In a 2006 column about my grandparents, I reflected on my rural upbringing:
I close my eyes and I am back in Hayward, a speck on the map in southeastern Missouri’s Bootheel where my Papa and Grandma Ross lived.
I see my grandparents’ wood-paneled station wagon parked outside the two-story house that Papa built himself. Nearby, there’s a boat and fishing poles still dripping wet from a day on the Mississippi River.
I hear the crush of dirt under my feet as my brother, sister, cousins and I play hide-and-seek amid rows and rows of taller-than-us corn stalks. I smell the monster-truck-sized hogs that a neighbor raised in a cesspool of mud and slop.
I taste the ice-cold Grape Nehi soda in a glass bottle that we bought at the tiny store down the street — the same store that sold bologna sandwiches for a quarter and bags of candy for a dime.
Now in my mid-40s, I’ve lived my entire adult life in major metropolitan areas: Dallas-Fort Worth, Nashville and Oklahoma City. I love visiting the country — just as long as I don’t have be away from wifi, shopping malls and my favorite chain restaurants for too long.
Given my personal background, I was fascinated by a front-page Wall Street Journal story today. The in-depth report explores how differences between rural and urban America are an underappreciated factor in the nation’s political split.
Suffice it to say that red state America is much more rural than blue state America:
EL DORADO SPRINGS, Mo. — The owner of the nicest restaurant in town doesn’t serve alcohol, worried that his pastor would be disappointed if he did. Public schools try to avoid scheduling events on Wednesday evenings, when churches hold Bible study. And Democrats here are a rare and lonely breed.
Older, nearly 100% white and overwhelmingly Republican, El Dorado Springs is typical of what is now small-town America. Coffee costs 90 cents at the diner, with free refills. Two hours north and a world away in Kansas City, Starbucks charges twice that, and voters routinely elect Democrats.
There have always been differences between rural and urban America, but they have grown vast and deep, and now are an underappreciated factor in dividing the U.S. political system, say politicians and academicians.
Polling, consumer data and demographic profiles paint a picture of two Americas — not just with differing proclivities but different life experiences. People in cities are more likely to be tethered to a smartphone, buy a foreign-made car and read a fashion magazine. Those in small towns are more likely to go to church, own a gun, support the military and value community ties.
From the very top, the Journal emphasizes religion as a key factor. No ghosts here, folks.