Friday, November 18, 2016

Pastor-columnist says Trump's a disaster for rural folk, but it came down to cookies, guns and jobs

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party lost this month because they have long alienated, mocked and ignored the problems of "white working-class and even middle-class Americans [who] should be part of the Democratic base," pastor and faith-and-values columnist Paul Prather writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he was once the religion writer.

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"What we got was not just a win for The Donald, but a clean sweep, and carte blanche, for Republicans in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, Kentucky state government and, soon, the U.S. Supreme Court," Prather writes. "Of course, this is fantastic news for billionaires and big corporations. It’s a society-shifting disaster for the rural, working-class and middle-class white Americans who handed Trump and Co. the keys to the kingdom."

Prather says the result "was not driven primarily by white racism, or sexism, or opposition to abortion, or opposition to gay marriage, and least of all by any intrinsic loyalty to the Republican Party. No doubt, all those sentiments played their supporting roles. But mainly this election was about cookie baking, deer hunting and horrible jobs."

Paul Prather
Prather traces the roots of Clinton's defeat to her 1992 remark defending her work as a lawyer: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was pursue my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."

Prather writes, "What she, and by extension her party, failed to understand was that millions of women — nearly all employed outside the home, some already earning more than their husbands — wistfully remembered their mothers baking cookies and longed to do the same for their kids. They worked at outside jobs because they couldn’t afford to stay home. They were stung by what they took as Hillary’s condescension."

As for guns, "When Democrats rail against guns generally and, as President Obama once did, sniff at rural people’s affinity for firearms, those good people hear their culture, their histories and their families being directly attacked," Prather writes. "It’s not a political thing; it’s not even rational, necessarily. It’s personal and visceral.

And jobs: "Many Americans without college degrees, including millions of rural white people, now find it almost impossible to earn a living. If they’re working at all, it’s in non-union factories or big-box stores in their county seats, making $11 an hour, with sorry benefits, sorrier working conditions and no job security. They can’t pay their car loans, can’t buy a home, can barely keep the electricity on, and have third-rate health care, if any. Their nephews and nieces are ravaged by heroin. They can’t imagine sending their kids to college.

"They hear Democrats promoting affirmative action, transgender rights, abortion rights, illegal immigrants’ rights — but nobody’s lobbying for them. And they need help. Terribly. I would argue that the Republican Party is the worst place for such Americans to be. Yet they voted for Republicans by the droves because the Republican Party has at least made the effort to recognize their values, speak their language and court them, even if it typically takes advantage of them.

"Trump, a New York City billionaire, of all things, spoke directly to them. He said, in effect, I understand how beat up you are. I care about you. I will fight for you. Democrats haven’t done anything approaching that. They’ve been too busy feeling sanctimonious. They’ve needlessly alienated people they could have won over." (Read more)

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