My Problem Is Not That I Don’t Understand … It’s That I Do

My past three posts have been about the areas that went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in this past election, and why they’re going to be disappointed, to put it mildly.  Those aren’t the only places like that, and most of them are going to suffer the same disappointment, along with those who are suddenly finding out that the Republicans and Donald Trump meant what they said about repealing or “reforming” various programs and taking certain actions.  Although my nasty side is looking forward to it, at the same time my better side is worried about it.  You see, I live in a place like those.  Very rural, clannish, virtually entirely white, and yes, things have been declining for years.  It’s a place that went 2-1 for Trump, and during the campaign I heard all the reasons and justifications for it.   Most of which were the result of cherry-picking statements, hearing what they believed, and a healthy dose of denial.

A lot of people, mostly tourists,  have told me over the years “how lucky” I am to live up here.  It’s an area with lots of natural beauty and scenery.   We’re generally nice, we help each other out, and people do work hard at their jobs.  It’s also been declining for quite some time.  Several years ago, I compared it to what people say about the deceased when they’re visiting a funeral parlor, that it “looks so nice.”  It doesn’t change reality for those of us who live up here.  The local school that used to have almost 400 students back in the early 80’s now has barely 100.   The grocery store in town closed 7 years ago, and no replacement is going to happen. Other businesses have closed up, and there’s a number of empty buildings around town.  Our population is older (we’re one of the oldest in the country), and it’s not getting better.

So it’s understandable at why there’s so much frustration building.   We do get the news, and we hear how much better the economy is, how many jobs were created in the previous month, and all those other wonderful things in the country.  It’s just not happening here. Combine that reality with the the traditional rural versus urban antagonism, an almost exclusively white population which mostly denies being prejudiced (they are), that we live in one of the most heavily regulated areas of the country, and it’s not surprising that there’s was a strong sentiment of “we need change” which led them to buy into Donald Trump’s message.  Heck, I sometimes share in that frustration.

So if I shared in some of that frustration, why am I a liberal, and why am I so against what Trump stood for?  It’s because I understand a lot of other things.  First, I know how Social Security and Medicare are actually funded.  Unlike the common belief that “I paid for it when I was working,” they are actually a “pay as you go” programs.  Given that almost half the population of this county is on Medicare and collects Social Security, and that the Republicans have made it very clear that they want to mostly gut those two programs, I know that a lot of people in this area will get absolutely hammered by any changes.  I also know that most of the “good jobs” that currently exist up here are government jobs.   You want year-round employment at a decent wage, you’re generally talking about working for the state, the county, or one of the local towns.  I know that most of the infrastructure we rely on is because of the state.  Our hiking trails, several of the ski centers, campgrounds, and roads are all a function of the state government.   If we want (and we do) real broadband internet, that is going to have to come through government grants or other government programs.  No private business is going to go to the expense of running several hundred miles of fiberoptic line up here.

In looking around the country at the areas that went for Trump, it’s the common features they all share.  They are all seeing a decline, and they’re angry.  I understand that quite well, I live with it.  But my problem isn’t that I don’t understand that, it’s that I understand that they’re voting against their own interests, and that they can’t – or won’t – see their own hypocrisy.   They’re going to get some brutal reality checks in the near future, and it’s not going to be pretty.

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