tv Discussion on Democracy and Rural America CSPAN November 24, 2018 3:03am-4:00am EST
wagon wheels are constant getting stuck in the mud. in the newspaper in nashville said if they could've only waited another couple of months the roads would have firmed up. and travel would've been much easier. we are still driving on much of that today. one of the oldest roads in north america. thank you. is there any other questions? if not i think we will end the session. thank you very much. their books are on sale. of the war memorial plaza. very soon. thank you for coming. i hope you enjoyed today's session. [applause].
next from book tv in the coverage and the coverage of the southern festival of books. it's a real pleasure to be here. this is the panel discussion of power and politics. i will help moderate the discussion. i want to begin by introducing our speakers. she is an assistant professor in the department of agricultural economics and rural sociology at auburn university. she is a former award-winning journalist's work has appeared in books and sociological journals. she is the author of for-profit democracy why the government is losing trust
losing the trust of rural america. we are looking forward to her remarks. responding into my left is katie cahill. associate director of the howard h center for public policy. and assistant professor in the department of political science. she has a phd in political science from purdue university. i think we will begin in the are going to give us some remarks about the book. professor cahill well then respond and then we will open up the floor to the questions. thank you so much for the
introduction. i'm here to talk today about something i find particularly troubling. with the way that our government works. it can leave us all vulnerable at one stage. and i learned as much during my time is rural georgia. this is where i did research. in completing 89 interviews. it inspired the ideas that i'm in a talk about today. we can try to overcome those problems. the problems that i work on the most ground themselves and rural america but as i have learned the problems of rural america do not just start or stop there.
we are all in this thing together. the thing that we call it democracy. so to understand a problem with profits. we can at least begin with understanding it. if you don't have something worth defending and fighting for. then you scarcely ever have a problem. at least we can start with some optimism. it is that we are lucky to have the problem of for-profit democracy because we know it democracy holds many wonders. one of them is land. our access to it in our right to own it. i want to begin by talking about something that haunts while it inspires so some of the people i had have the pleasure of interviewing and living amongst. they have behold and treasured the beauty of the land and a mortise instruction even when sometimes they are the one leveling it to make a living.
they remember the times that they head on their fields and homesteads. one thing often remains true amidst all of the memories in the sentiment. for those that i talk too. land and in the worst of times when all else in the world teams to falter. it still can provide food and shelter. so sidney jackson explained this to me most clearly. we sat one morning outside the family church while members of the congregation took off up and down the hills for a walk in favor of their health. and also in favor of christ. so she lives in burke county georgia. the soil is rich and most were all black people live today. centuries ago. the family lived in bondage in the black belt. and they were forced to till the fields. in 1919 sydney's father big pop but he accomplished what
was nearly impossible. and what they read did. redid. they have only ever dreamed of. he joined the ranks of only 4.5 percent of black farmers in burke county that owned the land. the needs fathers became a landowner. so as we sat outside. sidney explained his father and his mother's motivation to me. he said when big poppa bought this land back in 1919 he wanted his daily -- his family to stand on their own. he wrote in the letter even more pointedly. we look at land as provision. but that was before georgia power came to town and built the first two nuclear reactors. so today another two reactors are under construction where sidney lives.
this is the only place in the country right now where new nuclear reactor construction is underway. in southern company and its partners. in over $8 billion government loan to do this work. they ranked 140 fifth in the fortune 500 domestic rankings. it has a lot of money and a lot of money both figuratively. he put it this way. he said there is no power like georgia power. the power like lord -- large populations. especially for the most vulnerable people like sydney and its family. so sidney explained to me how the family lots of lost the 300 acres to georgia power. an administrator was appointed to oversee their father's estate as all of the siblings have inherited without a clear title. they pushed and refused the
brothers offered to buy. the land instead was sold to a corporation. and the owners became the georgia power company. they been fighting to try to get back the family land. the spirit of god is in this land. it is in the people. but city in the family members they were far from the only ones in their part of rural georgia that had lost land to the power company. his white neighbors had been dissed possessed of their property. although it is mixed about 5050 and you can see the exact percentages appear. so of the five-mile radius had escaped the land taking a total of 43% in the five-mile radius around the plant is now owned by other the company or the state of georgia. before the plant arrived none
of this was owned. what a surprise is this. the takings of rural people's land by private corporations. and something that we scarcely hear about in the news. so what happens when the very best democracy it can offer. at least that's what people in rural america that i talked to think is one of the best things that they have to had to offer. what happens when this suddenly goes away i distrust takes root. take patty sutton. they traced back to some of the first white settlers she was a bit of a legend in the area. she's not afraid of anything. but once they caught a neighbor driving the four wheeler. even though she was in her early 70s she charged after him in the truck.
