Robert Wuthnow and I take a deep dive here to investigate what is happening in our country and why so many people could identify and vote for someone like Donald Trump. Robert is a brilliant researcher with a keen eye and awareness for discovering trends and truth. Having grown up in a small town himself, his perspectives carry a more holistic overview than simple numbers and research might show us.
His new book, The Left Behind, explores how a fraying social fabric is fueling the outrage of rural Americans.
What is fueling rural America’s outrage toward the federal government? Why did rural Americans vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump? And, beyond economic and demographic decline, is there a more nuanced explanation for the growing rural-urban divide? Drawing on more than a decade of research and hundreds of interviews, Robert Wuthnow brings us into America’s small towns, farms, and rural communities to paint a rich portrait of the moral order–the interactions, loyalties, obligations, and identities―underpinning this critical segment of the nation. Wuthnow demonstrates that to truly understand rural Americans’ anger, their culture must be explored more fully.
We hear from farmers who want government out of their business, factory workers who believe in working hard to support their families, town managers who find the federal government unresponsive to their communities’ needs, and clergy who say the moral climate is being undermined. Wuthnow argues that rural America’s fury stems less from specific economic concerns than from the perception that Washington is distant from and yet threatening to the social fabric of small towns. Rural dwellers are especially troubled by Washington’s seeming lack of empathy for such small-town norms as personal responsibility, frugality, cooperation, and common sense. Wuthnow also shows that while these communities may not be as discriminatory as critics claim, racism and misogyny remain embedded in rural patterns of life.
Moving beyond simplistic depictions of the residents of America’s heartland, The Left Behind offers a clearer picture of how this important population will influence the nation’s political future.
Robert Wuthnow is an American sociologist who is widely known for his work in the sociology of religion. He is the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, where he is also the former Chair of the Department of Sociology and Director of the Princeton University Center for the Study of Religion.
Robert has published widely in the sociology of religion, culture, and civil society. His current research and teaching focuses on social change, the sociology of belonging, community, rural sociology, religion and politics, and theory.
He is editor of The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion and received the first Tufts University Civic Engagement Prize in 2007.