Part 1—Voted for Trump because of coal, paper improbably says: Claude Rasnake lives in Lebanon—Lebanon, Virginia.
A photo of Rasnake, 81, appeared on the front page of yesterday's Washington Post. Gregory Schneider had traveled to Russell County, and to nearby Wise County, to interview people who voted for Donald J. Trump.
Where are Russell and Wise counties? They're in the part of Virginia Schneider calls "the far Southwest."
The region "is almost as distant from Washington as Boston is," Schneider improbably says. Who believes such crazy claims from the mainstream press?
Actually, Schneider was pretty much right on that point. Lebanon, Virginia is 382 miles from Washington, according to odometer experts at the Mapquest think tank. Nearby Norton, Virginia, part of Wise County, is 411 miles from Washington, these same experts are saying today.
Boston is 440 miles from the nation's capital. Culturally, though, the two famous cities share a zip code. That can't be said about the hamlets in "the far Southwest."
Long ago and far away, we performed in Norton, Virginia—several times, in fact. The weekly comedy show was held at the local Holiday Inn, in a basement level bar/lounge. The room was menacingly and prophetically named "Down the Shaft."
According to the leading authority, Norton "is the least populous city in Virginia, along with the westernmost." Because of our trips to Norton, we weren't surprised to learn that perspectives there about the election may have differed from those which obtained on the Charles River or even within the lordly Charles Blow Estates.
In this morning's New York Times, the data-driven New York Times columnist offers the latest sweeping assessment of the kinds of people who live in Those Places. Of one thing we can feel certain: Those People are all alike.
On the front page of yesterday's Post, Schneider let Rasnake speak for himself. Right at the start of his report, he quoted part of what Rasnake had apparently said:
SCHNEIDER (11/13/16): Behind the barber’s chair where Claude Rasnake diagnoses many of the world’s problems, he charted the to-do list of the Trump administration.That part of Virginia is coal country. Rasnake, a barber by trade, seems to have said that he based his vote on his assessment of Trump's position on coal.
Social Security, Medicare, the tax code—maybe Trump and a Republican Congress can finally get them fixed. Dismantle Obamacare and fix roads and bridges, too. But all that comes later, after the top priority.
“The first thing I’d like him to do is fire that lady that runs the EPA,” Rasnake, 81, said, working the trimmer around a customer’s ear. The Environmental Protection Agency makes regulations that limit the use of coal, and here that kills jobs.
According to Schneider, Rasnake said he wasn't in love with Trump. But dying towns like Lebanon are dying from coal's decline:
SCHNEIDER (continuing directly): Rasnake had pondered his vote for months. He didn’t like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton—didn’t like the insults and the lies. But about a week ago he made up his mind, and it came down to this: Clinton had promised to put coal companies out of business and Trump donned a miner’s helmet and said he would help the dying industry.That seems to be what Rasnake told Schneider. Schneider seems to have bought it.
“That was the basis of our economy here,” Rasnake said, as his customer began to grunt in agreement. “That’s really hurt. I’ve lost customers—some have had to move away. The one’s that are left have a hard time getting by, month to month.”
Rasnake's highly improbable claims appeared on page one of Sunday's Washington Post, where they could mislead the most D.C. insiders. But Schneider wasn't willing to stop with that.
Before long, he was even quoting, or pretending to quote, a Wise County voter who claimed to be a Mexican immigrant. According to Schneider's improbable claims, this fellow had also voted for Trump:
SCHNEIDER: In Wise County, Juan Lopez, 42, climbs down off the huge mining truck he’s been repairing, hands blackened with grease. He came to the United States in 1991 from Mexico, got married, got his citizenship, had two children. “We go to church,” he said. “We’re trying to do it right.”By now, you can see the line the Post was selling. The Post was pretending that a handful of voters in rural coal country had voted for Trump because of coal, not because of their racism, nativism, misogyny and bigotry, along with the rainbow coalition of all the usual phobias.
Lopez voted for Trump. It was a vote to keep his job. “They say if Trump can do it better [with the coal industry], we might be able to have jobs two or three more years,” he said. “But if not, we might be out by the end of next year.”
Needless to say, many people in zip code DC will see through this charade. In this morning's column, Blow gives readers the real dope about the views of rural whites, full stop:
"Rural whites are suspicious of big institutions and big government, located in big cities with big populations of people who don’t look like them."
Full stop! At establishents inside The Blow Estates, no other explanations need apply.
For ourselves, we've been to Norton. "Ich bin ein Nortoner," we've sometimes said or implied, perhaps in something like desperation.
Because we've been to Wise County, we could almost believe some of the things Schneider's interview subjects said. (Also, because we've lived on this planet.)
In his report, Schneider quotes seven people in the far Southwest, all of whom seem to have voted for Trump. All except William Sisk:
SCHNEIDER: As Rasnake talked about his decision to vote for Trump, the man getting a haircut finally spoke up at the question of whether Trump can make a difference.Sisk even said that the "war on coal" started "long before Obama!" Obama "got all the blame for it," Sisk is said to have said.
