I'm a White Rural American. Nobody Left Me Behind.

I live in southwestern Oregon, eight miles from the nearest town and a five hour drive from the nearest sizable city. I have lived here for forty-two years. My county votes Republican regularly.

I choose to live here because I love living in the woods, I like to let my dogs roam free, and because I
don't feel crowded or have to deal with traffic. On a moonless night, I can see the Milky Way clearly. The bees have adopted a knothole in an oak and swallows inhabit an old rickety birdhouse my daughter made in elementary school. I can walk every day along a canopy-covered gravel road, past the log in the creek where the turtles line up, to get my mail. I can ride my bicycle on a twelve mile loop where the challenge is to count more deer than cars. I can hire a band to play on my lawn and invite my friends to come dance. I can float the river in an inflatable tahiti for no cost. I can chase the shy woodpeckers around my yard with my camera.

I accepted having to commute an hour and a half each way to take college classes and three hours each way for post-graduate work. I accepted lower pay and more challenging student situations as a teacher and principal than my colleagues in other areas. I never wanted to work with privileged rich kids in the suburbs.

But we are not being left behind. In fact, the federal government spends more in rural states that vote Republican than in traditionally blue states. Here are the ten states with the greatest dependency on federal spending:

1. Mississippi
2. New Mexico
3. Alabama
4. Louisiana
5. Tennessee
6. Montana
7. South Dakota
8. Kentucky
9. West Virginia
10. Missouri

Does that look like Democratic upper middle class privilege to you? Nine of those are solid "red states".

Rural areas developed around farming and extractive industries like logging, mining and fishing. These used to be labor-intensive industries. They aren't anymore -- not because the jobs have been outsourced (most extractive jobs have to be where the resources are), but because they've been replaced with machines. The local businesses that used to run these operations were bought out by huge conglomerates that don't reinvest in communities. Our last locally owned lumber mill just closed. Coal mining -- which is labor intensive -- has been replaced by fracking for natural gas, which employs machines and few people.

The federal government has stepped up for rural people. It's their own state and local governments that have not. In the county next to mine, the one where I worked for thirty years, there isn't 24-hour law enforcement because locals refuse to pay for it, not because Democrats in Washington don't care. In fact, federal taxpayers subsidized ridiculously low taxes in Josephine County for years.
13 States spend less than $9,000 per pupil on education. All 13 have Republican legislatures.
22 States refused to expand Medicaid and have the most uninsured families. All 22 of them have Republican legislatures.
Of the 10 States with the highest crime rates, 8 have Republican-dominated legislatures.
 Look at any metric and you'll find that Republican-dominated states are the worst places to live. This was a subject of an earlier piece I wrote: When Republicans Get their Way. I give many more examples of how blue states care for their people while red states do not.

The reality is that smaller rural states tend to be Republican and also have built-in advantages when it comes to dominating Washington, DC. Every state gets two senators, whether each senator represents 20,000,000 Californians or 300,000 Wyomingans. And with our electoral college system, small states receive a disproportionate number of electors as well, allowing them to decide presidential races while the bulk of the population -- who live in big states and on the coasts -- are underrepresented.

So let's stop bemoaning how the federal government left white rural Americans behind or how Democrats did. And let's move toward a representative system where rural states can deplete services at the state and local levels if they choose, but at the national level we all get an equal voice.

It's not so terrible for us white rural folks. I don't get city water but I have delicious well water. I don't get city sewer but I have a septic tank. I have to drive an hour to see good theater or listen to concerts but I can walk an hour without traffic. I have to drive a half hour to shop but I get fresh eggs from my own chickens. There are no big employers in my town. Heck, there's no town here. If I want a high-paying job, I know where to go.


  1. great blog, found it from the Oregon group, thanks for sharing it with us :)

  2. I just moved from the fifth largest city in that USA, Pheonix, AZ and moved back to the very small town of
    Eagle Point, OR. It was a decision based on comfort of lifestyle. In Phoenix I knew no one outside the senior compound where I lived. Traffic was the worst I have ever experienced, and I regularly drive in Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, and have driven in LA. Everything is SO spread out, and access to peace and quiet means venturing out into the desert. My small town allows me to walk to the post office, library, grocery store, and green parks. It is 6 to 8 miles to major shopping, and a bit more to great live theater, state college, and winter sports. Mostly I enjoy the caring people, the smiles, the "How it goin?" from many friends, acquaintances, and just fellow Eagle Pointer.

  3. System was to your liking when B. CLinton and Obama won. Now it's irratioanal tantrums. The cities which have long term Democratic leadership are the worst places to live. Extreme debt, High crime rate, poor school education. I don't know how that can be the fault of the Republicans but sure you will manufacture a reason.


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