Understanding Rural Red Communities: Socialist History and Structural Causes of Contemporary Ideologies in North Dakota
Mathews, Marisa Nicole
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The rural-urban divide is discussed between scholars (Pew Research Center, 2018), politicians (Siegler, 2020), and everyday Americans (Badger, 2019). Those in urban blue states (majority voting Democrat) blame those in rural red states (majority voting Republican) for being racist, sexist, and homophobic and rural red states blame urban blue states for being bleeding hearts, lazy, and elitist (Hochschild, 2016, p. 227). This research brings a nuanced perspective to common perceptions of rural red communities. Through historical research of the socialist movement in North Dakota and interviews of rural North Dakotans, I analyze the broader reasons for a Republican majority. I discuss how North Dakotans reconcile this history with the current Republican majority by using a capitalist lens. Additionally, I discuss how the structural conditions of the economy, religion, and race in North Dakota result in an ideological fear of outsiders and reinforce a shared rural identity and cultural conservatism.