when she reached it. she screeched to a halt. she said keep that contraction -- contraption off my property. she asked me with thunder in her voice how would make you feel. if they came and took over your land. she said they got to run those lines all the way back to the property. they go on across my land anytime they like. they will even go across the street field roads. they stopped by and told him. but we don't count. patty said we don't count. the real people across the united states feel like they don't count. this is a political post --
pulse. currently they are a minority only 15% of the population lives in rural america. and they are increasingly port minority especially in the south where i work and 21 percent of people live in poverty versus 15 and a half percent in metro areas. in fact over half of all of the role people that are poor in this country live in the south. these people that don't count they want to count. they want to count when it comes to their rights rights like private property. the fifth amendment said that any person shall not be deprived of their property without due process. in that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation. why do rural people's rights
not count as much as other people's rights. so i had five ideas i want to talk about today. i can help us understand the role distrust of the government. despite the cost. first i think it's helpful for us to begin by recognizing the corporation for what it is. it's a fictitious legal entity. not exist without the government. there is nothing free about a corporation or naturally more efficient or profitable. absolutely the independence of the corporation in the state. so first of all southern company could not enjoy its many subsidiary corporations or georgia power if it was not for corporate law. for their nuclear technology would not exist in the first place without the military. without limited liability. they would not be so sure about investing. that is what the vulgar nuclear reactor.
$20billion. that's an awful lot of money. nor with these investors be so eager with the federal loan guarantee. in a potential tax credit of 100 $25 million yearly. any company running a nuclear plant would be responsible for all liability and nuclear meltdown. but the price that they add. they cap liability at $10 million. if they exceed that in the nuclear meltdown the taxpayers pick up the price. we continue regardless as a society to talk about corporations as private in the government as public. at its most extreme we think a corporation is independent there just try to make some money.
a slow moving bureaucrats. i call this the public private policy. they call themselves private agents of the free market while they owe their very existence to the government. so the people in burke county they resent this corporate state relationship especially those that i work with. they are in this together i think the powers at that be. it keeps the people from being independent. especially from someone that operates. i'm not saying that they aren't important terms. we should never drop them.
so our government allowing for-profit corporations to use eminent domain. as a case of forgotten justice. it is also the case that has just how confused our supreme court justice is. today the word public. has a few different things. so public can mean the production of profit. they have also identified the corporations with private people. so they come to hold absolute power at both public and private entities. it continues to happen today.
the real issue is who bears the cost. and who bears the benefits of ownership or rather what is the justice and injustice of the situation. my second point is this. what has confused us is the role of numbers. they have come to accept that we are doing the right thing if it serves the most people or if it makes the most money regardless of who moved out. the land can be taken under the mistaken idea that the production of energy serves the most and they were the least with her old sandy dirt. it isn't old logic. it is founded on the very decimal idea that we have to have the iron fist.
it's always up to no good. we could only do something to our mutual benefit if our state makes us do it. what a disheartening idea that makes for a disheartening system of governance. let's move away from the role of numbers. this brings me to my third point. it is incredibly hard to imagine that minority position especially when you are a majority, being in the majority position it feels powerful any of us that had experienced that. are the most dollars knows how easy it is. or that our position is owed to us just because a minority owes us that service. the rule of number doesn't work that way. so take what happened. he is a prominent white man who owned a local business and was also an elected official.
you have any land taken through eminent domain. he said to me it's funny that you should mention it. it is going across our farms. to my shock. the first time they can't -- they came through. a prominent judge who have a farm that neighbor davis stopped the taking. not this time though. i ask david asked david about his authority as an elected official i said do they approach about different things. control, he said none. so this is my third point. there is a thing about the majority position under the rule of numbers it does not last when you are a majority.
