Fear and Resentment of a Changing America

A revealing comparison of Republican districts that deny and don't deny the 2020 outcome.

“Student Action Summit attendees” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The NYT continues its long-running investigation into the plight of rural whites with “Their America Is Vanishing. Like Trump, They Insist They Were Cheated.” The web version is slightly interactive but the story appeared on the front page of the New York print edition as “Suspicion and Blame as Their America Vanishes.”

After the obligatory anecdote about racist rednecks, we learn:

A shrinking white share of the population is a hallmark of the congressional districts held by the House Republicans who voted to challenge Mr. Trump’s defeat, a New York Times analysis found — a pattern political scientists say shows how white fear of losing status shaped the movement to keep him in power.

The portion of white residents dropped about 35 percent more over the last three decades in those districts than in territory represented by other Republicans, the analysis found, and constituents also lagged behind in income and education. Rates of so-called deaths of despair, such as suicide, drug overdose and alcohol-related liver failure, were notably higher as well.

Although overshadowed by the assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the House vote that day was the most consequential of Mr. Trump’s ploys to overturn the election. It cast doubt on the central ritual of American democracy, galvanized the party’s grass roots around the myth of a stolen victory and set a precedent that legal experts — and some Republican lawmakers — warn could perpetually embroil Congress in choosing a president.

To understand the social forces converging in that historic vote — objecting to the Electoral College count — The Times examined the constituencies of the lawmakers who joined the effort, analyzing census and other data from congressional districts and interviewing scores of residents and local officials. The Times previously revealed the back-room maneuvers inside the House, including convincing lawmakers that they could reject the results without explicitly endorsing Mr. Trump’s outlandish fraud claims.

Many of the 139 objectors, including Mr. Nehls, said they were driven in part by the demands of their voters. “You sent me to Congress to fight for President Trump and election integrity,” Mr. Nehls wrote in a tweet on Jan. 5, 2021, “and that’s exactly what I am doing.” At a Republican caucus meeting a few days later, Representative Bill Johnson, from an Ohio district stretching into Appalachia, told colleagues that his constituents would “go ballistic” with “raging fire” if he broke with Mr. Trump, according to a recording.

We’ve known this for a very long time, no? Scads of Republican office-holders or would-be officeholders, ranging from Ted Cruz to Lindsey Graham to J.D. Vance who once decried Trump and his influence on their party have become toadies in order to preserve their viability.

It’s both perfectly understandable and rank cowardice. There are more important things than winning elective office. And, frankly, what’s the point of being in office if you can’t stand up for what you believe is right?

Certain districts primarily reflect either the racial or socioeconomic characteristics. But the typical objector district shows both — a fact demographers said was striking.

Because they are more vulnerable, disadvantaged or less educated white voters can feel especially endangered by the trend toward a minority majority, said Ashley Jardina, a political scientist at George Mason University who studies the attitudes of those voters.

“A lot of white Americans who are really threatened are willing to reject democratic norms,” she said, “because they see it as a way to protect their status.”

Again, this isn’t surprising. We’ve been talking about this phenomenon, which predates Trump’s rise by years, for quite some time. There are a lot of people who consider white America to be America. While it certainly overlaps with racism, it’s something more fundamental. It’s about what culture and set of norms dominate the society.

Of the 12 Republican-held districts that swung to minority white — almost all in California and Texas — 10 were represented by objectors. The most significant drops occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs and California desert towns, where the white percentage fell by more than a third.

Lawmakers who objected were also overrepresented among the 70 Republican-held districts with the lowest percentages of college graduates. In one case — the southeast Kentucky district of Hal Rogers, currently the longest-serving House member — about 14 percent of residents had four-year degrees, less than half the average in the districts of Republicans who accepted the election results.

This isn’t surprising but the causality is complicated. It’s not simply about economics. Plenty of folks without college degrees are doing just fine in our society. A good plumber or electrician is making more money than a schoolteacher or college professor.

Is it a matter of a college education giving people a more cosmopolitan perspective? Or folks without a college education feeling that they’re looked down upon? The piece seems to be suggesting the latter:

While Mr. Nehls’s district exemplifies demographic change, Representative H. Morgan Griffith’s in southwest Virginia is among the poorest in the country. Once dominated by coal, manufacturing and tobacco, the area’s economic base eroded with competition from new energy sources and foreign importers. Doctors prescribed opioids to injured laborers and an epidemic of addiction soon followed.

Residents, roughly 90 percent of them white, gripe that the educated elites of the Northern Virginia suburbs think that “the state stops at Roanoke.” They take umbrage at what they consider condescension from outsiders who view their communities as poverty-stricken, and they bemoan “Ph.D pollution” from the big local university, Virginia Tech. After a long history of broken government promises, many said in interviews they had lost faith in the political process and public institutions — in almost everyone but Mr. Trump, who they said championed their cause.

