By DANIEL W. STAPLES
BALTIMORE (CN)—Two years before Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States, voters in Maryland bucked all the predictions and voted Lawrence Hogan, a Republican, to the governorship.
The similarities between the races are striking. Both businessmen faced heavily favored establishment candidates, promised tax cuts and change in government, and both Hogan – only the second Republican to win the Maryland governorship in 65 years – and Trump overcame huge voter deficits in urban centers by relying heavily on their rural constituents to garner their wins.
This year’s presidential election results were further evidence of the widening gap between urban and rural political ideals. Trump won 2,622 mostly rural counties, whereas former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won 490 mostly urban counties.
What's more, fewer rural voters turned out for Clinton than for President Barack Obama in 2012.
Trump was also able to win at least 220 counties that voted for President Obama in 2012, while Clinton converted just 17 counties that voted for Mitt Romney.
In many ways, Maryland mirrors America as a whole with its staunchly blue urban center in Baltimore and its surrounding rural agricultural counties on the eastern shore and western counties, according to Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Towson.
The similarities don’t end there, as can be seen in the shuttering of Bethlehem Steel and General Motors assembly plant on the eastern edge of Baltimore County.
Kromer said that many of the factors that propelled Trump’s national victory could be seen in Maryland as many areas that formerly were considered a solid Democratic vote shifted to the right, allowing both Trump and Hogan to capitalize on that shift.
But never before has the gulf between rural and urban voters been so extreme.
According to the Pew Research Center, the overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10 percent to 21 percent.
The Pew research also shows that partisan animosity has grown substantially with ever-increasing numbers of voters having a “highly negative view of the opposing party,” and that most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”
At the heart of the issue, political analysts say, is the belief among large segments of the nation's rural population that they are seen as uneducated rubes by their urban counterparts, according to Katherine Cramer, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, whose most recent book is entitled, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.”
Cramer has called these intense, negative feelings against people in the cities “rural resentment.”
For example, Cramer said that rural people believe their children don't have the same opportunities as children in suburban and city schools.
While Cramer acknowledges that some of what's driven the divide between rural and urban voters is inextricably linked to the nation's complicated, ongoing dialogue about race, the far bigger driver is economic and the belief among rural voters that they are being left behind and denied the chance to enjoy prosperity.
And it's precisely because the issues driving rural discontent are so diffuse, that establishment politicians are losing traction in those communities.