this is what i call majora terry cannibalism. he told me as his dark eyes clouded with sadness georgia power have it. so here is my fourth point. when people lose their rights they don't just go away quietly into the night they may or may not go to the polls with her anger but they do a fight back and if they live in distrust of a democratic state they take the fight into their own hands. and they take up arms. of the hundred 59 counties they have the highest assault rate for doing things like trying to kill someone or inflict bodily harm. the second highest in 2010 in
the fourth highest in 2014. the overall violet crime rate the seventh highest in 2013. in fact all of the people that i interviewed in the area around the plant have guns at home. they sought freedom from all of the intake and is him around them. so my fourth point freedom under the gun in the rural united states is closely connected to the resignation of rights. because the more rights people have the less they feel the need to defend themselves. against the very worst. but the fewer rights they have the more they sense the need to arm themselves. this is my very last point. thank you for bearing with me. if we want to change this and we want to affront the power of profit we must also change the way that we think and that includes rural people themselves.
we must start stop thinking that what serves the most money is always the best decision only then can we remember justice and help avoid that dark moment when you find yourself a minority forced to give up what you have just because it is good for others to take it. further, we can't afford to operate on such sacrificial grounds if we don't change our way of thinking democracy itself stands on tenuous grounds. because people they seek to reclaim their rights and defend them regardless of whether the government does or not so the hunter that lives a few miles away. he explained this to me by singing woody guthrie's -- guthrie song. this land is your land, this land is my land. from california to the new york island. from the red forced this land was made for you and me. he stopped singing but he
continued. no one living can ever stop me as i go walking that freedom highway nobody living can ever make me turn back. this land was made for you and me. william and some of his friends took to the forest to hunt on land that was taken by the state in the company. they without remorse but with community support became trespassers and poachers. others like sydney and i talked about at the beginning of my remarks today. they turn to the church for justice. to guide as the ultimate authority. everyone turned in a large part in a way from the state as the government for justice have largely become a tool for injustice. william, explaining his singing told me what it meant. they can take my land, come take it all. a deed is only a deed. comic thank you for the
southern festival. i was asked to do is cuss the voting history. a topic i think will meet his remarks today nicely. and many thanks to the mellon foundation for supporting that special track. in partnership with the robert penn warren center. and thank you to all of you for joining us this afternoon. i myself am new to the state. i moved to tennessee just over a year ago. when i was hired to be the associate director of the baker junior's center for public policy at the university of tennessee knoxville. the center was established in 2003 to honor the legacy of howard baker of tennessee. it provides a forum for democracy in action and we seek to promote the principles of civility, and commitment to
public service. my remarks today are to focus on the power of rural voters the role of two bakers no relation howard baker, the senator from tennessee and charles baker who was a key figure in the most important u.s. supreme court case decided during the tenure of chief justice earl warren. the story raises questions about who holds power both temporarily and spatially. and how such relationships can be shifted. as many of you may know. howard baker was born in huntsville tennessee. and spent much of his life in scott county just north of here. he was the son of a congressman. as a young man they have political ambitions. they have others' plans. by the time he reached the
registration desk at the university of tennessee all of the courses for engineering were full. frustrated and driving home. he noticed the lights were still on at the law school. he went in and was able to immediately enroll in law school at the university of tennessee. while a student he ran for president of the uc student body. to represent all students. in graduated from law school in 1949. after graduation he practiced law for the next 17 years. shortly after the death of his father in 1964 and following his stepmother's election to complete the unfinished term. he did have political ambitions after all. and he announced his campaign for u.s. senate. though he lost in 1964 he ran again. in 1966 he was elected to the senate where he served from
as many residents as some of the neighboring world district. as a result, they were over represented compared to those of urban citizens. charles baker's argument was this discrepancy was equal protection of the laws. required by the 14th amendment. that case was highly contentious an area outside the purview of the court. ultimately however the court established the well-known one person one person boat standard for legislative redistricting. this affected numerous state legislatures. in a series of related divisions , redraw the lines of
power and representation. in order to give that power in a one person one vote mechanism to voters. when young howard baker was sworn in 1967, his father-in-law republican senator dirksen was leading an effort in congress to stop the courts meddling in legislative redistricting. protect the vote of rural voters even called for constitutional convection that would reverse related jurisprudence. he was supported by sam irwin. a democrat from north carolina. howard disagreed with his father-in-law. telling his son-in-law if you're going to try to fight, you better try to win.
