No Trust, No Solutions

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG

People who live and work outside Washington, D.C., say their way of life and values have not changed. But they think those who live, work and legislate inside the Beltway have, frankly, gone bonkers about everything.

David Hendricks of Weatherly, Pa., said those lawmakers are tribal, angry, argue about things most people never even think about, and run campaigns based on "vote for me because I am one of you and not one of them," rather than "vote for me because I will do a good job for all of us."

To him, this is "just foolishness."

Hendricks did not vote in November. Neither did many others with whom I spoke at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last week.

Their answers are a glaring look into the cultural chasm that is expanding between urban America and rural America.

Fascinatingly, at least half of these folks were young, Democrat and college-educated -- bucking the concept of unhappy, conservative Republican, older white men.

"Both parties share two sides of the same coin," said Johanna Horst, 32, a social worker from Reading.

People are fed up with politics, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen.

"One reason is that in day-to-day life, people find common ground as a basis for working together," he said. "You don't have to agree on the president's health care law to build a Habitat for Humanity house together.

"But in politics, even if people agree on 90 percent of an issue, the politicians will use the other 10 percent to drive a wedge between people who share a lot of common ground."

America has shifted away from rural-oriented politics toward a more urban orientation for some time. At the turn of the 20th century, historian Frederick Jackson Turner warned that the closing of the frontier portended change in American culture.

Turner's "frontier thesis" postulated that America's distinctive egalitarian culture came from the rural experience of her settling pioneers. In his mind, the process of settling the frontier essentially established liberty, releasing Americans from an aristocratic, European mindset.

However, even as the country became mostly urban beginning around 1915, rural areas did not lose political relevance. …