Having driven through it a number of times going back and forth to Alabama, I’m well aware that the state continues beyond Roanoke. But, frankly, I don’t give much thought to Roanoke when I’m not driving through it. Even though I’ve been in Northern Virginia twenty years now, I’m much more attuned to what’s happening in DC and its Maryland suburbs than I am to the rest of Virginia (aside from Richmond, the state capitol). But that’s not a matter of condescension but rather one of lifestyle and affinity.

In a bustling clinic called the Health Wagon in Mr. Griffith’s district, Paula Hill-Collins sees low-income and uninsured patients with maladies from tooth decay to heart conditions and diabetes.

Since the last election, they have often raised another complaint: the false claim that Democrats stole Mr. Trump’s victory.

“‘Did you see that box of votes that was thrown away? Did you see they found extra ones?’ This is what we hear from our patients,” said Ms. Hill-Collins, a nurse practitioner who grew up in the town of Coeburn, population 1,600.

Residents of the area — former coal towns at the southern end of Appalachia — have felt cheated for generations, she said. “They believe it because look what’s happened to us,” she said, recalling the exploitation of her community first by mining interests and more recently by drugmakers. “That’s fed a culture of suspicion.”

Families still swap stories about underhanded land deals that prospectors struck with residents more than a century ago for minerals under the hills. Now, the number of coal miners has plunged to less than 2,000 from more than 10,000 employed at about 340 mines three decades ago, according to government statistics.

Again, this goes far deeper than race. It’s a deep-seated sense of grievance that, while almost certainly rooted in reality, is rather disconnected from today’s politics.

Although not all are so hard-pressed, the districts of the House objectors share similar disadvantages. Households there had nearly 10 percent less annual income in 2020 than those in other Republican areas. Not only were college degrees less common, so were high school diplomas.

The G.O.P.’s hold on those districts reflects its shift away from its former country club image to become the party of those left behind. The residents of Democratic districts, on average, are better educated and earn significantly more.

That they glommed on to a guy who literally lives at a country club when he’s not living in a New York City penthouse is ironic, I suppose. But Trump fed their grievances in a way that no serious presidential candidate in my memory has managed to do. (Indeed, the closest I can think of is Bernie Sanders, who did it in a very different way.)

Tim Wilson, a 60-year-old Army veteran who owns a business in Christiansburg that provides wigs and other supplies to cancer patients, said he won a town council seat last year to help attract business and jobs.

Yet he feared the cultural cost of outside investment. A big employer “would also bring with it all the executives and what comes with it from Northern Virginia or California, one of the strong blue regions,” he said. “There is this fear.”

The same distrust drove feelings about the last election, he said: Democratic elites in the big cities — the ones who took people “from being coal miners to being put out on the street” — were pushing what he called the myth that the election had run perfectly.

“If we don’t show the people that are a level above us and a level above them in elected offices that we mean business, it’ll never change anything,” he said. “We need to show them that we have the courage to stand up to the status quo.”

I honestly don’t even know what to do with this. They want the money that the big cities have but not the attitudes that come with it. They want improvement, yes, but they want it without change. That’s a hard ask.

Others took offense at the suggestion that election doubts were tied to income, education or faith. (Districts of objectors had higher concentrations of evangelical Protestants than other Republican-held areas, according to the most recent data available.)

Instead, some residents said that their reasons for questioning the results should be obvious to anyone: the relatively small size of Mr. Biden’s rallies, the overnight disappearance of Mr. Trump’s early lead as more votes were tallied, the allegations about stuffed ballot drop boxes.

“It’s not a political thing. It’s a we-love-our-country thing,'” said Alecia Vaught, 46, a homemaker and Republican organizer in Christiansburg. “You’re either for America or you’re not.”

As I’ve recounted before, my late mother, who watched television, tuned either to Fox News or a home shopping channel all day, was absolutely shocked when Barack Obama won re-election in 2012 over Mitt Romney. Despite Obama having led in the polls for all but a couple of days of the entire campaign cycle, she had somehow become convinced that Romney was going to win in a landslide. Part of that was simply the propaganda she was being fed by Fox. A lot of it, though, was that everyone she ever talked to was voting for Romney so the idea that Obama had more supporters was simply unfathomable.

There’s quite a bit more to the piece but it’s all similarly depressing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    A lot of it, though, was that everyone she ever talked to was voting for Romney so the idea that Obama had more supporters was simply unfathomable.

    This kind of made me laugh mainly because of the Pauline Kael quote:

    “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”

    Bottomline: It is all about grievance, real or imagined. Yes, there are structural reasons for the decline of rural America but there is a attitude of entitlement and inability to accept the consequences of their own behavior also. I see this in parts of my family where the grievance arises because things just didn’t turn out to expectations (love, money, family, etc.). Gotta blame someone else.

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  2. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    They want the money that the big cities have but not the attitudes that come with it.

