Author Brad King, a native of Clay County, Kentucky, argues that the revolt by Rust Belt white voters, particularly in coal country, really was solely economic in nature.
Let’s begin with a hypothetical.
Imagine you are in your mid-forties, you have two children, and you live in a place where there’s been no new businesses developed in the last thirty years. You live well off the beaten path, along one of myriad state routes that used to be the lifeblood of the country but now largely serve as a reminder of how forgotten you are. That lack of transportation infrastructure and cost of doing business due to regulations— oversight that you know makes your life better— discourages corporations big and small from coming into your town.
With no new businesses, increasingly you are forced to depend upon the government to provide you basic services like healthcare and unemployment insurance. You hate that, but you also have little choice. You don’t have the money — or connections — to move…somewhere else.
In each election season, you find yourself making a choice: continue receiving government help, which you know will not make your children’s life better, or forego those basic services in hopes that your town—one forgotten by the country— has the chance to create jobs that may provide you, and your children, the chance to carve out a life.
The choice each election season is the same, but the circumstances in which you live are getting worse because where you live isn’t part of the growth of the country.
So which do you choose: government help that you know will be there but that doesn’t provide a future, or the chance to maybe build something new (and knowing that if you fail, you will be worse off than you are)?
You must choose one or the other. If you decide not to choose, then you’re told you have no right to complain. And— by the way— no matter which you pick, people will chide you for being too stupid to know the right answer?
Here's the thing though: this falls apart on closer inspection.
Because if you wonder why people might vote for a political candidate that isn’t interested in social programs for Appalachia, maybe it’s because the people understand that it’s not social programs that are the problem. And if you wonder why the people may want an economy unrestrained by regulation, maybe it’s because the regulations have been set up in ways that help internal colonizers.
If we think back to the choice from the hypothetical, the idea of “self-interest” becomes something far more complex than just “vote for Medicaid because you need it” or “vote for more social programs.”
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the people who are the problem at all.
Instead, it’s the fact that for whatever the deep-seated reasons are for the crushing poverty that has descended upon the Appalachian region, the twenty-four million residents know that what they really need is a fair chance against everyone else. And since the game has been rigged, the only way they know how to get out is to re-set all the rules.
That's weird. You know why I think the real issue isn't economic at all? Because the situation he's describing absolutely defines black America and has for hundreds of years, and for some odd reason black America, trapped in cities like Flint that doesn't have clean water, trapped in places like Ferguson where the city literally uses the law to run its local economy by fining residents and running debtor's prisons, and yes, just like Appalachia, trapped in places with crumbling infrastructure, terrible schools, no economic opportunity, chronic drug and mass incarceration problems and on top of that hostile police forces that treat them as the enemy and can regularly kill black Americans with impunity.
If there's anyone in this country who should want to reset all the rules it's black America. And yet we didn't vote to burn the place down, when we're even allowed to vote because on top of everything listed above we have a political party in this country dedicated to making sure we can't vote, either.
Appalachia is tired of being forgotten? That's why they lashed out? How about Appalachia was tired of being treated like a bunch of ni-CLANG and decided that as bad as things are for them, at least they're not black. They voted to reset the rules to benefit them at the direct expense of people not like them, but you notice they don't have Republicans trying to keep them from voting.
No, sorry Mr. King, your theory is garbage. It was about the zero-sum game offered by the GOP to benefit coal country by having them help put those people in their place, and they took it.
Anything has to be better than being black in America, after all.