An excerpt that describes The Smile Hi quite well, though southeast Colorado is hardly the 'rust belt':
Josh Pacewicz gives Democrats and Republicans a look that goes beyond the rhetoric of presidential candidates and platforms. Pacewicz drills down on a few of the prevailing forces in the midwest and in small town America that he calls "the real reason" for this election's outcome:
"Rust Belt populism is rooted in the region’s loss of locally owned industry — not simply because of economics but because of how that loss hollowed out the community structure that once connected people to politics, leaving residents alienated and resentful."
"In the 1980s, the Rust Belt was ravished by the manufacturing crisis and the century’s largest merger movement, the latter a product of financial deregulation. These caused job losses and personal suffering, yes, but they also robbed cities of their locally owned industries and therefore their business and labor leaders.
This shift also left communities vulnerable to the whims of corporate subsidiaries and state and nonprofit grant-making agencies, often communities’ only way to find discretionary funding after Congress rolled back generous urban policies during the Reagan era.
By the 2000s, the Rust Belt’s community leaders were entirely focused on economic development partnerships. They saw statecraft as a technical affair and focused on building coalitions to secure grants, woo corporate subsidiaries (frequently with public subsidies) and create cultural amenities — art walks, music festivals and farmers markets — that would attract young professionals and therefore corporate interest in their cities’ workforces.
This grass-roots shift toward post-partisan place marketing was important. For starters, it paradoxically fueled political extremism in national politics. As community leaders shifted from fighting one another to collaborating on economic development, they left grass-roots parties in the hands of ideological activists. The local GOP, for example, that had once been a Chamber of Commerce surrogate — and therefore a moderately pro-business party — became instead a vehicle for those championing issues such as abortion, guns and anti-immigrant views.
What’s more, community leaders’ embrace of economic development alienated many voters, sowing the seeds of populism. Many voters resented what they saw as a lack of recognition by local elites, who — unlike traditional labor or business leaders — seemed aloof, focused outward.
Instead of seeing politics as a contest between working people and the business class, many voters seethed with undirected populist resentment at a technocratic, corporate-friendly elite."