November’s been tough. Cloudy, our beloved 14-year-old cat, passed away. Donald Trump was elected President. (If you’ve been reading this column, you know of my misgivings about president-elect Trump’s intentions and temperament). It’s still raining. I’m not sure which of these events has left me more despondent.
A bright spot, though, was speaking to the fifth annual Moab Business Summit the morning after Election Day. (BTW, Moab, Utah, is awesome; great people, scenery, and craft beer … but I digress.) The title of my talk was “What’s Next for Rural and Small Town America?” I began by saying, “Congratulations on scheduling your event on a day when the entire world is talking about rural America.”
Why? Because rural America elected Donald J. Trump and a slew of down-ticket Republicans. There will be lots more analysis to come but I’ll bet you big that’s the bottom line. Now I’ve been trying to persuade political leaders to pay attention to rural voters for a while now. We just can’t ignore 59 million Americans living in rural communities and expect to win elections or govern wisely. According to Politico, rural voters made up 17 percent of the electorate this cycle. By contrast, the Latino voters Democrats banked on were only 11 percent of voters in 2012.
Having listened closely to folks across America this year, I wasn’t surprised that voters cast their votes for change. But what we got looks more like a revolution. That worries me.
Republicans ran the table this election cycle. While Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for two years during President Dwight Eisenhower and four years during President George W. Bush, it’s still a pretty unusual event in modern history. Come 2017, Republicans will also control the vast majority U.S. governorships and the Supreme Court. That’s a lot of unchecked power.
It’s clear that Republicans have performed well as an opposing party; it’s not clear how they’ll do as a governing party. Can they unify America? Can they improve our economy and protect us from homegrown/foreign terrorists? Do they understand the entrepreneurial needs of rural and small town Americans and will they improve our likelihood of success?
We all have a lot riding on the answers to those questions. I hope Republicans respond with character, compassion, and wisdom. And I hope we Americans share with them our best ideas and hold them accountable. Because Republicans are in charge now. Like never before. Godspeed.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.