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