peasants because we make all the food and the energy and where you’re gonna we we I get emails all the time from people. Like, every time you eat or gas up your car, you can thank rural America. As if no technologies or inventions are ever created in the cities. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:10

    Like, where did you get your iPhone from? Where did you get your MRI done today at the university and the major city? Like, You don’t hear Urban people say, hey, congratulations on your CAT scan today. You should thank, you know, Urban America for that and the doctors who were schooled there and lived there and worked there and so forth. You you don’t see this resentment, but because the food is made and the energy is dug up in rural America, there’s a sense of entitlement.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:32

    But sometimes they say the quiet part out loud, and this is what’s really fascinating. Wisconsin has been so gerrymandered until recently that in the state elections, for example, Republicans got forty six percent of the statewide vote in state houses, but they controlled sixty four percent. It’s not just a majority, but almost a super majority. And here is the Republican speaker of the house, Robin Voss, after Evers finally defeated Scott Walker after his three terms. This Madison and Milwaukee phenomenon, the M and M’s as Catherine Kramer, who wrote the definitive book in twenty sixteen.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:01

    The politics of resentment about Wisconsin. She talks about white rural resentment toward Madison Dane, the state university, and the state capital, and Milwaukee, the blackest jurisdiction in the state. Quote, if you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority. We would have all five constitutional officers, and we would probably have many more seats in the legislature. Also, they’d have both US senators and ten electoral votes for whoever their Republican nominees.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:24

    Imagine we said in our book. Imagine Chuck Schumer said. Imagine any liberal or Democrats said Well, if we just eliminated the votes of all counties in Wisconsin with fewer than twenty thousand people, the Democrats would have all five constitutional offers. They would have the governor and every state wide officer US senator, they would have the ten electoral votes for Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. Imagine the outrage of discounting people in small counties.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:46

    But they say it openly. And so did the the the majority leader of the Senate. Citizens from every corner, Wisconsin deserve a strong legislative branch that stands on equal footing with an incoming administration that is based on Masoli and Madison. That is hyperbolic language, and that is essentially erasing people. And you’re allowed to do that if you’re conservative and Republican and especially if you’re white and rural, but you’re not allowed to do that if you’re a minority or from the cities, because then you’re disrespecting and you’re discounting white rural Americans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:12

    We don’t call for their votes to be erased, but we call for them to stop advocating the erasure of people who just happen to look think act or pray differently from them and maybe live in cities.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:24

    Despite the fact that these white role Americans have disproportionate political power. Another, I think, thing that’s contributing to their resentment and rage is that they’re being convinced by their the people that they trust, their political influencers, and media influencers that they’ve lost all the power and that the power is actually in the place of the deep state. And I wanna play one clip from this week, from my friend, Pizzagate Jack Posobiak, who is at Mar a Lago discussing Peter Navarro being jailed. For not testifying after a subpoena. So let’s listen to pizzagate Jack.
  • Speaker 5
    0:26:01

    Because he refused to submit. He refused to surrender because he kept the faith. Because he kept the courage of his convictions. And when the January six showed of a committee, which broke every rule under the sun, which broke every law under the sun, which deleted evidence which deleted communications, which didn’t even offer witnesses the chance of a cross examination. When they called him in, he said no.
  • Speaker 5
    0:26:36

    I refuse. That is the energy we need as Catholics, as Christians, and Americans going forward. Encourage to say no, to set my reviews, I will not take part in these demonic words. I will not take part
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:54

    demonic works. I forgot we had that one at the end. Here’s the thing that I always felt about the January six crowd. Their actions were the natural reaction that you would expect from people who had been convinced by assholes like pizza gate Jack that the country is being taken away from them that they’re subverting the rules, that they’re subverting the law in order to silence them, that they’re the real majority. I, eventually, if you feel like some shadowy cabal has stolen your rights and your country from you, your natural reaction is gonna be.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:26

    Resist fight attack.
  • Speaker 5
    0:27:29

    As much of this, as some of
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:31

    it is is happening within these communities, they are being radicalized. By these media figures and politicians. Don’t you think, Paul?
  • Speaker 4
    0:27:38

    Yeah. If you actually believed the things that Donald Trump and, you know, figures like Jack Poseowiak and conservative talk radio hosts and Republican politicians. If if you actually believed what they were telling people, then violence and overthrowing the government would seem like the natural, like, a perfectly logical response. Because of the the horror of what’s actually going on. And so these are messages that people get all the time that there are dark forces out there that are trying to literally destroy you and everything that you value and turn America into a kind of hellish nightmare where you will be, you know, possibly literally rounded up into concentration camps or something like that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:20

    Shortches will be closed.
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:21

