Taibbi: MSNBC, Paul Krugman Panic Over "White Rural Rage"

This week in undisguised class hatred: the New York Times and MSNBC slobber over a new book on the domestic threat

“Tom, I’ll start with you,” began Mika Brzezinski. “Why are rural white voters a threat to democracy at this point?”

Fastball delivered, University of Maryland professor and co-author of just-released White Rural Rage: The Threat To American Democracy Tom Schaller took a swing. He and Mika first complained rural voters should be supporting Joe Biden, given his roots — you’d have to be pretty high to call Scranton “rural,” but whatever — then Schaller read off small town America’s charge sheet: rural whites, he said, are the most “racist,” “xenophobic,” “anti-immigrant and anti-gay,” “conspiracist,” “anti-democratic,” they “don’t believe in an independent press or free speech,” and are “most likely to accept or excuse violence,” for starters.

White Rural Rage, which I made the mistake of reading, is a vicious manifesto in the anti-populist tradition nailed by Thomas Frank in The People, NoWhen rural voters in the late 1800s defied New York banking interests and demanded currency reform to allow farmers an escape from one of the original “rigged games” in finance, relentless propaganda ensued. Rural populists were depicted as dirty, bigoted, ignorant. They refused expert wisdom, represented a “frantic challenge against every feature of our civilization,” and waged a “shameful insurrection against law and national honesty.” A populist caricature in Judge magazine showed a violent, destructive idiot, a real-life Lennie from still-unwritten Of Mice and Men, standing over the defiled corpse of civilized America:

taibbi msnbc paul krugman panic over white rural rage

The theme is back, condescension multiplied. Despite a pandemic that just graphically demonstrated the social contributions of farmers, truckers, train operators, and other “essential workers,” the people working those jobs were demonized during the crisis as murderous horse-paste eaters and insurrectionists. Their chief crimes: protesting lockdowns and school closures that disproportionately affected them, and being consumers of supposed foreign-inspired “misinformation” that led them to refuse appropriate political choices offered them.

Nobel-winning columnist Paul Krugman of the New York Times spent the last year telling “ignorant” Middle America its negative feelings about the economy are “demonstrably false,” because despite what their bank accounts or home evaluations might say, “Bidenomics is still working very well.” When White Rural Rage came out this week he rushed to review it, the intransigent refusal of yokels to accept his wisdom being his favored current hobby horse. “The Mystery of Rural White Rage” is remarkable on multiple levels, one being that after spending so much energy talking about the health of the economy, he pulls out an economic version of Sam Kinison’s classic “Move to the Food!” routine:

The decline of small-town manufacturing is a more complicated story, and imports play a role, but it’s also mainly about technological change that favors metropolitan areas with large numbers of highly educated workers. Technology, then, has made America as a whole richer, but it has reduced economic opportunities in rural areas. So why don’t rural workers go where the jobs are?

He answers his question: “Some cities have become unaffordable… and many workers are reluctant to leave their families and communities.”

To recap: globalization and technological change have devastated small towns and made the urban keyboard warriors richer, and rural voters can’t move to the cities because they can’t afford to. However, instead of being grateful for the “huge de facto transfers of money from rich, urban states like New Jersey to poor, relatively rural states like West Virginia” in the form of federal programs paid by the taxes of luckier citizens like Krugman, small town America is unaccountably hostile.

Schaller and White Rural Rage co-author Paul Waldman make the same point, that “cities produce far more of the nation’s wealth,” and rural citizens are increasingly “subsidized by the taxes paid by higher-income metropolitans.” What gives? Why won’t they shut the fuck up?

“For so long,” complained Waldman on Morning Joe, “Democrats have been told… that in order to get rural voters… you have to go there… you have to show them that you understand… You have to put on a Carhartt jacket and go down to somebody's farm, right? Maybe milk a cow?”

“Yes!” exclaimed* Mika.

But it turns out, a sad Waldman pronounced, that you “don’t have to do any of that,” because Donald Trump didn’t. He just “gave [rural voters] a way to essentially give a big middle finger to Democrats, to people who live in cities and to the rest of the country.”

The Morning Joe set looked perplexed.

Why would that work better than wearing a Carhartt jacket and milking a cow? It didn’t make sense.

Educated America. We’re in good hands!

*The correct phrase is really “‘Yes,’ dipshitted Mika,” but I was afraid the usage would throw off some readers. For future reference, it may come up again

Subscribe to Matt Taibbi's Racket News substack here...

Authored by Matt Taibbi via Racket News March 1st 2024