Friday, October 07, 2016

Why one rural West Virginia county has pinned its hopes on Donald Trump

What has fueled Donald Trump's rise in places like Logan County, West Virginia (Wikipedia map), coal mining country that once voted solidly Democratic? Trump supporters are aplenty in Logan, a county that voted for a convicted felon over President Obama in the 2012 primary and where the mayor of Logan told Hillary Clinton she's not welcome to campaign in the town, Larissa MacFarquhar reports for The New Yorker.

Locals like Rick Abraham mirror the Trump faithful: "a white Protestant man in the dying coal industry in southern West Virginia, which is one of the parts of the country most deeply and unshakably loyal to Trump, and most deeply and unshakably hostile to Hillary Clinton and President Obama," MacFarquhar writes.

Abraham "is not the Appalachian Trump voter as many people elsewhere imagine him—ignorant, racist, appalled by the idea of a female president or a black president, suspicious and frightened of immigrants and Muslims, with a threatened job or no job at all, addicted to OxyContin," MacFarquhar writes. "Those voters exist, but the political thinking of many others in Trump country is more ambivalent and complicated and non-inevitable than is apparent from signs hung on Main Street or carried at rallies."

Logan, West Virginia (New Yorker photo by Alec Soth)
"The perception that people in West Virginia are voting for Trump because they are racist or ignorant is significant, though, since it’s one of the reasons they’re voting for Trump in the first place," MacFarquhar writes.

Charles Keeney, a history professor at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, in Logan County, told MacFarquhar, “When people talk about Trump, they talk about how they don’t like the establishment or the élites. When they say that, they mean who they see on television—they envision people in New York City making fun of them and calling them stupid. Every time you leave the state, you get it—someone will say, Oh, you’re from West Virginia, do you date your cousin? Wow, you have shoes, wow you have teeth, are you sure you’re from West Virginia? So when they see that the media élite is driven out of their mind at the success of Donald Trump it makes them want to root for him. It’s like giving the middle finger to the rest of the country.”

MacFarquhar writes, "Another important factor is immigration, but not for economic reasons. In West Virginia, there are practically no immigrants. But Trump has promoted the idea that someone who cares about the fate of people new to the country must care less about those who have been here longer—and this idea resonates among people who believe that the rest of the country doesn’t care about them at all, and doesn’t see them as kin."

"When Clinton talks about Trump voters, she tends to divide them into two categories: bigots (her 'basket of deplorables') and people suffering from economic hardship," MacFarquhar writes. "What’s missing from Clinton’s two categories is a third sort of person, who doesn’t want to think of himself as racist, but who feels that strong borders describe a home. There are many such people, and not just in West Virginia." (Read more)

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