    Exactly. And so there are a lot of different communities that have a kind of a narrative of victimhood that’s very important to them. I think that’s that’s always been part of Christian theology, frankly. Going back a long, long way, the idea that we are a small group of people who know the truth and are are hounded and oppressed because we believe the truth. And so there are a lot of different communities today that have victimhood as kind of part of their their self conception.
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:47

    And that is especially true for conservatives who think that, you know, this culture is not only opposed to their values, but is trying to bring about their literal destruction. And it’s particularly true in rural areas. And there are a lot of there’s been a lot of political science research about the idea of victimhood and how that plays in. I know there’s at least one study that found that people who consider themselves to be victims that that was a a predictor of support for Donald Trump over and above whether you were a Republican that people who thought they had been victimized unfairly were particularly drawn to him. And after Nobody complains about being a victim more than Donald Trump himself.
  • Speaker 4
    0:29:24

    I mean, here you you have a guy who his entire life has been spent acting like the rules didn’t apply to him and getting special treatment, and he craps on a gold toilet, and there’s nobody who complains more often. That he’s being treated unfairly. And for people who think that they have been treated unfairly, sometimes with reason, that can be very attractive. And so he can be a vehicle for just complaining that the world is doing you wrong. And I think that that does have particular force in real places, especially places that that have declined in a lot of ways.
  • Speaker 4
    0:29:55

    You know, you look around and you see in your community, maybe even if you are doing okay, but you see a community that has lost people and that doesn’t have a lot of opportunity and you feel like the world is not being fair, especially when at the same time you’re being told that you’re the truest Americans. And so you you can become very attracted. To a politician who says, yes, you have been done wrong. There is a system that is rigged against you, and I’m gonna unrig it. And, you know, we could talk more about Trump, but This is one of the remarkable things about, especially about his appeal in real America that, you know, he didn’t do the kind of practical things that he said.
  • Speaker 4
    0:30:28

    He didn’t turn into a paradise he said he was gonna bring back all the cold jobs. Cold jobs were lower when he left office than when he came into office. He made all these practical promises, and it’s kind of hard to know whether people believed them in the first place or they just thought it was kinda what they wanted to hear, and they liked it. But one of the things we saw is that as the country was moving away between twenty sixteen and twenty twenty, away from Trump, rural America moved toward him. We looked at the his hundred strongest counties in twenty sixteen, almost all of the Murrural, places where he got eighty, eighty five, even ninety percent of the vote.
  • Speaker 4
    0:31:01

    And in ninety one of those hundred counties, he did better in twenty twenty than he had in twenty sixteen, despite the fact that he did not turn rural America into a paradise. Apparently, people didn’t care. It was enough to get the kind of emotional satisfaction of him validating their resentments, their anger, and saying that he was gonna join them in kind of this campaign of hate against the people who they loathed, and that that was more than enough for them.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:27

    Yeah. Tom, I wanna get to what Democrats can do last. So just one more thing on this. Pizza Gay Jack was at. I don’t know if it was at the event that we saw each other out in Arizona.
  • Speaker 4
    0:31:37

    It was. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:38

    Yeah. Yeah. He was at the event, in Queens Creek as well. I gotta tell you, when people think about rural America, I’m sympathetic. To, you know, I worked on a campaign in Waverly Iowa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:50

    And like, Waverly has just been brutalized. By globalization and, you know, by the changing economy that you talked about. And I’m sympathetic to people that are upset about leadership that live in those kinds of communities. But rural America is also exurban Phoenix. And and I gotta tell you, the place that went that was the most where I felt the most unsafe and I’ve been to a lot of mega events was at some events that were maybe an hour outside of Phoenix.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:19

    There were a lot of people that were transplants. You know, this was not a factory town where that had been where the factory had shut down. That was people that had made a cultural choice that they wanted to escape their communities and move somewhere else with more like minded people. I just it’s talking Like, when you guys were looking at this kind of how you assess that and and you’re also in Arizona and what your kind of experience is,
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:44

    Well, again, it’s not limited to white rural Americans, and there are many Maga supporters who are as equally devout and equally vitriolic perhaps. That live in the suburbs and other places, whether they grew up there the whole time or as you pointed out, their transplants to the new south or what have you. We don’t focus as much on them. The book is focused sort of laser focused on rural white Americans. But to your point about the Soviet and the anti intellectualism, you know, as a fine young newly minted political scientist named Kristen Lundrujillo at the University of South Carolina.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:14

    I read her dissertation when she wrote about rural white Americans at the University of soda, and she finds that there’s higher anti intellectualism among, among worldwide Americans. And it’s not a perfect direct through line to the kind of conspiracies and the disinformation that we see that is used by people like the soviet who wanna convince us that Hillary Clinton and John are kidnapping raping and then drinking the blood after killing children in a basement of a pizza shop that doesn’t have a basement.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:41

