The first is from the great Charlie Pierce of Esquire Politics. Marquette grad Pierce jumps off of an NPR story which went into Clay County, Kentucky, where the vote has shifted hard to the Republicans, despite promoting policies that will literally kill some of the people that live there.
Read the rest of the article, as Pierce mentions his despair for how this situation makes it hard for him to feel sorry for people who are truly in need and deserve help. In addition, Pierce wonders how to break this destructive cycle of "voting wrong" that is speeding the destruction of rural communities and any job opportunities that may exist there.Life already is hard in her part of Kentucky's coal country, where once-dependable mining jobs are mostly gone. In Clay County where Lockaby lives, 38 percent of the population live in poverty. A fifth of the residents are disabled. Life expectancy is eight years below the nation's average. Clay's location places it inside an area familiar to public health specialists as the South's diabetes and stroke belt. It's also in the so-called "Coronary Valley" encompassing the 10-state Ohio/Mississippi valley region. About 60 percent of Clay County's 21,000 residents are covered by Medicaid, up from about a third before the expansion. The counties uninsured rate for nonelderly adults has fallen from 29 percent to 10 percent.The dread that Freida Lockaby faces comes from the fact that, in 2015, in one of those surprise elections that are becoming commonplace, Kentucky elected a Tea Party hooligan named Matt Bevin to be its governor. Bevin campaigned specifically on doing away with Kynect, the healthcare program developed in Kentucky under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. Central to its success was the ACA's Medicaid expansion and the FREE MONEY! that came with it. Kynect was widely popular. Kentucky elected a governor who pledged to do away with it....In a state as cash-strapped as Kentucky, the increased expenses ahead for Medicaid will be significant in Bevin's view — $1.2 billion from 2017 to 2021, according to the waiver request he's made to the Obama administration to change how Medicaid works in his state. Trump's unexpected victory may help Bevin's chances of winning approval. Before the election, many analysts expected federal officials to reject the governor's plan by the end of the year on the grounds that it would roll back gains in expected coverage. A Trump administration could decide the matter differently, said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voice for Health, an advocacy group that opposes most waiver changes because they could reduce access to care. "I think it's much more likely that a waiver could be approved under the Trump administration," she said. "On the other hand, I wonder if the waiver will be a moot point under a Trump administration, assuming that major pieces of the [Affordable Care Act] are repealed."You know the punchline, right? In 2015, Matt Bevin swept Clay County with 71 percent of the vote. Two weeks ago, Donald Trump received 86 percent of the votes cast.
I hate this. I hate that the United States is still fighting over healthcare when the rest of the industrialized world has left the issue behind. I hate the politicians who stoke dread and hate in order to get elected to make the problems of places like Clay County worse. I hate the impotence of the political opposition in making its case. I hate all these things, but the thing I hate worst of all is the overwhelming temptation to gloat over the miseries of people who, for whatever reason, vote against their own self-interest. Hell with self-interest, they're voting against their own survival.
The other recent article that grabbed me was a Washington Post article where they talked to UW Professor Katherine Cramer, whose book The Politics of Resentment has received a lot of attention after the election, as city-dwelling Coastals try to figure out why white rural America voted so heavily for Trump. Cramer says that she doesn't believe these rural voters were "hoodwinked" by Trump, that they saw his flaws, but didn't care because they wanted things to change and get better.
However, as we go deeper into the discussion with Professor Cramer, and her talks with a group of guys in rural Portage County, Wisconsin and it is obvious that these people operate under a false consciousness of "the way things are."
This morning, the group I talked to asked me a lot of questions about the level of crime in Madison. It was part of a conversation about Black Lives Matter. Their perception is that things had gotten really out of hand, that it’s very dangerous in Madison right now. One guy even said, I’m not going to Madison right now. I wouldn’t come anywhere near there.These people have no personal experience in these issues, and I bet they don't go to Madtown very often (if ever). They're just basing their "facts" on what they've seen on TV, heard on AM radio and read about in their slanted Facebook feed. And they are WRONG. Sure, the City of Madison had a violent crime rate twice as much as Portage County (according to City-data.com and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), but Madtown's violent crime rate dropped by 20% between 2012 and 2014, and was 7% below the national average. In addition, Madison's total crime rate dropped by 20% between 2008 and 2014, and car theft dropped by 50% in that time.
To me that kind of fear sounds like fear that comes from sensationalized information, as opposed to personal experience...
The group that I talked to this morning, they’ve had a lot of things to say about Black Lives Matter — about how distasteful it is, and how Obama really let things get out of hand. Now our race relations back to where they were in the 1960s. This is primarily coming from one guy in the group, but the other people weren’t arguing with him.
They’re also talking about how illegal immigrants are taking our jobs. That subject came up this morning way more than it ever has in this group. I think that’s a campaign-induced thing. Because seven or eight years ago, when I’d go around and ask about people’s top concerns, immigration just never came up.
That's not to say everything is hunky-dory here in Madtown by any stretch (although I love living here), but it does show the power of GOP-perganda and other slanted news for people who don't have much other contact with people outside of their home area. It's the same reason they think Trump is a "businessman" like their local store owner, and not a Wall Street financier using insider connections and his money power to buy his way out of jail for corruption- they don't know just how scummy corporations and the big-money side of the real estate business is, because those businesses don't exist in small-town Wisconsin.
That's what has to be changed by Wisconsin Democrats and for anyone else who wants to see this state and this nation stop its regression. We need to get the message out to the sticks, and going door-to-door in an attempt to have a conversation with people who don't want to listen isn't the efficient or effective way to do it. This means we must fight fire with fire, and we have to do it on a daily basis - being good and rational and peaceful isn't cutting it. There needs to be billboards and paid radio messages put out on a constant basis out in rural Wisconsin telling these people how GOP policies are screwing them. If that means buying time on small-town radio stations and local cable TV, then DO IT, and it needs to start NOW to lay the groundwork and plant the ideas well in advance of the 2018 elections.
Tell rural Wisconsin how GOPs are allowing their drinking water to be contaminated and how their property taxes and wheel taxes are jumping because of WisGOP's failure to adequately fix the roads and fund the community schools. And how the GOP politicians that allegedly "represent" them, couldn't give a flying fuck about what happens to these people's lives and their opportunities. And about how it is BULLSHIT that these parts of the state don't have the same broadband access that cities and richer areas have.
Dems don't talk in this blunt, attacking language on policy often enough, which gives their opponents an opportunity to speak bluntly on bullshit issues that appeals to their gut, and it seems to be reaching these voters in enough numbers to keep the regressive GOP in charge. The extra advantage of Dems changing their tone is that Dems wouldn't be talking about theories and false threats from far away, but real life that these rural voters can touch and see every day. You likely won't reach a lot of the weak-minded that shout "MAGA" the loudest, but I bet you can get a whole lot of casual bystanders to figure out that their neighbor Cletus is clueless, and that's all you need to flip the script in Wisconsin.