Is Authoritarian Nationalism Mostly A Rural Phenomenon?

by  Barkley Rosser

Is Authoritarian Nationalism Mostly A Rural Phenomenon?

Offhand it looks like maybe it is.  In the US Trump won overwhelmingly in rural areas while losing all of the largest cities.  Yes, he took some mid-size declining industrial ones like Youngstown, OH and Erie, Pa, while losing some rural areas in places like Vermont as well as areas with minority groups the majority of the population.  But in general it holds, he won the countryside and lost the big cities.

In France, Marine Le Pen is also leading in some declining industrial cities of the Northeast for the upcoming presidential second round, but she loses in the larger growing cities such as Paris and Toulouse.   Recently The Economist reported a study showing that as one goes from downtown Paris outward there is a linear and substantial increase in support for her.  Again, the countryside is her base.

The Brexit vote was more for nationalism than authoritarianism, but in England it was the same pattern, countryside and declining industrial cities for Exit while London was strongly for Remain.  Of course in Scotland, every county was pro-Remain, but that is a special case.

In Russia, where Putin apparently remains very popular, his base is also  the countryside.  The main location where one finds open opposition to him?  Moscow, the largest, richest, and capital city.

So it looks like there is a pattern here, but there are some exceptions.

One is to some extent Turkey, where authoritarian President Erdogan has long had strong support in the largest city, Istanbul. That support fell in the recent referendum vote increasing his  power, which he narrowly won, possibly through fraudulent ballot stuffing. But it was more for him than Ankara and Izmir.  But in fact it was rural areas that provided the base for the referendum to pass, although it was a near draw in very large Istanbul.

Another is Poland, where the Law and Justice Party has strong support in capital city Warsaw, despite its being full of high tech yuppies and all that.  But the now dead Lech Kaczynski was its mayor from 2002-05 before he became president, only to  die in a controversial plane crash in 2010.  However, Law and Justice also has a strong base in certain rural areas, especially the poor and traditional Southeast.

I think in both of these cases what is involved is religion.  Certainly the authoritarian nationalist movements in all these nations are pushing religion or using it, even if just in opposition to other religious groups, especially Muslims.  But in both Turkey and Poland the majority local religions are making comebacks from long periods of suppression and trying to really take over their societies.  In both of them, there are large numbers of strong followers of the nationally predominant religion in these particular large cities, and this may explain why we see these somewhat different outcomes in them compared to so many other nations experiencing this  surge of ugly politics.

Barkley Rosser