    You are talking about the micro, but it is the same in the macro.
    I noticed the other day that Kristi Noem, Gov. of South Dakota, is cutting taxes…removing taxes on groceries. Her race for reelection, which should be a blowout, is pretty tight.
    South Dakota is a Welfare Queen taking over 50% back from DC than they send in taxes.
    The reality is that 90% of the Red States would be in economic trouble without the support of Blue States.
    Yes, they want the money that progressives bring, but don’t want to be told not to rape their underaged kin.

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  3. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    @Scott:
    Trump played that game…how did Biden win, when no one held truck parades and boat parades for him?

    4
  4. Beth says:

    @Scott:

    Gotta blame someone else.

    I think a lot of people struggle with the concept that they can be the victim of something AND simultaneously be an abuser. I get the sense that a lot of these right wingers think that the fact that they were the victims of corporations, pharma companies, and politicians, that they are somehow absolve of the terrible things they do (or want to do) to other people.

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  5. drj says:

    Residents, roughly 90 percent of them white, gripe that the educated elites of the Northern Virginia suburbs think that “the state stops at Roanoke.”

    Demographically, that’s probably true (for the most part).

    If so, it would be silly (as well as unfair) to expect that this should have no impact on spending or attention.

    2
  6. Jen says:

    This sort of thing drives me crazy:

    …recalling the exploitation of her community first by mining interests and more recently by drugmakers. “That’s fed a culture of suspicion.”

    Which party spends its time and money defending mining interests and drugmakers to do what they want to in the name of competition and the free market?

    Honestly, it’s that part of the election cycle when we get the In Depth Look at What is Fueling Resentment, but these articles absolutely set me off.

    16
  7. SKI says:

    We’ve been talking about this phenomenon, which predates Trump’s rise by years, for quite some time.

    Strong echos of the 1920s and the rise of the KKK in its second itineration with a broadened focus against Jews, Catholics and immigrants in addition to blacks. Promoting saving American identity and “old time religion”, they organized around attacking urbanity (immigrants, wall street & big business)

    3
  8. Mu Yixiao says:

    While I agree with pretty much everything in the post, one thing stood out to me:

    And, frankly, what’s the point of being in office if you can’t stand up for what you believe is right?

    You repeatedly talk about how representation should, y’know, actually represent the populace. Yet here you’re saying that the elected officials shouldn’t do what their constituency want.

    For representation to be truly representative, you’re going to get some crap people in office. You gotta take the good with the bad.

    5
  9. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    Which party spends its time and money defending mining interests and drugmakers to do what they want to in the name of competition and the free market?

    But anything else would be socialism!

    I think it’s a mix of factors. one is the anticipated fear of something is worse than the actual something taking place. So fear of a “socialist” agenda wins over the present economic devastation of the (erstwhile) middle class

    Another is the persistence of narrative. The trickle down narrative makes perfect sense. In practice, it leads to stock buy-backs and concentration of capital into a small pool. But it’s easier to blame someone else for the failures of such policies than it is to examine the policies and look for alternatives.

    6
  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    And they wonder why their kids leave and move to some urban area.

    This attitude isn’t restricted to the US, last week the Times had an article on a dying town in Brittany, that in an effort to save it, several immigrant families are being resettled there. Needless to say there is controversy, that is tearing the town apart. Many realize that without new families the town is doomed and in many cases, so are their businesses, while others protest the changing culture.

    4
  11. Mikey says:

    Residents, roughly 90 percent of them white, gripe that the educated elites of the Northern Virginia suburbs think that “the state stops at Roanoke.”

    Well, that goes both ways. A lot of non-Northern Virginia thinks the state doesn’t start until Manassas. Or maybe even Fredericksburg.

    Southwestern Virginia is lovely country, though. My daughter lived over eight years in/around Blacksburg on her way to becoming part of the scourge of PhD pollution, and we always enjoyed visiting the area.

    3
  12. Matt Bernius says:

    Although not all are so hard-pressed, the districts of the House objectors share similar disadvantages. Households there had nearly 10 percent less annual income in 2020 than those in other Republican areas. Not only were college degrees less common, so were high school diplomas.

    The time has come for White Communities to have a hard discussion about how it’s propagating a culture of poverty that devalue education and increasingly rely on the welfare state.

    [Please note the huge “/s” on that… but it is striking about how historic attacks made on certain “urban” groups by the right-wing can also be applied to their stronghold communities too.]

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  13. Modulo Myself says:

    I really hate this focus on rural America. Trump is as much a phenomenon of the suburbs as he is the sticks. Lee Zeldin has a good shot at being governor in NY. He’s an election denialist, and he’s from Long Island.

    Rural people play a role as stock characters terrified of change adn so they’re easy to use. But most of their concerns about material change are legit. The actual towns of rural America have not been helped by Walmart and Amazon. If they are picturesque and end up being gentrified as a second-home place for city people, they will probably get a farm-to-table restaurant or two out of it, but that’s it. Outside investment is not the friend of the place it is going to, in general.