    Also wearing the baby skin on their face as a mask.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:43

    That’s right. But they
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:44

    drain a gum, you can’t forget that. The mask, the baby skin face mask. If
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:47

    you wanna live forever, you do have to wear the baby mask. Of course. I’m sorry. I forgot that. But You can’t have a democratic discourse in a democracy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:56

    Right? You can’t have true discourse unless there’s at least some shared information set. And there’s at least some logic and rationality. As I always joke to my students in a democracy, the great blessing is everybody can vote. The great curses that everybody can vote.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:09

    And I’m not saying my vote should count more because I’m a political scientist, but if we were building a bridge, we wouldn’t have political scientists and history majors, and violinist contributing. We would have engineers and painters and structure. Right? And and, unfortunately, in a democracy, a person who is trafficking, he could spear a 60s and believes things like the Soviet is peddling, their vote counts one and my vote counts one. And so does yours and so does build crystals.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:30

    Right? People are paying attention to politics. And that’s that’s the unfortunate downside of democracies that people with little to no information can be very dangerous. And because as Paul is our more of our media were because of the disemboweling of local media and the replacement with national controversies where we have, you know, we interviewed a bunch town supervisors and their Adirondacks. And they’re like, we don’t wanna talk about critical race theory.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:53

    We don’t wanna talk about Bulwark lives matter. We wanna talk about regulating the Airbnb people come from out of town and we want the money, but we, you know, they trash the places and they’re too loud and so forth. We wanna keep the Lake placid twenty four hour emergency room that they wanna close for eight overnight open so that people who are in car accidents or have heart attacks don’t have to go to Plattsburg or across the Lake Lake Champagne to Burlington because all the hospitals are owned by the Vermont system in the Adirondacks, the Champaign Valley Regional Hospital. That’s what we’re worried about. We don’t wanna talk about library book bans.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:22

    This is the nationalization of local politics. And so when you remove the local media and you nationalize the politics and people are shouting at town meetings about critical race theory, we’ve lost something. And and the conversations become more coarse, and the discourse has become more devoid of real substance and facts. And that’s how with a heavy dollop of social media. That’s how you lose your democracy, frankly.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:44

    And it’s not a explicitly rural white phenomena. It’s a it’s a broader cultural and media phenomena. And I think it’s very dangerous. And I think, you know, even if rural whites as we argue are the tip of the spear of this movement or the Maga movement, they’re not alone in that fact. And we have serious problems with public discourse and a functional democracy that depends on voters being at least minimally informed and engaged.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:07

    Here’s my final topic and boy. I’m worried the answer to this one is gonna be the most depressing, which is is there anything that can be done to reach these people. And, you know, I’ve been very critical. Sometimes with the Democrats who just have written this group off instead of trying to care about how that you can improve on the margins. There’s some exceptions to that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:27

    I wanna shout out Heidi High Camp has a group called One Country that’s working on this. I hear often from Rob Sand and Iowa and other Democrats. The actually, the chief of staff of the DNC right now used to be the rural political director. So it sounds like there aren’t some people that are thinking about this. There are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:44

    But to me, it’s always like the premise of that effort. It’s always based on, okay. These people are culturally aggrieved. And so our response to that is we’re gonna reach some of them by meeting their economic needs. Basically, it’s a shorthand, right, or their practical needs.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:00

    We’re gonna bring rural broadband you know, we’re going to build more factories back home. And I just wonder, is that powerful enough? Can that compete can having faster wifi compete with believing that the country is being stolen from you by elites and Mexicans, etcetera?
  • Speaker 4
    0:37:20

    Maybe not. And as you know, Tim, because you’re a an experienced political professional, all politics is identity politics. And the advice that Democrats always get is, you know, you need to go back into rural America that you’ve left and be respectful and listen and show people that you understand their lives and show people that you are like them, and then they will be open to your arguments. And there are a lot of Democrats who have followed that advice and still lost because it’s necessary, but not sufficient. And, you know, we don’t have a silver bullet for Democrats.
  • Speaker 4
    0:37:56

    But one of the things that we do say that they have to do is to start also talking more in frankly negative terms about Republicans, to sort of open up the space for people to think not just about those cultural issues. But also about the conditions of their lives because politicians should be able to connect with you on kind of an identity basis but they also should be able to address the problems that you’re facing. The big problem is that Republicans have been excused from addressing any of the problems in rural America. And that is something that I think Democrats could do something about. You know, it’s great.
  • Speaker 4
    0:38:32

    When the Biden administration spends tens of billions of dollars to extend broadband to rural places. And that’s something that some people dismiss, but it’s actually really important. It’s important for education. It’s important for economic development. It’s important just for the quality of people’s lives.
  • Speaker 4
    0:38:44

