Scalawag: What West Virginia is saying at the polls

Last night, Donald Trump won 77 percent of the primary vote in West Virginia, his first contest since becoming his party’s nominee. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, who is also her party’s presumptive nominee, lost the Democratic primary by almost sixteen points to Bernie Sanders. The county where I was born and lived most of my life before leaving for college at 18 gave Sanders his highest share in the state, over 61 percent. That county, by the way, is called Calhoun, a legacy of its 1856 creation in what were then the Virginia highlands; its county seat, though, is Grantsville, named for the general who crushed the Confederacy. That divided history has never really ended.

West Virginia is what realignment looks like. In 1980, it was one of only six states where voters supported the flagging Democrat Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. In 1988, it was one of only ten to support Democrat Michael Dukakis – and the only one with any claim to be in the South. In 2012, Barack Obama won only 36 percent of the vote against Mitt Romney. It was the nadir – so far – in a short, steep slide. {…}

On Twitter last night, people who have never been near Appalachia, emboldened by the sense that We Are All Nate Silvers Now, fought over exit polls showing that many Sanders voters said they would support Trump over Clinton in the fall. Some said they would support Trump over Sanders, and some Clinton voters also said they’d be voting Trump. The exasperation of poll-readers is understandable. This tells us nothing, they say, except that West Virginia is being West Virginia again.

From: What West Virginia is saying at the polls — Scalawag

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19 thoughts on “Scalawag: What West Virginia is saying at the polls

  1. What is to be done? Abandon environmentalism to keep West Virginia blue?

    Realignment also goes the other way and North Carolina’s slow but steady change to blue along with Virginia’s is more relevant to the Democratic Party than the conservative changes happening in West Virginia.

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      • The question is are there more states that are likely to be like West Virginia or more states that are likely to be like Virginia/North Carolina, and maybe Texas?

        The other rust belt states were always wealthier and more economically (and racially) diverse than West Virginia including Pennsylvania (where the majority still lives in Philly or Pittsburg Metro.)

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    • “What is to be done?”

      Bluntly, nothing. The planet has plenty of now-empty spaces that used to be full of people when there was a demand for the local resource. Coal-country WV is now on the list of places that should be emptying out.

      Or, to be moderately more charitable, the history, geography, educational investment and a 1000 other factors have made it very difficult for certain West Virginians to participate in modern society the way that (for example) Angelenos can. WV coal is a nearly dead industry. The federal govt, without Robert Byrd in it, can put only so many federal jobs into WV. Ag is not competitive despite the state being quite rural. There is an industrial sector, but that’s a small portion of the picture.

      What do the national taxpayers owe to WV? I’m not sure. It certainly seems that job retraining is mostly a waste of time.

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      • I might make an exception for eastern WV, which has the advantage of being DC-accessible but also comparatively inexpensive.

        Charleston will likely be okay, as will Morgantown.

        I would expect a lot of the rest to remain pretty stagnant.

        Oh yeah, and legal outsourcing! Though I would expect any white collar outsourcing that occurs to occur in the of the three above-mentioned places because I’m not sure how many other places in the state people are going to want to live.

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      • More centralized countries generally don’t have a freak out about shifts in the population to the extent that the United States does. Since American federalism guarantees some pretty strong local or regional identities than you get more rage when a particular area declines.

        What I don’t understand is why the Republican party wants the Democratic party to care about the decline of their areas when they did not give a damn about the decline of American cities during the mid-20th century.

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      • While all of this is basically true, if a bit cold-hearted in tone, there’s also the notion that we are a commonwealth, that we’re all in this together and it’s more important that someone is an American than that they’re a West Virginian as opposed to a Californian or a Floridian or a Michigander.

        So we certainly owe West Virginians an equal political stake — representatives pursuant to the population formula and two Senators, votes in the Electoral College. We have highways running through that state, in part to support and in part to encourage commercial activity. We recruit heavily for our armed forces from West Virginia; we owe support to those soldiers and sailors and dignity to their families. We seek to preserve those areas of the state that are of aesthetic and ecological value. Environmental and energy problems are not local; we owe West Virginia reasonable efforts to have clean water and clean air and wholesome food. West Virginians are owed access to justice and the Federal government guaranteeing that its citizens’ rights will be realized in meaningful ways.

        Do we owe them jobs? No. Do we owe them money to keep their state’s economy viable when their industries collapse from the vagaries of the economy? Maybe: coal is a big source of energy still, and we owe West Virginians and all Americans both the industrial ability to provide energy and as clean an environment as we can have. We should listen and carefully consider what they want done with their state before doing it there.

        Basically, we owe them respect and an equal place at the table. None of which contradicts your basic point that we don’t owe West Virginians indefinite preservation of the way of life they’ve had for a period of time.

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        • Let me dig into the idea of “owe” a little more.

          I don’t think that the rest of America owes WVians their political power. That is something they just have by being residents of a State.

          What we, as a community of citizens and collection of states, owe to WV and their citizens is opportunity. We (well, some of us) have taken much from the state, including timber and coal, and left behind a community that is struggling. Whether it’s funds for environmental restoration or for new roads or for more schools or whatever it is that WVians want, I think that they are owed a certain priority in the competition for federal dollars to help create a vibrant healthy economy.

          To flip the question around, what do WVians owe me? California is the most powerful state in the union, but we face problems that could really use some federal assistance. Not the high-speed rail project; Jerry Brown’s fantasy should not be foisted off on anyone else. No, I’m talking about a multi-billion dollar project for moving water more efficiently and with less environmental harm from Northern California to Southern California.

          Is this an infrastructure project with nationwide effect — and therefore a legitimate demand on the federal treasury — or is it just shoring up a way of life that’s unsustainable, and thus no different than coal projects?

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      • Francis,
        Like hell agriculture isn’t competitive. Where do you think all those rich Washingtonians get their grassfed Angus Beef? Hills ain’t the best place for growing crops (save apples, and we do love us some apples ’round here), but they’re fine for ranchin’.

        Unlike everyone else on this thread, I have driven through WV, country roads and 79 both.

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        • ‘Local source’ agriculture is maintaining a lot of farms in the immediate vicinity of the the Blue Ridge.

          Still there’s a limit on how many over paid contractors and lobbyists that are willing to pay double for beef. Then put aside that clear cutting hillside for beef grazing is only slightly less damaging to the environment, esp the waterways, than mountaintop removal coal mining is, it’s still not as labor dense as that same coal mining is.

          Also worth keeping in mind that for any agricultural use, most of West Virginia has a climate that’s more akin to places 10-15 degrees lattitude further north.

          (And I’ve driven to every corner of West Virginia myself, too. Originally in a Dodge Daytona. On more country roads than just the ones around Harper’s Ferry)(the only place in WV that you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River)

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          • Who said there was hillside to clearcut? We ain’t had old growth since the ’40’s. Everything got clearcut for Pittsburgh — way down to Elkins, WV at least.

            Around about the Dolly Sods, the woods won’t grow back, no matter we leave them alone for twenty odd years.

            WV grows good apples (so do we, up near Pittsburgh, which is Appalachia lite)

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            • A lot of Dolly Sods never had trees to begin with (that’s what sods means) and the rest should be ready to start regeneration within 20 years (pending microclimate shifts due to a macroclimate shift)

              But that’s the other thing, a lot of the land that was used for substistence agriculture during the 19th century and abandoned in the 1st half of the 20th is now protected land under federal or state management. (Like Dolly Sods)

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