    The Times won’t frame it that way though, and they’re not going to touch why Shirley, NY (Zeldin’s hometown) has become MAGA-land. It’s not only race. There’s the fact of cultural capital, and not like the elite vs not-elite type but self-sufficiency and being able to handle change and difference.

    9
  14. al Ameda says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    For representation to be truly representative, you’re going to get some crap people in office. You gotta take the good with the bad

    The bad? We’re there now, with a vengeance.
    Way back in 1970, when the Senate was debating the Nixon’s nomination of Florida judge Harold Carswell to the Supreme Court, Nebraska Republican Roman Hruska said, paraphrasing: “Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they? We can’t have all Brandeises and Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

    2
  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    The time has come for White Communities to have a hard discussion about how it’s propagating a culture of poverty that devalue education and increasingly rely on the welfare state.

    I have no idea why you added a /s to that. We’ve been doing a huge sociology experiment. Turns out that if you put white people in small towns with few jobs, few prospects, poor education, and access to drugs, the results are the same as doing it to Blacks in urban neighborhoods. Hoocoodanode?

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  16. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Several years ago in a National Review article, Kevin Williamson took the litany of RW attacks on urban America and turned those back rural America. Yes the howls of pain were deafening but what he said was undeniably true.

    10
  17. Scott F. says:

    They want improvement, yes, but they want it without change. That’s a hard ask.

    That is an impossible ask. The very essence of improvement is giving up on some element(s) of the current state in favor of something different that would lead to better outcomes. Change can be incremental or it can be all at once or it can fall somewhere in between, but there is no such thing as improvement without change.

    But Trump showed that you can sell people the idea that the change doesn’t have to be yours. It should be the Other that changes, not you, so you can get the better life without any of the costs. It’s an attractive idea, so it sold really well and Trump got to be President.

    But, he couldn’t deliver on any of it. So, what’s he do? Admit he was caught selling a fantasy? Oh, hell no. It would have worked if only the Others hadn’t cheated.

    12
  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @gVOR08:

    One of the few actual changes in America which has occurred in my lifetime involves poverty and how it matters. In the 80s and 90s, gangs, crack, and violence were treated as cultural pathologies rather than as effects of poverty. Poverty was something you could avoid in America by working hard. It was not something that is endemic and done to you by others.

    No sane person really can believe this now. Some people want to go back to the time when you could understand the world in older ways, but there’s no way it’s happening.

    5
  19. Argon says:

    @Scott:

    Gotta blame someone else

    Yep.
    And convince them to vote for the people making it worse… That’s the sad irony.

    Want to get people to vote against their economic interest? Convince them that someone else is getting help, as if it’s a zero sum game

    3
  20. JohnMc says:

    Short note to say that the Appalachian region has been badly served by state govts since… well… probably colonial Era. Likely has always ‘stopped at Roanoke’.

    2
  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Yep, it’s undeniably true. I think that rural and urban areas have much more in common with each other than they do with suburban areas. If nothing else, they are both locations of last resort. The suburbs, after all, can and do push people out if they become poor and/or messy, driving such folks into the rural or urban areas.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    This is why I say there’s not much difference between the white rural self-pity and the Rod Dreher/TAC whining about How The World Isn’t Religious Enough Anymore. In both cases it’s self-pity.

    I had a friend who managed over the course of three years to set himself on a downwards path through his incessant addiction to self-pity. Nothing was ever his own fault–it was either the responsibility of his wife, or the people around him, or the minority people in the area, or….I helped bail him out financially many times, but none of the “financial resets” ever worked. I finally gave up and stopped answering his calls.

    (Needless to say he isn’t my friend any more)

    Books by Horatio Alger Jr. may be filled with stereotypes and unrealistic plot devices, but at least his heroes don’t go running around reeking of self-pity.

    6
  23. MarkedMan says:

    We liberals often throw all rural people together and speak of how they vote against their own interests. I wonder how many poor, unemployed rural people actually vote, and how that corresponds to the number of poor, unemployed urban voters.

    3
  24. Chip Daniels says:

    This is why I don’t believe the polls that show Republicans leading on jobs, crime and the economy.

    Oh, I completely believe that they are leading in polls, I just don’t believe that their support has anything whatsoever to do with jobs, crime, and the economy. When pollsters ask questions, they generally have a menu of choices respondents can choose from.

    But where are the polls asking, “Are you angry and resentful of nonwhite people and LGBTQ people?” Well, they don’t ask this way and even if they did, most people don’t like to believe that they are voting based on dark resentment and grievance.
    So they invent a story for themselves having to do with jobs crime and the economy, even though by any conventional metric the Democrats should be leading on these issues.

