American politics has come down to city slickers vs. country bmpkins

By FRED GRIMM

fgrimm@miamiherald.com

Once again, the country mouse (with an assist from the Electoral College), has prevailed over the city mouse.

Because, the Aesop’s fable says more about America’s political and cultural and religious and educational divide than any of that stuff about red states versus blue states.

The New York Times has mapped the presidential election results according to individual counties that went Democrat or Republican in the presidential voting. It makes it obvious that our irreconcilable differences aren’t of the statewide variety.

The United (not so much) States has become a vast red field flecked with splashes of urban blue. Hillary Clinton won the cities. She won geographic swaths with large minority populations, like the Mississippi Delta, the Alabama Black Belt and border regions of California, Arizona and Texas. And Clinton won the occasional college town.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, received just 10 percent of the vote from his neighbors in Manhattan. (And just 41 percent in Palm Beach County, his part-time home.) But the billionaire developer crushed Clinton in the American hinterland, rolling up majorities among the white, disaffected, rural voters.

Florida offered a microcosm of the American electorate, writ large. (Except, for the fact that Clinton handily won the national popular vote but lost Florida.) Hillary won urban South Florida, carrying Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. She took Hillsborough County with Tampa, and Orange and Osceola counties in metro Orlando. She carried the home counties of Florida State University and the University of Florida and she won little Gadsden County, the state’s only black majority county.

Clinton lost Georgia but won the Atlanta metro area, along with Columbus, Savannah, Augusta and the home county of the University of Georgia.

She lost South Carolina but won majorities in Charleston and Columbia (University of South Carolina). Same in North Carolina, where Trump won a big rural majority to offset his losses in Asheville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro and the highly educated liberal enclave around the Raleigh-Durham research triangle.

Trump won Texas despite losing Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. The pattern was replicated across the country. Hillary Clinton was crushed in deeply red Kansas, but she won Douglas County, home to the University of Kansas. She took Lincoln (University of Nebraska) in Nebraska and New Orleans, Baton Rouge (Louisiana State University) and Shreveport in Louisiana. She took Salt Lake City in Republican Utah and Blaine County, Idaho, which would seem odd except for all those liberal California urban dwellers who’ve escaped to Sun Valley ski country.

Mostly rural West Virginia was the only state in which Clinton failed to carry a single county. Meanwhile, the Republican candidate received record low percentages in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Austin.

To say we’re divided according to our urban or rural sensibilities has become an understatement. And our sense of place seems to exacerbate political differences. A 2014 study on political polarization by the Pew Research Center study found that that conservatives would rather live “in large houses in small towns and rural areas — ideally among people of the same religious faith.” Liberals, meanwhile, would settle for smaller homes in walkable city neighborhoods. About 77 percent of liberals said they wanted to live in denser communities within walking distance of urban amenities like art museums, theaters, restaurants. (Compared to just 23 percent of conservatives.)

The Pew study found that 60 percent of rural Americans felt homosexual behavior was a sin, compared to only 40 percent of city residents. A rise in the number of Americans who tell pollsters they have no religious preference — up to 23 percent — seems to parallel the urban liberal/rural conservative divide. The agnostics, of course, are mostly city dwellers. Country folk make up most of the church mice.

Both liberals and conservatives told pollsters that they would not be pleased if someone from their family married someone of the opposite political bent. The modern version of Romeo and Juliet would feature poor Juliet peering down from a balcony festooned with “Make America Great Again” banners.

Apparently, our shopping preferences are divided along the same lines as politics and religion. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the 2012 presidential election found that Obama won 77 percent of the counties in the U.S. with a Whole Foods Market, but only 29 percent of the counties with a country-cooking Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Apparently, America can be divvied up according to preferences for artisan breads as opposed to buttermilk biscuits. And never the twain shall meet. Or eat.

Well, I suppose I’m a just a city mouse, a political loser happily ensconced in liberal, urban South Florida, residing in a small house within walking distance of restaurants, theaters, museums and at least two markets featuring organic veggies.

But I want to do my part to bridge the great American political abyss.

Sometimes I order a heaping plate of biscuits and gravy.

(This article was first published by the Miami Herald newspaper at www.miamiherald.com.)

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