White Rural Rage and the Threat to Democracy

Ian Mitroff
3 min readFeb 28, 2024

I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.

Paul Krugman’s latest Op-Ed is critical in understanding White Rural Rage and the Severe Threat to Democracy that it represents[i]. Basically, Technology is responsible for the devastating decline of Rural America. While in the long run Technology creates new and better jobs, its effects are traumatic for those communities that don’t have the necessary skills and resources to take advantage of it. Thus, those with more education living primarily in cities not only fare much better, but relatively well.

As Krugman points out Federal Programs such Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and more are not only available, but help. They’re made possible by the transfer of funds from affluent urban areas. As a result, they come at a step social cost, the loss of dignity by those in need.

For Krugman, this helps explain why come November White Rural Residents will vote against Biden even though he’s been helping to bring jobs to Rural Communities. They will vote for Trump the Huckster because he validates their resentments.

In Krugman’s words:

“The result –which at some level I still find hard to understand — is that many white rural voters support politicians who tell them lies they want to hear. It helps explain why the MAGA narrative casts relatively safe cities like New York as crime-ridden hellscapes while rural America is the victim not of technology but of illegal immigrants, wokeness, and the deep state.”

Of course people are drawn to lies if that’s all they have to help them cope with situations that they find absolutely confusing and overwhelming.

Krugman ends by noting that while White Rural America is arguably the single biggest Threat to our Democracy, he has no good ideas how to fight it.

And so once again we end on a sour note. A better definition and understanding of the problem don’t help. They leave us with even more despair.

While I certainly don’t have the answer, and I’m typically given over to doom and gloom, I feel that something significant is missing. In short, we really don’t have a better understanding of the problem, not that it helps us solve all of the tortuous dilemmas facing us.

However tenuous they may be, there have to be grounds for hope.

[i] Paul Krugman, “The Mystery of White Rural Rage,” The New York Times, Tuesday, February 27, 2024, P A19.

Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He Is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid, Springer, New York, 2022.

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