    6
  25. Skookum says:

    Many rural areas have legitimate grievances with the impact of capitalists who extracted their natural resources with no regard for the long-term economic and environmental impacts. Many urban areas have legitimate grievances about the impact of outsourcing jobs oversees. No one likes to see their heritage lost as they are assimilated into the prevailing culture. The first generation of white males who lost economic advantage because of diversity programs did not have their sense of loss acknowledged. We are just now fully acknowledging the impact of slavery had and continues to have in our society.

    What I’m trying to say, in response to Dr. Joyner’s and Dr. Taylor’s posts in recent days, is:

    – Slavery, ruthless capitalism, social programs, grief for lost cultural ties, loss of economic certainty, etc. cause ALL people to feel pain.

    – We need to acknowledge the pain.

    – We need to use words to communicate with people that they believe best describes their world view if we are to truly acknowledge their pain.

    6
  26. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I recall reading somewhere that many rural white voters in Mississippi who were in their forties and fifties voted for the first time in 2016–for Trump.

    3
  27. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Books by Horatio Alger Jr. may be filled with stereotypes and unrealistic plot devices, but at least his heroes don’t go running around reeking of self-pity.

    Idea for a premise: a superhero whose superpower is the ability to whine and complain harder, louder, and longer than anyone else. In extreme cases, he throws the best tantrums, manypeoplesaythat.

  28. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    You repeatedly talk about how representation should, y’know, actually represent the populace. Yet here you’re saying that the elected officials shouldn’t do what their constituency want.

    In a representative democracy, should the politicians work to further the interests of the people they represent, or only their desires?

    4
  29. Skookum says:

    Just think how different the political landscape might be right now if the liberals had acknowledged the pain of ALL those who believe they have been stripped of the American dream–not just women, people of color, and LGQBT+. I think it would have been possible to do so without sacrificing a progressive vision of America. Instead, Trump acknowledged that pain of those who have been disenfranchised in rural and predominantly white America. But of course, he did so to make money off of them to the benefit of the 1%ers. Will they ever realize this?

    4
  30. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Many grievances have a basis in reality, and struggling with change (which has been very rapid in recent decades) is basic human nature. Unfortunately the propagandists have done a brilliant job confusing the victims over who is to blame, while simultaneously fighting and demonizing the social safety net that might actually help them.

    Anger and resentment are easy-they don’t require the person to analyze themselves or what they are doing.

    2
  31. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Kathy:

    In a representative democracy, should the politicians work to further the interests of the people they represent, or only their desires?

    That’s part of the problem: Who gets to decide what’s in the best interest of those people? If a million people say “This is what we want”, what gives one person the right to say “I know better than you, so I’m going to do what I think is best for you.”?

    I’m betting that Putin and Xi are doing what they believe is in the best interest of their people.

    It’s not an either/or thing–it’s some sort of n-dimensional matrix, and I certainly don’t know the answers.

  32. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    If it’s in the interests of your constituents to have, say, a living wage and sufficient social services, and they want more trickle down crap, what would you do?

    I’m betting that Putin and Xi are doing what they believe is in the best interest of their people.

    I’m sure they aren’t.

    11
  33. Andy says:

    I don’t have much experience with the rural south. I lived in DC for a time and Florida for many years (not really the south – most of my neighbors were from NY and NJ). I also lived in Texas, which is its own special case.

    So I can’t comment much on the article, though it does follow the typical pattern where the lead-in is an anecdote about white rural racism, which kind of sets the tone for the rest of it.

    By contrast, I am familiar with rural areas in the plains and the west, and the culture is much different than what’s described in the article. The history is obviously quite different than the south and there are also significant differences between the various regions and rural areas west of the Mississippi.

    For example, in the west and southwest, significant numbers of Hispanics and Latinos live in rural areas. Colorado, my state, has two rural counties that are majority Hispanic and several more that are over 40%. It’s similar in neighboring states.

    Anyway, I point this out to caution people not to paint with too broad a brush. I often see comments about rural people being composed of white, ignorant and uneducated racists motivated by grievance. That might or might not be accurate for some rural areas of the US, but it’s important to remember that even if that characterization is accurate in some places, there are many exceptions and most areas of the country (urban, rural or suburban), are not nearly as uniform as these characterizations suggest.

    And those who care about electoral outcomes should care especially be cautious. Even though most rural areas tend to go for the GoP, they can still see significant numbers of votes for Democrats. Similarly, in many urban precincts, Democrats have an advantage, but there are non-trivial numbers of GoP voters there as well. If you want to win, it seems dumb to potentially alienate 20-40% of voters in an area based on geographical assumptions or the red or blue color on the final results map.

    It doesn’t do anything to help Democrats win by casting aspersions at rural voters or condescending to them. Similarly, it doesn’t help Republicans win to demagogue urban areas and urban voters. It’s just dumb if you want to win, much less win consistently.

    5
  34. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao: That’s one of the pressing issues of representative government. Passage of the Civil Rights Act, or extending the vote to women–neither of these were sure things and left to the will of the public it’s unlikely they would have passed.

