The Politics of Resentment: Carving Up America

Oct 6, 2017

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MADISON, Wis. - From the election of Donald Trump nearly a year ago to the recent victory by Roy Moore in the Alabama Republican Senate primary, candidates are successfully using tactics of division to win at the polls, according to a Madison-based author.

Kathy Cramer, author of the 2016 book "The Politics of Resentment," said divisive politics is nothing new, but it's become much more prominent. She said candidates are capitalizing on racial divisions, economic anxiety and the belief that some people are getting way more than they deserve. "There's something about the context in which we live right now that makes these views especially potent for politics," she said, "whether it's what our politicians are doing or the various things that are coming together: the great recession, the brain drain, or the loss of young people from these communities. All these things are coming together."

According to Cramer, director of The Morgridge Center for Public Service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "The Muslim travel ban and the ban against transgender people serving in the U.S. military are other cases in point of generating support for policies by carving up the country into different social groups and blaming hardship on some of them."

The rural-urban divide in our nation is another issue that candidates are exploiting, she said. In researching her book, she heard a lot of rural people say politicians just don't listen to their concerns. She said she believes there's evidence to support that claim. "In many ways, our rural communities have been overlooked and disrespected and ignored, and many of their concerns are addressable through public policy," she said. "Personally, I do believe that people across the board in a democracy need to have their concerns and their voices recognized and heard." Cramer added, "The notion of 'making America great again' is another way in which Donald Trump tapped into both economic and cultural anxiety. He was suggesting to people, 'Yes, there was a time when things were better in this country, and I'm going to take you back to that time.'"

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