“No, he can’t,” said William Sisk, 78, of Buchanan County. “You won’t see those people working in the coal industry no more. Natural gas is too cheap. Any kind of market for coal anymore is very weak.”
Sisk spent 30 years at Pittston Coal, he said, as Rasnake finished and whipped the cover off him. “I made a good living at it, got a good retirement. But it’s gone,” he said, referring to the industry, but also Pittston, which sold out years ago after a crippling strike.
“It was the life’s blood here,” Rasnake agreed.
Sisk was quoted saying he didn't vote for Trump, who he said was "too radical." Sisk said he didn't vote at all. No reason for this was given.
Let's state the obvious. You can't determine "why (many) rural whites voted for Trump" by interviewing seven people. You can't answer any such question by conducting a handful of interviews.
This morning, as we type, Trump has received 60.33 million votes, with votes still being counted. Unless you're very, very dumb, you can't reach any sweeping conclusions about such an enormous group of people, or about any significant subset of same, based on a handful of explanations for a handful of votes.
You may not even learn why the individuals in question voted the way they did! Did Rasnake really vote for Trump because of coal? Or is he perhaps the crafty grand dragon of the local Klan?
For ourselves, we can't exactly tell you "why (many) rural whites voted for Trump." But because we aren't the world's dumbest persons, we assume there's more than one answer to any question like that.
That said, quite a few people have been competing of late for the title of world's dumbest person. Under their tribal motto—"Full stop"—they've offered sweeping explanations for the votes of 50 or 60 million people, some of whom they haven't met.
In a slightly more rational world, the dumbness of these presentations would be astonishing. But if you've watched our own liberal world over the past eight years (or more), you may know that dumbness is one of our defeated team's most visible traits.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be examining some of the background to last Tuesday's election. We'll consider some of the work of the mainstream press. Perhaps to a larger extent, we'll examine the work of the liberal press and commentariat which has emerged in the past dozen years.
This week, we'll focus on a basic theme—the way we got ourselves tea-bagged last Tuesday. Starting next Monday, we'll move on to a second theme—the ways we've agreed to get ourselves conned by corporate-selected TV stars who refuse to tell the truth or fight the most basic fights.
We liberals! In a remarkable display of dumbness, we've been insulting The Others for years. Last Tuesday night, we got ourselves tea-bagged in return.
The consequences may be quite large. It isn't like we didn't spend years seeking this misery out.
Tomorrow: "Empathy," two people said
And Frank Bruni declares "The Democrats screwed up." He and his guild merely observed.ReplyDelete
"Let's state the obvious. You can't determine "why (many) rural whites voted for Trump" by interviewing seven people. You can't answer any such question by conducting a handful of interviews."ReplyDelete
Does the methodology and obviousness negate the article?
I say no because these folks do base it all on coal, their life's oxygen. They are single issue voters.
There is qualitative and quantitative research. One interviews lots of people using short survey questions. The other interviews a few people in depth using open ended questions. Both are valid approaches that supply different types of information. The picture is incomplete without both approaches.Delete
People who don't know much about empirical research often think that small samples are useless. Somerby makes that mistake here.
Urban post-graduate educated white devil here who voted for Obama twice and Trump once because of "Shout Your Abortion" and "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," "Hands Up Don't Shoot." The less progressive and liberal party called me a sexist for opposing proud declarations of killing if the killers were the right sex, and racist for opposing a movement to convict innocent men of murder and defend their violent attackers, if their attackers were the right color and the victims were the wrong color.ReplyDelete
You are incoherent.Delete
It's not that complicated a paragraph if wrongheaded.Delete
Let me expand on what Lewis said,if I may: you're really incoherent.Delete
I think it's fair to say that BLM rhetoric alienated some number of voters. BLM calls attention to an issue which isn't insignificant. Unfortunately, it does so in a way that likely is a net loser for Democrats.Delete
Possibly an avoidable error, possibly not.
I can fairly easily explain why many rural whites voted for Trump.ReplyDelete
Are you ready for the obvious explanation?
Because they almost always vote for the Republican.
Wise county went Republican in 2008, 2012, and 2016.
Of course, since Democrats ran a black guy in 2008 and 2012 any votes against him were also about racism (insert eye roll).
Surprisingly Dickenson and Buchanan counties went for Democrats in 2000 and 2004. I believe even Wise county went for Gore.
Doubtless that was an echo from Somerby's incomparable comedy show in Norton.
Calling Norton a city is a bit of a stretch as it has less than 4,000 people, but Wise County is home to an astounding 41,000 people. So as such it is far more populated than my own Beadle County which used to be home of the 4th largest city in the state.
Hillary Clinton told voters in coal-producing areas that she would help them deal with the decline of coal, that she had programs to alleviate their economic displacement. They didn't hear that because they got all their info about Hillary from Trump and the media (which didn't report much about anything she said or did).ReplyDelete
These coal voters might well have been better off under Clinton because she would not have restored their coal-based income but would have found other ways of helping them.