    These aren’t easy questions, and they aren’t simple either. Boiling it down to “Putin and Xi” is sort of disingenuous.

    4
  35. Scott F. says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    That’s part of the problem: Who gets to decide what’s in the best interest of those people? If a million people say “This is what we want”, what gives one person the right to say “I know better than you, so I’m going to do what I think is best for you.”?

    I’ve just got to say it – the right to say “I know better” comes from knowing better – knowledge that comes from research and evidence of things that have been tried and been successful in other locations or other times.

    We don’t struggle with the idea that expertise has value in other contexts – the pilot knows better than I how to fly the plane, the firefighter knows better than I how to put out a fire. If the local citizen was to tell the pilot or the firefighter they’re doing it all wrong, their peers would have no trouble telling them to sit down and be quiet. But, if the local citizen tells the government scientist they know better when to wear a mask to protect themselves and others from a pandemic or tells the government official tells them there’s just no way to bring back the horse carriage factory, their peers (plus the media and the politicians who coddle them) say “well, maybe you’re right” as though there’s no way to objectively weigh alternatives.

    The experts aren’t always right and some knowledge is specialized (the expert firefighter shouldn’t be allowed to fly the plane). But, we’ve given massive license to questioning expertise in favor of the common man’s gut feelings. Call me a snobby educated elite if you must, but that seems stupid to me.

    13
  36. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Jen:

    From my post: “It’s not an either/or thing–it’s some sort of n-dimensional matrix”

    I’m not “boiling it down to Putin and Xi. I’m asking where do you draw the line? Leaders doing what they thinks is best for their constituency also resulted in ridiculous laws like max sizes for sodas in New York, and banning a popular street food (bacon-wrapped hot dogs) in California. It’s the entire idea behind the “nanny state”. It also assumes that those in office actually do know what’s best.

    2
  37. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Scott F.:

    the pilot knows better than I how to fly the plane

    But the constituency isn’t telling the pilot how to fly the plane. They’re telling the pilot that they want to go to Atlanta, not Birmingham. They’re looking at destinations, not procedures. At what point does the pilot get to say “No… you really want to go to Birmingham”?

    When there’s ice on the Atlanta runway? Of course.
    When Atlanta is fogged in? Of course.
    Because Birmingham has cheaper hotel rates? Umm… no.

    2
  38. Michael Cain says:

    @Kathy:

    In a representative democracy, should the politicians work to further the interests of the people they represent, or only their desires?

    One of the things that seems to be happening more often, and actually out in the open, is politicians who assert they represent the people who voted for them, but not the other people living in their district.

    3
  39. Gustopher says:

    I honestly don’t even know what to do with this. They want the money that the big cities have but not the attitudes that come with it. They want improvement, yes, but they want it without change. That’s a hard ask.

    Yey! I get to drag out one of my favorite hobby horses!

    The current economy, favoring large companies over small, tends to move people towards big cities, because that’s where jobs are being created. We’re losing the economic strength of our small cities. Been going on for decades, and neither party has done anything about it.

    Republicans love big business, and Democrats have complained that the Wal-Mart is going to wipe out the hardware store, grocery, clothing shop and everything else on Main Street other than the erotic bakery.

    And the small cities power the economy of the rural parts of the states.

    We took a wrong turn in setting up our economy so it no longer serves people, but people serve it.

    We need some sort of revolution that re-establishes the petit bourgeois. Small-scale capitalists of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your declining way of life!

    Effective regulation of corporate mergers might be a reasonable first step though. The Kroger and Albertsons merger should never be allowed to happen. (And then we should look at breaking up some of the major agricultural companies).

    A centrally planned economy sucks, whether it is being centrally planned by the government or a few large companies.

    Zombie Teddy Roosevelt in 2024! He’s only a little older than Biden or Trump, and we can just keep feeding him fresh brains to keep him sharp…

    (I have wandered from my hobby horse a little)

    9
  40. Michael Cain says:

    The big rural area I live closest to, and before my mother died drove across once each year or so, is the Great Plains. Half a million square miles that makes Appalachia look crowded. Population peaked in the 1930 census. I still have some family in Nebraska, over half of the state’s population now lives in three counties in the southeast part of the state. Basically, Omaha, Lincoln, and their suburbs. If current trends continue, by 2030 it will be more than 60%. Absent the growth in those three, the state’s population would have shrunk from 2010 to 2020. At some point those three urban/suburban counties will realize that they have the ability to call the tune for the entire state. The western part of the state has been afraid of when that day will arrive for the last 30 years.

    1
  41. grumpy realist says:

    @Andy: I grew up in Upstate New York. Knew several farming families. None of them manifested any of the sort of self-pity/ self-sabotaging behaviour/anti-intellectual behaviour that now is attached to the stereotype of the present rural Trump supporter. (Heck, the son of one farmer got a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University and ended up as a professor somewhere.)

