Moving from Chicago, the Windy City to Greencastle, Indiana, – population 10,530 – was a journey in itself. But navigating DePauw University as a first-generation college student meant being the first in my family to step into an environment that others have been exposed to their entire lives. While I was overwhelmed by the small-town college campus, I reminded myself of the privilege of an education, something that college educated, upper-class and urban liberals tend to forget in their criticism of rural America.
The results of the 2020 presidential election undoubtedly demonstrated a red and blue divide between rural and urban America, but what is not captured by these results are the vast similarities as well as inequities that exist among working-class Americans regardless of geographic region.
Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fueled political polarization, using white supremacy, ignorance and lies to pit Americans against one another, infringing upon the well-being of the nation. His blatant racism has become a political tool to convince white rural Americans that contemporary Republican values are in their best interest.
On the contrary, the president’s four-year tenure has done more harm than good for rural Americans, which includes cutting the U.S. Postal Service and siding with large agricultural corporations over independent farmers.
Despite Trump’s betrayal, the Democratic Party continues to struggle for the support of rural Americans. The party relied on the slim chance of swing-states turning blue in the November presidential election. President-elect Joe Biden is the first Democrat since 1992 to win Georgia, which would not have been possible without the organizing done by Stacey Abrams and mobilizing the voting power of people of color, specifically African Americans, in larger urban areas.
This strategy may have been effective for the Democratic party this election, but it has not resolved the polarization across America.
The two-party system has made American politics a competition between Democrats and Republicans, which has worsened the government’s ability to serve the country as a whole. Aside from party politics, progressives are seeking to implement policies that will support the majority of Americans, rather than the 1%.
While millionaires make up 1% of the United States’ population, they account for 50% of Congress, demonstrating greater representation of the elite upper-class rather than the overwhelming majority of working-class citizens.
Cori Bush of Missouri’s 1st District and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York’s 14th are women from working-class backgrounds who have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. They are working to address economic inequality and enact other progressive policies for their districts and nationwide.
Through progressivism, there is a chance to unite working-class people of all races and ethnicities all over America, who struggle with access to healthcare, education and economic stability.
Biden should be held accountable for resolving this country’s polarization, yet it is also our responsibility to understand the consequences behind demeaning rhetoric that reveal classism rather than progressive values that lift us all.