Urban Rural Divide

Posted: December 15, 2016

Source: The Forest Blog by Russ Vaagen

american-flagThis election season has been one for the ages.  It’s interesting to hear all of the different reactions to the election.  I think the response of those that supported Hillary are showing us why this has happened in the first place.  There is a massive chasm between the issues and concerns in the cities and those in the rural areas.  Most of the time people that live in the urban areas don’t even think about the people that live in the country.  They certainly don’t concern themselves with those that live way out in the little towns of what most view as fly-overstates.

Most of the time that lack of concern doesn’t cause any issue.  However, that lack of empathy for rural America following this election is only going to fuel the division.  Election protesters are name calling fellow Americans because they exercised their right to vote for the candidate that they felt would represent them best.  A vote for a candidate is not vouching for that person.  That vote only means that you feel like they align more with your particular interests.

I think it’s interesting to note that it’s not the party-line voters who decide an election.  It’s how the candidate does with the voters that don’t necessary align with a party.  I don’t think Clinton even tried to communicate to rural voters.  Many people that voted for Barack Obama in the prior two elections did not choose to vote for Hillary Clinton.  This says way more about her inability to connect with voters than it does about Trump supporters voting based on anything to do with race.  I don’t think anyone denies that we have an issue with racial tensions.  Americans would love to see a day when we don’t have to be concerned about race, but for most voters race wasn’t a primary issue in this election.  It seems like most media is hyper focused on calling people racists rather than solving the underlying issue.  I get that it creates conflict and headlines, but we should get above that and focus on solutions, not division.

That division is what created the result that we all saw on November 8th.  The clear majority of people living outside of densely populated areas felt like Hillary Clinton represented more division in their lives.  They voted accordingly.  The issues that were at the top of most voter’s concerns were the economy and National Security.  Trump had the edge when it came to National Security but separated himself with economics.

Many of our American cities were doing quite well economically, while our rural areas were just doing ok or not that well at all.  I heard many people say that they noticed that businesses were doing well, but they were always referring to major metropolitan areas.  Donald Trump took the time to talk with the people from the areas that weren’t booming.  He spoke to their concerns.  When I would watch mainstream media reports, they would scoff at the things he was talking about while rural voters had been waiting to hear someone talk about their struggles.  In my opinion, that’s what decided the election.  And I think it’s precisely why urbanites don’t get it.  It’s because of apathy.

What does this have to do with healthy forests?  It has to do with connecting what many of us are working on in the rural countryside with the people of urban America.  We need to look at what connects us, not ignore the struggles of others.  Could the forest products industry use the support now found in Republican-controlled House, Senate and Executive branches to push heavy-handed National Forest management policies?  I think we could potentially see that however, many of us would like to continue with collaboration.

Trust with conservation groups and community groups have led to plans to manage more of the forest than we have since Bill Clinton’s first term.  We need to stay the course and continue to use collaboration to find common ground.  I would like us to honor our commitments and protect special areas while creating economic prosperity in others.  If we can move these things forward in a non-partisan way, I am hopeful that we can enact real, meaningful change.  Meeting our shared interests, reaching common ground while creating abundance for all.  If we can do that in our nation’s forests, maybe there’s hope for the other social problems that we face.

Together we can get better while striving to make the America better.  We need to create opportunities to prosper at all economic levels and in all areas.  If we had shared economic benefit and we cared about all of America then maybe it’s possible to make our elections about the issues and not just where people live.