On Sunday, April 8th, 2018, Viktor Orbán secured his third term as Hungary’s President. Unheard of in the United States, his third-term presidency continues an undemocratic wave seen around the world. In The Netherlands, Mark Rutte is serving his fourth term as Prime Minister. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has started hers. Russian President Vladimir Putin won his fifth term and China’s Communist Party awarded President Xi Jinping indefinite rule.
As we see democratically elected emperors spring up around us, rotative democracy’s waning prestige points to a conflict, a global conflict. I believe it stems from the growing divide between the countryside and the city, namely between diverging interests of rural and urban voters. No side is right or wrong but in a stagnating economy, each side can only defend its way of life at the expense of the other.
Revolt at the Ballot Box
Below are the results of three recent elections in which rural voters supported a conservative candidate.
Hungary, April 2018
Orbán’s Fidesz party, in orange, won the entire countryside. The cutout shows the Greater Budapest Area, Hungary’s only metropolis, and the only place where the opposition won. Out of a handful of parties, Fidesz won 49.5% of the popular vote, with 91 out of 106 electoral districts, and over two-thirds of the seats in the Parliament.
The United States of America, November 2016
Looking at the 2016 election results by county, the Republican Party, in red, headed by its nominee Donald Trump, took rural “Middle America”, whereas the majority of urban “Coastal USA” voted for Hillary Clinton. Although Trump won 46.1% of the popular vote, less than Clinton at 48.2%, his rural backers helped him win 304 electoral votes over Clinton’s 227.
Austria, April 2016 (First Round)
In blue, the first round of Austria’s 2016 election saw Norbert Hofer’s FPÖ, the Austrian Freedom Party, win the countryside. Because no party won more than the required 50%, a second round of elections awarded the Presidency to Alexander van der Bellen of the Green Party later that year. His party dominated populous urban and industrial areas, including Vienna, as shown in the cutout.
Following the adagio “privatized profits and socialized costs”, modern society—meaning progressive society—tends to generate its profits around urban centers while externalizing the cost to the countryside, both economically and environmentally.
City populations tend to lean left. They are more often progressive voters who favor open borders because the influx of consumers into the city secures economic growth. Rural populations tend to lean right. They are more likely conservative voters who favor the status quo because the influx of immigrants taxes their wealth.
Rural areas do not benefit as much from immigration as urban areas do. First and foremost because immigrants don’t migrate to the countryside as much as they do to cities. Policies that benefit megacities such as Chicago and Miami do not benefit the country as whole. Progressive-liberal reality is a particular urban reality that lacks universal application. Urban wealth doesn’t logically trickle down from the city to the countryside.
On their own, places like New York City could never sustain themselves. Like ancient Rome, modern cities are net importers of wealth and net exporters of dung. Yet, despite the fact that disposable incomes are lower in the countryside than in cities, rural folk tend to foot their nation’s bills. They pay taxes into a system that unfairly redistributes wealth from the country to the city.
Progressive voters look down on conservative folk. Not only because the agricultural communities of the latter are still relatively homogenous—one luxury the former can never afford—but also because rural folk work as slavers at the bottom of an urban-centric civilization.
Before she lost, Hillary Clinton called half of Trump’s voters a “basket of deplorables”: homophobes, xenophobes, sexists, racists, and nationalists. Voters right-of-center are often met with such insults coming from urban-centric media. Indeed, Trump’s voters, like those of Orbán and Hofer, were more religious and less educated, but the insults hurled at them overlook the key difference: they inhabit the countryside.
Are rural folk really less educated? They may be but they also have better mental health than city folk. Besides, the smartest kids from the country are the ones who move to the city. Are rural folk really more racist? Rural taxpayers are required to pay into a system that prefers foreign immigrants over their own offspring. By pitting natives against newcomers in the competition for a better life, the state has become the primary cause for racism.
The End of Cities
Cities lure people by brainwashing them with advertising meant to hide bitter reality. Cities are smog-infested, stress-inducing, hyper-competitive environments that reduce people to gears in a machine stuck in reverse.
My grandparents were farmers. My parents grew up on a farm but moved to a small town later in life. I am the first generation to spend a life in towns and cities. I did not enjoy it. I feel robbed of a more autonomous, more meaningful, and healthier life. I can only accede to what a young woman from Lithuania once told me. After spending a year living in Paris, she and her husband returned to the countryside near Vilnius to settle there. She said,
Today, urban planners are spreading their vision for a concrete world like cancer. Like an elephant cemetery, I fear that urban areas will someday be where our human species goes to rest. If we want to preserve a livable Earth, if we want to rebuild meaningful communities, we must continue to support the rural revolt against urban politics.