Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Long Read: Drowning In Louisiana

As Louisiana cleans up from flooding that affected thousands of homes, this week's Sunday Long Read is a Mother Jones excerpt from an upcoming book by Arlie Russell Hochschild that details a five-year long profile of the people living in the area that happens to be the most affected by the flooding.

Needless to say, it's about as Trump Country as America gets, where Louisiana's poor white oil industry and manufacturing workers try to make it day by day.

In a framed photo of herself taken in 2007, Sharon Galicia stands, fresh-faced and beaming, beside first lady Laura Bush at a Washington, DC, luncheon, thrilled to be honored as an outstanding GOP volunteer. We are in her office in the Aflac insurance company in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Sharon is heading out to pitch medical and life insurance to workers in a bleak corridor of industrial plants servicing the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and petrochemical plants that make the plastic feedstock for everything from car seats to bubble gum. 
After a 20-minute drive along flat terrain, we pull into a dirt parking lot beside a red truck with a decal of the Statue of Liberty, her raised arm holding an M-16. A man waves from the entrance to an enormous warehouse. Warm, attractive, well-spoken, Sharon has sold a lot of insurance policies around here and made friends along the way.
A policy with a weekly premium of $5.52 covers accidents that aren't covered by a worker's other insurance—if he has any. "How many of you can go a week without your paycheck?" is part of Sharon's pitch. "Usually no hands go up," she tells me. Her clients repair oil platforms, cut sheet metal, fix refrigerators, process chicken, lay asphalt, and dig ditches. She sells to entry-level floor sweepers who make $8 an hour and can't afford to get sick. She sells to flaggers in highway repair crews who earn $12 an hour, and to welders and operators who, with overtime, make up to $100,000 a year. For most, education stopped after high school. "Pipe fitters. Ditch diggers. Asphalt layers," Sharon says. "I can't find one that's not for Donald Trump."

These are the folks who have been convinced by Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and FOX News and the GOP that everything that has gone wrong in their lives in this slice of the bayou is the fault of Democrats, specifically Barack Obama, that there's a grand conspiracy by the Obama administration to take what little they have and to give it to poor black and Latino people who "don't deserve" it.

There really is a grand conspiracy to take what little they have, it's just being conducted by the corporations that run the oil derricks, shop floors, refinery tanks and strip malls that cover the landscape here to enrich their owners.  But they are very angry, and they want Donald Trump to fix it by hurting everyone who isn't them.

There really is anger out there, not all of the people who are voting for Trump care about race.  But they are convenient cover for the ones who do, and in my book, that makes them just as bad if not worse.  Getting poor white people to vote against their own self-interests has been at the heart of Republican politics for nearly 60 years now, and there's no better example of it than the part of Louisiana that just got wasted by the worst flooding in generations earlier this month.

If they somehow didn't all hate Barack Obama before, they will forever hat him now.  If you want to know how these folks can blame Obama for Katrina, this excerpt does a pretty good job of explaining it.

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