Monday, January 20, 2014

Rural Appalachia Votes Against Their Economic Interests – Anger and Hate Drives Out Self Interest

Politics in America At the Dawn of 2014 - Not a Pretty Picture

Hating the Federal Government - And Wanting It to Clean Up the River Mess

Look at what the Democratic Party stands for.  Extended unemployment benefits, access to health care regardless of economic status, equality before the law, benefits and help for those displaced by technology, trade and environmental impact.  The natural consituency for this platform should be the low income families of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia

Yet here is what is actually happening.

Ty William Wright for The New York Times
Natalie Tennant, standing at right, entered the race for the Senate in West Virginia after 10 prominent Democrats declined to run.

Neighboring Virginia has leaned leftward in recent years because of the growth and diversity of its Washington suburbs. But the Appalachian region of West Virginia and parts of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, which had stayed faithfully Democratic even as Southern whites abandoned the party, have more recently been defecting over issues that are as much cultural as economic.

Many of the poorest counties in West Virginia, which are among the most dependent in the nation on food stamps, unemployment insurance and other federal benefits, voted most heavily for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Why?  Because the politics of hate dominate the region.  The voters in these areas are driven by hatred of Democrats in general and Mr. Obama in particular.  Does racism play a part here?  Yes.  But there is more, Democrats are seen as aiding the decline of the coal industry, when in fact economics of natural gas and environmental concerns are really the cause.  Democrats are seen as the party of cultural upheaval, when in fact it is Republicans that are driving the cultural wars. 

It may be, sadly,  that the residents of this region will have to suffer even more economic deprivation than they already have before they put their economic interests ahead of their societal concerns.  Because gay marriage does not impact anyone’s life in America, but loss of unemployment benefits, lower nutrition assistance and less education will be devastating.

And with the recent river disaster in Charleston, West Virginia and surrounding counties and the bankruptcy of the firm that caused it, West Virginia will look to the federal government to clean up the mess and the bear the cost of doing so.  Will this cause these voters to look more kindly on government and the Democrats?  No, it will only build more resentment and greater support for Republicans who would turn their backs on the very people who are voting for them.  Go figure.

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