another freshman senator who you probably recognize. edward kennedy. a democrat from massachusetts. a political family feud. ultimately senator baker and kennedy were successful in defeating. what is circumvented the one person one vote decision. senator baker continue to be a supporter of the right of voters those citizens that chose to stay home from politics. low voter turnout suggested a profound alienation or in different on the part of americans for the processes of the very government that affects the lives more and more as each day passes. "i think i understand in my bones the reason. they think they don't count. they don't believe that who they vote for, what party they vote
for will mean a solitary thing to them in their life". indeed some scholarship on voting suggested is an irrational act. each vote has a small chance of influencing outcome of a given election. those that go to the polls may only be engaging in a symbolic exercise. this is true in cases where the race is not competitive or there is a low probability or given vote will be decisive. the public is routinely troubled by reports. ranking it as 40th. does this trend reflect a heightened rationality? they think their vote does not matter or do they just not care? or is it a third possibility
that administrative obstacles keep people out of the polling booth? elections are inevitable and therefore additional efforts useless. a lack of political information and energy. increasing barriers participation. most do not realize that before 2006 no state required a government issued photo id as a condition for voting. thirty-four states including tennessee required at the pole. some has shown a desperate impact. the id requirement tends to reduce voting by the poor, elderly, minorities and urban groups. more likely driver's license and passports.
high turnout and concentrated support for president donald trump. if any of you have read the papers in the last few days, 53,000 voters in neighboring georgia are labeled due to an exact match criteria between voter registration and id records. in tennessee, complicated procedures procedures including waiting periods, the requirement to vote in person and often registration also contribute to new barriers to voting. voters also are being encouraged with more than 300,000 tennessee registered voters removed from the rolls in 2017 alone. of course, there is also the issue of voter apathy. a nationally representative survey found a lack of interest was the most common reason people stated for not registering. what can be done? senator baker had a few ideas.
less registered voters automatically so every american can vote in federal elections at age eight teen. the history of the united states has been a history of the extension of the voting franchise. even today, and these are still his words, a a significant number of our people are prevented from participating in elections by complex and archaic registration and residency requirement. he wrote that almost 40 years ago. i wonder what he would say today automatic voter registration help? thirteen states, not tennessee have tried. in oregon, when the first to pass automatic voter registration, voter registration quadrupled. increasing at more than nearly double the national average. those who voted were also more diverse in terms of age and income. same day registration had a 7%
increase in voter turnout. there are solutions to this problem. it is often not whether we know what can be done, but whether or not we have the will to do it. you can be part of the change on november 6. i hope you all will vote. i leave you with these words from senator baker. something dangerous has happened when mainstream americans have decided to stay home from politics. a kind of disease has spread through the system and it's time that we curate. i think it is long past time and i hope you'll join me in that. thank you for your time and attention. i look forward to the discussion [applause] >> we have a microphone appear to our left if anybody would like to step up and have a
comment. or a question for our speakers. >> could you step to the microphone, please? >> how does the process of compensation were? who judges whether it's fair or adequate. >> from what i have heard from those that i talk to is there are two ways where eminent domain takes place. the mere spread of it and the threat of if you don't sell i will use eminent domain will make people who do not necessarily know about their capacity to go to court and get somewhat of a higher price. the first time they came through, folks were paid much
less, significantly less from what i heard. $100 an acre less. $500 an acre. for more that i talked to today, the process of negotiation, you can go to court and get somewhat of a higher price. that has been limited historically. four example, the founding of the nation, it used to mean that you could claim compensation for lost future earnings especially for people that farm. over a lifetime or crop you may grow on that land. that was strip away because of the time. it would have bankrupt canal companies and railroad companies that were using eminent domain. the price has gone to fair market value. you can imagine that you cannot always put a price on what the
property means to some of these folks. fair market value is not necessarily going to be very much. >> another question. explain a little bit more about the relationship you talked about with violence and the lack of rights. do you think this is a situation where the government is not trusted so there is a decrease to the rule of law. they are feeling violence done to them. there is an impact of trauma. >> the question of trauma is a really good one. i am probably not qualified to answer. i can answer what i've seen. the chapter having the book. freedom under the gun. the local sheriff's office at
the time was charged with incorrupt. very widespread distress across the community. what i found is that people thought that number one it would just take too long for people to get out to help them the county seat, think about how long it will take for deputy to get to help you. the fact that they felt like there were going to need help and from when i first moved to the area, my landlord would not rent to me unless i had a gun. if you're going to live out there, you better be armed because you never know what could happen to you. over 20% of the county has lived in poverty. it is a legacy of slavery. we cannot erase the past.
