The book "is being especially celebrated by conservatives and libertarians because they believe it explains the phenomenon of the decline of the poor white working class in the U.S.," Branscome writes. "No book about Appalachia has gotten this much attention since Harry Caudill’s Night Comes to the Cumberlands was published in 1963 and led President Kennedy to lay the groundwork for LBJ’s eventual War on Poverty. Caudill eloquently described the rape of a region and a people by colonialist coal barons allied with governments and called on the conscience of the nation for remedies. Vance begs to differ: 'These problems were not created by government or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them….we hillbillies must wake the hell up.'"
Branscome writes, "Vance and those who love his book are asking an important question of why the white working class is angry and voting for Trump. To those of us who are concerned with the Appalachian region, it is something of a mystery of how in a few generations folks went from venerating FDR and JFK to voting for the likes of Trump. Maybe they aren’t voting for him; maybe they are just voting against all the failed programs that Harry Caudill said were not a fix to the problems he described. In many ways it’s still night in the Cumberlands."
"But all over the region that Vance doesn’t know very well, there are people shining lights brighter than his on good solutions," Branscome writes. "In an awkward stab at humility in the introduction, noting he’s very young and has accomplished little besides getting through Yale Law School, Vance says, 'I find the existence of the book you hold in your hands somewhat absurd.' I agree."