Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ohio editor, one of few who endorsed Trump, says president retains most support in that county

Gary Abernathy
The editor and publisher of a small daily newspaper in rural Ohio, one of the few in the nation that endorsed Donald Trump for president, reports that the conservatives and "rank-and-file Republicans" who voted for the candidate are "still with him . . . for the most part."

Gary Abernathy runs The Times-Gazette in Hillsboro, on the edge of the Appalachian foothills. The Civitas Media paper, circulation 6,600, makes a habit of editorial endorsements, unlike many small dailies, but its list of choices last fall was locally focused and the presidential section was straightforward and short: "Despite his obvious flaws as a candidate, Donald Trump best represents the drastic shakeup that Washington needs, and best reflects the conservative fiscal and social issue values that are important to the people of southern Ohio. His focus on securing America’s borders and defeating radical Islamic terrorism is the kind of decisive attitude needed in the White House."

Highland County, Ohio (emapsworld.com)
Trump won 75 percent of votes in Highland County, "which has voted for the Republican candidate for president for decades but was particularly enthusiastic about Trump," Abernathy writes. "Interestingly, the conservatives I speak with do not really consider Trump one of them. Rank-and-file Republicans tend to view Trump more as an independent who ran under the Republican banner. But for the most part, they’re still with him. They appreciate Trump’s “America first” agenda, not because they believe in isolationism, but because they believe the U.S. and its citizens should be the government’s top priority."

Trump's lack of accomplishment on health care, tax reform, the Islamic State or his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington "is largely blamed on overreaching courts and the open 'resistance' that appears dedicated to opposing anything Trump wants," Abernathy writes. "What Trump’s supporters also appreciate about him are the very attributes for which he is relentlessly criticized in the media. People here — a farming community supplemented by modest-paying retail jobs and a few factory opportunities — are frank and plain-spoken. They’re weary of politicians whose every statement seems carefully crafted to say nothing and offend no one. The negativity that permeates Trump coverage is a frequent subject of conversation here. Matters that are not frequently discussed here are James Comey, tax returns, the Paris climate accord and the Russians. Instead, we talk about the heroin-overdose epidemic ravaging our community."

Writing for The Washington Post, at its invitation, Abernathy said Hillsboro's rural, majority-white character "doesn’t mean its citizens or its Trump supporters are racist, homophobic or Islamaphobic. Last weekend, I covered the opening of an exhibit at our historical society that pays tribute to a school desegregation saga that unfolded here in the 1950s; the event honored surviving members of the African-American community who lived through a chapter in local history too long ignored. A big crowd, white and black, was on hand. Steps toward racial harmony happen even in Trump country."

Abernathy also had a message for big news media: "I’m an editor who is a conservative on most issues. But I’m not a conservative editor. I strive to practice and teach solid, unbiased reporting regardless of what we are covering, doing our best to demonstrate respect, accuracy and fairness to all sides. Our political leanings are reserved for the opinion page. I wish more of my liberal colleagues would acquit themselves similarly." In his latest column, Abernathy said it's fun to write for the Post, but "Some of the responses offer a reminder that thick skin remains a requirement in this business. I appreciate that the post is interested in broadening its opinion sources, so we'll see how it goes."

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