that plantation system of the past that cultivated violence and animosity still shakes relations today. giving power to the few. >> i have a question myself. part of a story that you tell and you gesture towards in your remarks is romantic or perhaps a really close connection that the people have with the land. ike -- i can't quite remember that. a few people had land. quite a few generations since anybody in their family, particularly those struck i poverty, would own land. you ended your own with the saw.
this land is your land, this land is my land. suggesting the profit is the problem. the land is a solution. i guess i wondered how many people in burke county had been landowners. of those 89 people that you interviewed. when you gesture toward that solution that there's a problem of profit, could you explain a little bit more about what you see? perhaps responding a little bit to the professor's remarks. when we think about elections, how they work, they do have quite a bit of political power. perhaps not as powerless as you suggested. >> i will try to start with the first one.
the question of ownership and poverty in rural america -- i will start with your very first question. land ownership ethics. why does it seem that i found such a strong prevalence as a landowner? >> i think there are two parts to that. it was once the wealthiest, some of the wealthiest plantation owners and wealthiest men in the world live there. there is a long legacy of knowing what it's like not to have land. the capacity to have it and own it that i talked to made it extremely important. it is difficult to quantify the number of property owners. some pockets of white appalachia a tradition called air property. it is tennessee and common is what it is called. you may just hand down the
property verbally by word-of-mouth so i could give it to the two of you. there is not necessarily a clear title on the land because of that. i didn't name you. a lot of folks that i talked to in other spots in rural areas of the nation. there may be a cluster of trailers on the property that is just held in common. let alone their trailer. the idea is that the air property is held in common by the family. called kind of like an estate. it is difficult to quantify. the other thing is i think this is particular to the history of the black belt. i also think it is particular because these people -- they went through the vocal reactors coming through the first time. now they are coming through the second time. they've seen what is happened when the land was taken.
they have that animosity over generations, really. i think that also shapes what i learned about. >> my last question was, the professor suggested that when we think about elections, rural people are not as powerless as you suggested. perhaps maybe the professor herself could restate a little bit of that argument. >> i was kind of trying to hint around at that point a little bit. how for the, large part of the first half of the 1900s rural voters were more powerful by a large extent. taking a supreme court case to change at dynamic. in 2016 they decided the presidential election. shelby county has more registered voters in 2017 then
50 other counties in tennessee combined. we all know that shelby county is not the county determining elections. if you could speak a little bit about this idea, rural voters are somehow disenfranchised when you see that in terms of voting and elect oral power, often times they are the ones whose voices count the most. >> i would respond to that in a few parts. i am not sure exactly what the number is. if it reflects national trends, one out of every two rural people voting. more people voting in rural areas than urban ones respectively, we are talking about less than half that did not even show up to vote. and then of that less than half that did show up to i am pretty sure it is one out of every four. it may be a little bit more than that. i know what the most one out of
every four voted for clinton. less than 50% of any of the take 75 presented at 50%. voting is something that i don't talk about a lot. when i talk about sydney and his turn to justice through the church, people see the government as a secondary venue for justice. primary as perhaps god holding the ultimate of power. they see the government as compromised. even though that would show through protest event or turn up at a public hearing, not seeing it necessarily as a route to achieve change, but a secondary process. overall power dynamic shaping rural peoples rights like access to justice. access to legal resource.
access to healthcare. equal rights and property. the defensible rights that shape the democracy and make it strong i worry if we focused too much on voting, we turn this into a partisan debate about majority minority dynamics in terms of who wins an election in a two-party system. taking us away from the better and more important parts of democracy which i think are right. >> what is interesting here is about rather than actual power, the notion of being powerless. i think that rural voters probably do, definitely in your book you discussed feeling powerless. so do many urban voters and minority voters. i think that the interesting thing is not about whether or not a group does in fact have power to exercise, but how they feel about their power and their efficacy politically.