I doubt that was part of their decision, based on what they supposedly said when interviewed.
As we all know, Trump is not going to help bring back the coal industry. It is very sad that these guys don't know that.
I have no empathy for them. Let them rot.Delete
Then you have no empathy for anyone. Neither did Stalin.Delete
Reporting here from SW Oklahoma, the only state in the lower 48 whose sea of red counties is not interrupted by even one blue population center, a state currently in its 18th month of recession owing to the slump in energy prices. We just voted down a one-penny sales tax for education because since we don't have that many Mexicans we like to deport teachers instead. Oh, and we just had our third M5 earthquake this year. Top that California! If you don't start fracking, you'll never catch up.ReplyDelete
So I'm sitting there listening to two white working men swapping stories. They commiserate awhile on health matters because both hobble around on the parts of their feet not yet taken by diabetes.
Then the talk turns to happier things. "The people know what to do," says one. "We gotta quit givin' them good jobs to Mexico and China. The people know what to do." They also agree Hillary's laughter is unbearably phony. Nothing is said about the rest of Trump's agenda, but I've been here all my life: it's all of a package.
People like Michael Moore and David Brooks, and perhaps even our blogger, exhort Democrats to give these people dignity and feel their pain if they're ever going to win their votes back.
That's probably true, but to paraphrase our future ex-president, "YOU have a beer with 'em."
Democrats who don't treat these people with dignity do not have the power to "give them" dignity in exchange for votes. Respect maybe. The people who need to work on their dignity are the smug vulgarians who actually think they can declare half the population "irredeemable" and still maintain a shred of credibility in defining the values of others.Delete
Hillary referred to half of Trump's supporters as deplorable (not irredeemable). That would make them only 1/4 of the voting population (which is a subset of the entire population). She was clearly referring to the thugs at his rallies who shout bigoted things at media and protesters, to the KKK and those threatening lynching or shooting political opponents. These people are so deplorable that it is dismaying when Trump won't acknowledge that.Delete
Trump was the one who broadened her comment to encompass all of his supporters. They were also the ones who started wearing t-shirts and proudly flaunting the term until they forced her to apologize for what was never said in the first place.
This is just another way in which a reasonable statement by Clinton was blown up into something ridiculous. It happened repeatedly during the campaign, often with no defense from liberal pundits at all.
Now Democrats supposedly have no empathy and are not respecting the dignity of rural voters. The justification for saying that is slim. If anything Democrats have been busy blaming each other for not getting their own vote out. No one expected rural voters to support Hillary and no one is reviling them now. Instead, those who didn't bother to vote, those who supported Bernie and then a 3rd party candidate or who attacked Clinton along with the right are being blamed.
It might be more appropriate to say that Democrats are showing too little empathy for those disappointed children who supported Bernie and then stayed home.
Well if she was "clearly" referring to the worst of his supporters, that wouldn't be 1/2 of them as she said, or 1/4 of the population. Maybe it was just overstated rhetoric but us dumb white folk with 5th grade educations need it spelled out more better.Delete
Conversely, Trump never once referred to her supporters in those terms. Every time the question of black protests was raised, he said "those people are hurting" and followed it up with a move that looked crazy and awkward but ultimately respectful, like a visit to the belly of the beast.
The parties are realigning now because the democrats represent privileged white people who think of themselves as "progressive" and no one else, and their link to the working poor has been severed. By them. I'll wager right now that Trump wins more blacks and hispanics next time than he did this time.
Thanks for the talk. Have to go pull out one of my last two teeth and try to figure out who Neil The Grass Tyson is. Wish me luck.
Voting against your interests, like multimillionaire actors and investors who vote for Democrats?Delete
Inner cities are hellholes with the equivalent of 9/11 X3 in murders every year. It's not guns. Compare gun ownership and incident stats in those gun-regulated cities with same Wyoming stats. Also stats after the crime bill and stop and frisk.
Voting against your interest is living in Chicago and voting for the candidate who caused an increase in the murder rate in your community.
Trump said he has no interest in hurting Clinton with a prosecution. Nobody really believed he wanted to have her prosecuted.
"IF I say that half the time my computer has to install an annoying update, am I being literal or figurative."Delete
Oh so now your side has discovered not everything is literal.
"This morning, as we type, Trump has received 60.33 million votes, with votes still being counted. Unless you're very, very dumb, you can't reach any sweeping conclusions about such an enormous group of people, or about any significant subset of same, based on a handful of explanations for a handful of votes."ReplyDelete
Most rural whites in the South have voted heavily Republican since 1972. Even Jimmy Carter lost the white South 52-46 to Ford in 1976 and 60-35 to Reagan in 1980. Can't find southern white numbers for 2016 but I expect they are similar to 1980. Rural voters voted 62-34 for Trump, 61-37 for Romney. Guns, God, Gays, and yes race. And in areas of heavy fossil fuel extraction, anti-environmentalism is a factor. Notice that Wyoming, OKLA, WVA, and ND were all among Trump's best states--all are fossil fuel extraction economies.
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