By Damon Linker, The Week
What if the polarization of American politics and rise of right-wing populism in the Republican Party are a function of rural parts of the country becoming more like the historic South?
That is the surprising suggestion of Will Wilkinson in a fruitfully provocative Substack post. Wilkinson is something of an expert on the subject, having done important empirical work on the role of population density in driving political polarization and populist backlash. His argument, in sum: Polarization and populism are caused by urbanization and its economic, social, and political consequences, with cities growing demographically and economically, and becoming more progressive, over time, while depopulating rural areas succumb to economic decline and zero-sum, reactionary politics.
In his latest post, Wilkinson merely extends this research a few steps by observing both an increasing cultural homogenization across different rural areas, each of which used to be more distinctive, and the growing prevalence of Confederate flags far outside of the historic South, in the rural areas of northern states and states that didn’t even exist at the time of the Civil War.