>> i have a question about voting. i live in alabama. the county that i live in an alabama in the 25 years that i have been there has consistently, four times in fact voted down bond issues for new schools. they have not had a new school building since 1923. why is it that people rule areas consistently vote against things that would be in their best interest. in this county, most of the land is owned, which most of the land in alabama is owned by timber companies, georgia warehouser and those kinds of companies.
they mounted a pretty organized attack on this idea of property taxes. i have been frustrated because i worked on some of these things and tried to enlighten people, i guess. why is it that they, consistently, do this? >> everybody's turning to me? [laughter] alabama is now my home. i have lived there for three years. i can turn to connor bailey who has a webpage on the department of agriculture website. you can see the percentage of timberland. which county are you from?
[inaudible] >> this reminds me about my colleague conor told me. alabama has the lowest property taxes in the nation. even if they brought them up to georgia's level, what that could do, it would go a very long way. most of the people benefiting from the low taxes are absolutely landowners. probably, most of them are out-of-state. i know exactly what you are talking about. those figures are wonderful if you want to see them on our website. he compiled them by getting tax parcel data in every county. quite an arduous task.
my second point to answer, why are they voting against this when it would be good for the schools, i think this goes back to when i was starting off the talk, the animosity that was situated that is rooted towards the government regardless. coming in a different way. lumping it all into the same category. i think another framework that is healthy to look at this is tried to think about people who formed the ideology. that is what i call it in other ways. some people call it anti-governmental. they do not care about the nuances. they just want less of it because of the abuse that they experienced in some other way. i think the way we can work against that is trying to bring back rights for folks. all government is not the same government is exactly what you are saying.
>> most of my work has been in the developing context. assume that i understand as their best interest. it is not shared by all or understood by all. not because they lack information. feeling different about their preferences. terms of voting against the new school. the biggest challenge is to take
ourselves out of the framework of that is irrational. why won't they listen to let me understand their own internal logic. to see if there is an argument that could be made. versus what i perceived to be good or bad inherently. definitely give us a starting place to begin. >> you ended your answer with needing to have their rights protected first. let's not think about it as a
voting issue. could you be more specific as what that would look like. back to the question of the land if they had their land not taken or given back. what are the rights that need recognized for rural people? do those exist outside of those land concerns as well? >> yes. they certainly do. i like to look at the bill of rights. the united states bill of rights is what i'm referring to. lots of others that we could imagine you could use to strengthen peoples rights regardless. the fifth amendment is what i had up earlier in the talk. that is really emblematic of how they get it through eminent domain. a violation of the rights in the
united states. i think we need to think egg, and ways i want other people to think about. what are the kind of rights that we can protect. majority rule not taking away to go to something another. pushing back against the rule of numbers. stopping that way of thinking. what's best for all of us. it is okay. i think that is possible, applicable for other kind of rights. >> i do have a question about that. you know. i am sure that you are aware that cost-benefit analysis is premise on benefiting the most.
a different kind of optimality under a cost-benefit rubric. >> i think we have to step back and say who gets to make the choices. the communities that i work with , making the choices, doing community-based research maybe with folks in north alabama on issues that have to do a childhood cancer or working with communities in rural illinois on large scale industrial feeding operations. it does not come down to the line of okay who can we make pay for this so this is better for the rest of us. getting everybody in a room and
having consensus drive. an iron fist of i'm perhaps a bureaucrat that will tell you who this is the best four. looking at environmental impact statements. they even render folks that live in the area invisible as the only site of passing is the highway. the local roads are not even considered to have an eyesore. ::: :::
i think you could have community consensus with a strong bill of rights. i would love to hear what people in the audience think but i don't think you have to have one without the other. why can't we have a strong communities. communities that are in control of their decision-making and then have a state that backs people's rights. and i can help us get away from the number. why not had big ideas. see mike that seems to be fitting right into our power politics in promised session. let's think the southern trust of books for hosting this event and our great audience here today. thank you.
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