(This is the fourth article based on the book The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker by Katherine Cramer.)

Katherine Cramer says “So the problem, for me, is this. We are in a time of increasing economic insecurity and of stark policy bias in favor of the affluent, and yet the politics of resentment draws our attention to our animosity toward each other rather than in ways in which the political system is not working for anyone but the very few.”

1. Policy makers need “to reassess what is going on in rural places and reconsider the policy responses they have made to date.” “As I have documented in Chapter 4, rural communities are receiving significant amounts of resources—and not necessarily less than their fair share, as many of them believe. However, the depth of the resentment toward cities and policy makers suggests three possible alterations to public policy targeted toward rural areas.”

A. “First, it is possible that the resources rural communities are receiving are not effectively addressing the needs of rural communities.” “Maybe more programs should be tailored specifically for rural needs and crafted that not all rural areas are the same.”

“We need geographic cooperation as well as bipartisanship.” Cramer suggests a legislator exchange program. Legislators from urban areas spend time in rural areas and vice versa.

B. Second. “Some of the resources rural communities are receiving are invisible to the people who live there. Many of the government benefits that a wide variety of people receive are part of the– “submerged state”—government programs that are as expensive as welfare but less often acknowledged.” Tax deduction for interest on a home mortgage is an example.

C. Third. “The manner in which policy is created and delivered is important for whether people perceive it as meeting their needs or being in their interests.”

2. Listen to the people in rural areas. People in rural areas feel abandoned, disrespected, and ignored. “If the people I spent time with had perceived that policy makers had listened to the concerns of rural residents before creating government programs, would they have felt differently about those programs? If they had perceived that UW-Madison researchers were going out of their way to ask locals for their insights on the projects they were pursuing in small towns, would they have felt more supportive of that work?”

3. “We should question the quality of representation that takes place in the politics of resentment. In this study, we see politicians tapping into divides and nourishing resentment and then claiming that electoral support is evidence that the public has a principled stance on the role of government.”

“My fear is that democracy will always tend toward a politics of resentment, in which savvy politicians figure out a way to amass coalitions by tapping into our deepest and most salient divides: race, class, culture, place. This does not exactly make for a pleasant public life. When we get to where we do not actually have a public life, when we turn away from politics because it causes resentment rather than hope to the surface, democracy ceases to exist.”

What is the role of citizens to bridge the divide:

A. Between the public and private sector?

B. With legislators who see no need to listen to their constituents as seen by the data of the Open Records Requests done by Sheila Plotkin and the others of “We, the Irrelevant”?

C. Between our rural and urban neighbors?

D. To bring attention to the issues?

E. To encourage people to vote and take part in the democratic process?