Undoing our urbanization trend may undo political pain too

Column by Jim Rohrer
Posted 9/10/21

As a young boy, I can remember my grandmother rhetorically asking, “What’s the country coming to?” Her constant question was generated by news reports of change that she had trouble accepting. …

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Undoing our urbanization trend may undo political pain too

Posted

As a young boy, I can remember my grandmother rhetorically asking, “What’s the country coming to?” Her constant question was generated by news reports of change that she had trouble accepting.

Change is still happening. If my grandmother were still here, she would be amazed at the changes in her country since she first started asking this question. That change began during the industrial revolution during the 19th and 20th centuries. Between 1870 and 1920, a time when she lived, the population of American cities grew from 10 million to 54 million.

The growth of our cities has brought both good and bad. Cities experienced electrification and beautification, building of libraries, playgrounds, and swimming pools to attract Americans to a higher standard of living. The growth of cities also brought corrupt politicians, crime, overcrowding and sometimes disease.

A housing shortage in the late 40s as our war heroes returned was addressed with the beginning of the move to the suburbs. Millions moved to this new lifestyle and stores and jobs followed. Townhouses and apartments followed in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Look at a statistical map of the country, and you’ll find that 72% of the area of our country is rural, but these areas contain only 14% of our population.

We all know that lives in rural America and urban/suburban America are different. Our life experiences are not the same, and our politics tend to follow our life experiences. Life in rural America is slower, more centered on family, religion and traditional values. Suburban/urban life sees us dealing with long commutes, inflated prices and sometimes government services that are lacking. Of course, there are also many amenities unavailable in rural areas. I’m not judging, just pointing out the differences.

Because we live different lives, we have different political beliefs. In 1796, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton first brought to the attention of voters two different philosophies. Most of us have adopted one or the other. One wants local rule while the other supports a stronger federal government.

There are other differences, of course, but this is the key belief difference of the two philosophies. There are Republicans in cities and suburbs and Democrats in rural areas, but the map correlation is strong. Urban voters vote blue, rural voters are red.

Differences make life interesting, but in the ‘90s, Newt Gingrich brought the idea that our differences were fighting words. He introduced the idea that the other party was our enemy and a threat to our way of life. Democrats took up the fight as well, and the result is a polarized nation.

Now we see the other side as evil. Again, without taking sides, most of us see this as unhealthy. President Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we lose our freedoms, it will be because we have destroyed ourselves from the inside.”

So far, I have only told you things you already know, and the discourse is depressing. I believe a solution is within sight. Here goes ... The pandemic has brought about the popular idea that we don’t have to trudge into an office or central location to work. Working from home is popular and effective. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for millions.

With this new trend will come the realization that rural locations are attractive places to live in terms of cost. They also lack congestion, crime and the high taxes found in cities. As Americans move to these smaller more rural places, jobs and the good things cities offer will follow.

People may not change parties, but the disdain and disrespect of their new neighbors will wane. Millions of Americans joining a new tribe may be just what America needs. It may take some time, but population homogenization could heal us.

“Grandma, that’s what I think is coming to America.”

Jim Rohrer of Evergreen is a business consultant and author of the books “Improve Your Bottom Line … Develop MVPs Today” and “Never Lose Your Job … Become a More Valuable Player.” Jim’s belief is that common sense is becoming less common. More about Jim at www.theloyaltypartners.com.

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