    I think the US has unfortunately created subcultures of whining self-pity which far too many grifters have learned to pander to. And it’s on both sides–the progressive who insists that everything that goes wrong in her life is due to “sexism” (as opposed to simply not doing a very good job) and then the whining Proud Boy who refuses to admit that the reason he didn’t get the job he applied for and a black woman was hired instead is because he was fired from his previous job. And there are certainly enough media channels out there eager to tell you that what went wrong in your life was due to “them” (whether”them” are white, black, rich, old, young, etc.) and the crappiness of your present situation is none of your fault.

    This is why I say that self-pity is an addiction, and there are certainly enough pushers out there willing to sell you the goods.

    4
  42. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’m asking where do you draw the line?

    My perspective is that you don’t draw a line. Each bill, each law, each initiative needs to be considered separately, on its own merit. Considering the weak, the disenfranchised, and those who have specifically NOT been given a voice, or are intentionally excluded, should definitely be considered.

    This is precisely why I prefer to vote for people smarter than me.

    2
  43. Gustopher says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    ridiculous laws like max sizes for sodas

    Can you show me on this doll where the medium sized soda hurt you?

    Seriously, we have an epidemic of obesity in this country, and massive food servings are a part of that. This is basic product safety, like requiring cars to pass crash tests.

    You were also never prohibited from buying two sodas, it was just putting a minor bit of friction in the sale of 1500 calories of sugar water.

    Are you still upset about the move away from transfats?

    Helping maintain product safety is one of the good things governments do, because we know private business just won’t — see all of recorded history for examples.

    (I’d rather a bit more effort was taken to tighten regulations on lettuce, as for a while it seemed like every other week some variety was chock full of E. coli)

    6
  44. steve says:

    We live rural and I work in a mix of areas, but a lot of time in rural areas. What I see is a real mix. The majority of people work, are decent people and not racist. A lot fo them still vote for Trump since they think city people look down on them, therefore Dems look down on them.Its a pretty dumb reason but its what we are stuck with for now. OTOH, there is a sizable minority that works pretty hard at living up to (down?) every bad stereotype you can think of. While I think it is a fairly small minority of Dems who make it a point to make fun of rural people and treat them all as if they are deplorable, that minority seems to have a lot of influence and/or media coverage.

    If Dems want to win elections then at a minimum they should try to minimize the effects of those people scoring points by going after the rural voters on a personal level. Do it on policy. Maybe even try to reach out and specifically address some of their issues. Rural areas have as high or higher a percentage of poor people as urban areas so it should be doable.

    Steve

    3
  45. KM says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    But the constituency isn’t telling the pilot how to fly the plane. They’re telling the pilot that they want to go to Atlanta, not Birmingham.

    Yeah – when you do that after the plane is taken off, it’s telling the pilot you know better then they do. If you don’t want to go to Birmingham, you don’t walk onto the flight to Atlanta and demand they change their flight plan. You choose BEFORE you get on the plane because planes work by having a set path and you choose the particular path you are interested in, not the pilot or crew. The traveler’s desire is to get somewhere but the minutia of actual travel is left to the experts. When it comes to “who decides?” the traveler gets to make the larger, general choice of direction and then needs to hand control over to the people who actually know what they are doing.

    Because let’s be real here – most people don’t know what they want.

    They know what they like. They know what they aspire to… or at least, what they think they should aspire to. But it’s a rare person who truly knows what they want rather then what they are feeling in the moment or has a vague outline for how life should go. That is the entire point of experts – they learn what you don’t have the time, ability or inclination to and then go forth to take care of the details for you. Otherwise you get the “do your research” crowd and we all know how that goes….

    Who decides what’s best? At first, the general public and then the experts take over. That’s how a functional society has always worked. The problem is there’s a very vocal segment of the population that never grew out of You Don’t Tell ME What to Do!!!! and they’ll be happy to burn it all down for everyone rather then admit someone else knows more then they do.

    8
  46. Tom Maguire says:

    We are asked:

    “Scads of Republican office-holders or would-be officeholders, ranging from Ted Cruz to Lindsey Graham to J.D. Vance who once decried Trump and his influence on their party have become toadies in order to preserve their viability.

    It’s both perfectly understandable and rank cowardice. There are more important things than winning elective office. And, frankly, what’s the point of being in office if you can’t stand up for what you believe is right?”

    As much as I loathe Ted Cruz and am disappointed by JD Vance, I *think* I’d rather have Cruz in the Senate then see him step aside (or get successfully primaried) and be replaced by a Trumpian True Believer.

    Having annoying, phony toadies holding levers of power may be less dangerous than having True Trumpians in charge. Maybe.

    Or – a different rationalization! – sometimes its a failure of followership, not leadership. How are Mitt Romey and Liz Cheney doing as leaders of the Republican Party?

    3
  47. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think the record is pretty clear that government-sponsored nutrition has been a net disaster.

