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Trump supporters…where should they turn?

Another presidential election this year led to another sharply divided vote, with Joe Biden edging out incumbent President Donald Trump.

In keeping with the recent pattern, the eastern and western thirds of the country leaned toward Democrats. The middle third, especially the rural Farm Belt, favored Trump and Republicans. The Great Lakes region provided the swing votes for Biden.

I’ve been asked by a number of people in the past four years why rural America is so strongly supportive of a conservative agenda. These are people who didn’t grow up in a rural town, or who grew up and left to attend college without ever coming back.

There’s a viewpoint that a conservative approach is likely to drive smaller farmers off the land, and that it could mean more business closings on Main streets.

My response has been that rural communities have a strong tradition of self-reliance. Many people don’t want government influencing their lives. They don’t want Congress, legislatures or agencies telling them what to do.

Instead they believe that if people work hard they can succeed. They trust that what’s good for major businesses, with trends such as job creation, will have beneficial impacts on entire regions.

For the most part there’s an understanding that we can’t eliminate all forms of socialism from our society. To do that we’d have to get rid of Social Security, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and all anti-trust laws.

It’s a question of how far we should go toward government involvement. That’s played a role in questions over ObamaCare. It’s affected other issues like the future of the U.S. postal system.

Throughout our country’s history there’s been a question of strong federal government or a weaker federal system with more state and local influence. It impacted the framing of the Constitution and was a primary factor that provoked the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt, with national parks and the Pure Food and Drug Act, took the country more toward a federal approach. Franklin Roosevelt brought things even more in that direction after the Great Depression.

Ronald Reagan to some extent moved things the other way by advocating smaller government, saying that governments govern best when they govern least.

President Obama and now President-elect Biden could go down in history as the next step in that back and forth pattern. Their ideas for having federally-based responses to health care, climate change and other issues have drawn support as well as some opposition.

Much of rural America saw Donald Trump as a standard bearer for the conservative, limited government standard. People were willing to put up with his brash leadership style in order to have someone they agreed with on the broad issues. Now after Election 2020 the question becomes what will happen in the next several years.

It will be up to Biden to unify the country enough to make conservatives comfortable with some of his government-related initiatives.

There’s still a basic distrust of large government organizations among many people in the electorate. If that’s not addressed and modified at least in some ways, there will be another call for less government in the 2024 election and beyond.

Meanwhile everyone should give Biden a fair chance. He seems like not just a leader type but also a nice guy. He has roots in the factory towns of eastern Pennsylvania, and is someone who easily seems like a good older next door neighbor or a capable local mayor.

Unity is basically a good goal. It’s worthwhile to plan in ways that might generate support all across the political spectrum.

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