    So that’s great. He doesn’t get enough credit for it. But I think that Democrats also have to go into these places and encourage people to start holding the Republicans who represent them accountable. To say, okay. You know, yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:38:57

    You’re mad that there isn’t enough economic opportunity for your kids here. You’re mad that the hospital closed down. There have been almost two hundred rural hospitals that have closed in the last twenty years. You know, you’re mad about those things. You should be mad.
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:09

    But you know who you should be talking to? You should be talking to the Republicans you keep electing and demanding that they come and do something for you. And so that’s gotta be part of the argument Democrats make. It’s not just like I’m gonna give you some good stuff, but to actually tell people that they have to start holding their Republican office holders accountable. And if you actually did that, you could begin to open up a space where Democrats could make a compelling argument.
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:34

    And we also say in the book that there ought to be a broad rural movement. And this is one of the things that is so striking. You know, every part of both parties coalition. Like, if you look at the Republican coalition, you know, you can kinda rattle off who’s on that list? You know, it’s the gun rights people and evangelicals and business interests when a Republican takes office gets to the White House.
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:54

    All those people are at the table, and they’ve got a list of demands. And they say these are the things that we want. And if you don’t, at least make some progress on all this stuff, then maybe we won’t help you four years from now. And the Democrats have their coalition with all their pieces, unions, and African Americans, environmentalists, etcetera, and they say the same thing. But there is no rural movement with a list of demands.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:13

    And if you could form one and, again, there are progressives who are trying to do this. It’s very difficult Bulwark. But if you could form one that actually said, like, these are the things that rural America needs, and we’re gonna demand that you begin to make progress on them. Then you would begin to open up that space, and both Democrats and Republicans would have to satisfy those demands or at least explain to people why they weren’t. Biv, right now, even though white rural people are one of the absolute foundations of Republican power, when those people win office broke people aren’t at the table.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:45

    They’re not even there. And the Republicans know they can just count on those votes. They don’t have to do anything for them. And that is something that really ought to change.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:53

    What I’m hearing is is we need a famous person that’s coded as a redneck evangelical to start dunking on how much the Republicans have failed. So is that is that where you’re going, Tom? Because that’s where my head’s going.
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:04

    I mean, there’s a great comedian named Trey Crowder. We did his show. He’s the Liberal Redneck. We love guy. And, his show, they told us, his producer told us Scott twice the amount of views and even had a spillover next week when we weren’t on there.
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:16

    So there are liberals out there in rural America who are saying it sometimes tongue in cheek and in a funny way, which I think is very effective. But I wanted to add one little piece on race to what Paul just said. You know, in in cities, white people vote more Republican than their black and brown neighbors, but because urban whites are more liberal, the gap, the racial gap in voting Democratic or Republican, is smaller than it is in rural America, where rural white Americans, in some cases, we’re voting eighty, ninety percent for Trump, and their minority neighbors are voting seventy to eighty percent Democratic. And we call for a pan racial rural agenda because if our critics who say this isn’t about race, it’s about the rural experience and the depredations and the economic hardships and the post, you know, late stage capitalism decline and and and the brain drain. Then they, in theory, rural white should be able to easily build a coalition with their black and brown neighbors to create a pan racial, uniform, voice that as Paul said would bring both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to its knees to satisfy them if you had a unified rural America.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:19

    And yet the gap in voting, and the gap ideologically is wider in rural America than it is in urban or suburban America. And I think that raises in questions and questions that many of our critics and many scholars do not wanna ask because they don’t want to know the answer.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:33

    I think I know the answer. I appreciate you guys very much. For working on this. Tom Sheller Paul Waldeman book his white rural rage, the threat to American democracy. We’ll be talking again soon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:43

    Appreciate you guys very much.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:44

    Thanks so much, Tim.
  • Speaker 4
    0:42:45

    Thanks, Tim.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:46

    We will see you all back here on Monday. We’ve got some great guests lined up for next week, and, thanks for listening to the Bulwark podcast. Peace y’all.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:56

    Said it’s none of my business, but it breaks my heart. I dropped a dozen cheap roses in my shopping cart. Made it up to the truck without breaking down. Everybody knows you must be trapped. It’s a Thursday night, but there’s a high school game.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:29

    Sneak a bottle of the bleachers and forget my name. These five He’s run a shadow cross. It’s a boy’s last dream and a man’s laws. And it never did occur immediately. Till than nine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:56

    There’s no one lived to ask if I’m alright. Sleep until I’m straight enough to drive. Then the side If there’s anything that can’t be left behind. Road got blurry when the sun came on. A couple hours and we pick up truck.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:32

    Drink a cup call me by an Indian man. A thousand miles away from a thousand miles away from
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:50

    The Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper with audio engineering and editing by Jason Brown.
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