Monday, April 04, 2016

Appalachian Virginia blue-collar coal county has been the nation's biggest supporter of Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's biggest appeal has been in blue-collar, lower-educated places where jobs have been disappearing because of outside forces. No county has been more supportive of Trump in the primaries than coal-dependemt Buchanan County, Virginia, on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia. In the county, where the unemployment rate is 10.9 percent—the highest in the state—the biggest source of jobs is mining, Thomas Kaplan reports for The New York Times, and "the coal business is troubled," leading to a 40 percent decrease in population since 1980, down to 22,776. It was no surprise that Trump earned 69.7 percent of votes in last month's primary. (NYT graphic)

In Virginia the number of coal jobs has decreased from 2011 to 2015 from 4,867 to 3,033, a drop of nearly 38 percent, Graham Moomaw reports for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "If working-class anger is the fuel for Trump’s rise, few places were better primed for a blowup. Among Buchanan’s almost all-white populace, unemployment is high, incomes are low and college degrees are rare."

Moomaw writes, "That a New York billionaire would find rock-solid support in a hardscrabble place such as Buchanan—where Grundy’s one chain hotel warns guests of an extra cleaning fee for rooms smudged by dirty boots—is one of many unexpected turns of the 2016 campaign cycle. In interviews with Buchanan residents and political observers, the Trump effect here was attributed to a combination of demographics, fury over lost jobs, and economic decline (much of it blamed on President Barack Obama and the so-called war on coal) and, perhaps above all, a desperate desire for something different."

Buchanan County has also seen a surge of Democrats switching allegiances, Moomaw writes. "On Super Tuesday, Trump won 1,588 of 2,278 Buchanan primary votes for Republican candidates, followed by 313 for Rubio and 266 for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton won 523 of 744 total Democratic votes. In the 2008 primaries, Buchanan cast 680 votes for Republicans and 2,497 votes for Democrats, the vast majority of which went to Clinton."

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