    The record of federal guidelines in the 1970’s though the 1990’s, in particular, is especially bad and well documented. And those weren’t just guidelines, they were directives for all kinds of institutional food settings, including schools, hospitals, prisons, etc. that my generation were unknowingly subjected to. The deleterious health effects of these terrible guidelines are still with us today and the epidemic of obesity in this country can be at least partly traced to bad federal policy and nutrition guidelines.

    You mention trans fats – those became really popular when the consensus was that other types of fat – especially saturated fat, was worse and should be avoided. It took decades for the government to finally acknowledge the problem with trans fats and correct course.

    Nutrition science still seems to be a junk field. Current recommendations seem to be better, but should still be treated with skepticism.

    3
  48. Andy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    One of the things that seems to be happening more often, and actually out in the open, is politicians who assert they represent the people who voted for them, but not the other people living in their district.

    You’re in Colorado too, right?

    It’s interesting how popular TABOR and related measures are here among the public (or at least the voting public) compared to the view of Democrats in the legislature (who, for those not familiar with Colorado, hold a decisive advantage). Maybe what you describe helps explain some of that disconnect.

    2
  49. gVOR08 says:

    “It’s not a political thing. It’s a we-love-our-country thing,’” said Alecia Vaught, 46, a homemaker and Republican organizer in Christiansburg. “You’re either for America or you’re not.”

    This sort of thing just makes me crazy. They’re screaming about being the true patriots while destroying the country.

    8
  50. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Those who voted for them in the primaries, or in the general election?

  51. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    So I can’t comment much on the article, though it does follow the typical pattern where the lead-in is an anecdote about white rural racism, which kind of sets the tone for the rest of it.

    I don’t want to blame it all on economic anxiety, as there are plenty of wealthy racists[1], but I think economic problems make people much more angry than their baseline, and that spills into the racism, especially when directed[2]

    People are much more accepting of differences when they are comfortable.

    (Then again, I remember the Black software engineer at one of my jobs who people were constantly assuming was a janitor. We would be walking back from a meeting, laptops in hand, and someone would tell him about a spill in the kitchen.)

    I’d actually like to know more about why brown folks are moving to the districts in the article — I expect it is a matter of economics, with the large employer not paying a “white” living wage (house, yard, 2 kids, middle class trappings) and the brown folks being immigrants used to less (extended family in the house, maybe no Disney+, etc)

    ——
    [1] See Carlson, Tucker for a seminal treatise on the subject.
    [2] ibid.

    1
  52. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: I think the science on consuming an extra 1500 calories as a drink in addition to food is pretty clear.

    Butter and margarine have gone back and forth — turns out, neither is good for you, but we didn’t have data on how bad margarine was so assumed it was fine.

    And overall, I would say the US governments involvement in food safety and nutrition (you can’t really separate them, as the butter/margarine fiasco shows) has been a net positive.

    See Sinclair’s The Jungle for where it started, and see the moldy baby food problems of late for how quickly things will revert.

    (The baby food fiasco also ties into my belief that we need to break up the big monopolies and near monopolies, as a problem with one supplier impacts too much)

    That said, I still wish we were focusing a bit more on making lettuce safe. Or maybe we were, and were catching problems that would otherwise go unreported.

    6
  53. Michael Cain says:

    @Andy: Long time Coloradan. At least, long enough to remember when TABOR passed on its third(?) try. When the vote changed dramatically in Jefferson County, where I was living, after the county commission built the “Taj Mahal” county building. It’s been a long time, but I believe the commission that made that particular mistake was all Republicans.

    Most of two decades later, TABOR made my work as a budget analyst for the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee much more difficult. I believe I was the first staff member to recommend changing unemployment insurance “taxes” to “premiums” and moving that billion-plus dollars in revenue and spending out from under TABOR. Took a few years before the legislature actually did it.

  54. Gustopher says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    South Dakota is a Welfare Queen taking over 50% back from DC than they send in taxes.
    The reality is that 90% of the Red States would be in economic trouble without the support of Blue States.

    I’ve kind of wanted to try to get a referendum on the ballot in Washington State that would require 85% of sales and licensing taxes to be spent in the county it was raised. I’m sure it would do well in the rural areas, and then devastate them.

    Yes, they want the money that progressives bring, but don’t want to be told not to rape their underaged kin.

    They don’t want to know that they are taking that blue state money.

    Also, the “raping their underaged kin” thing is unfair. The red states are full of people who would be the next Roman Polanski or Woody Allen with the right opportunities. Lacking the opportunities, we just aren’t getting the films.

    We should be getting Redneck Rosemary’s Baby and Backwoods Bananas! We are being deprived.

    1
  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    There are more important things than winning elective office.

    I seriously doubt that this statement is true related to people who make their living serving in elective offices. And the higher the office, the less true it is

    And, frankly, what’s the point of being in office if you can’t stand up for what you believe is right?

    My inner cynic is laughing at you while he says “I am standing up for what I believe is right. I believe that it is right for me to hold office instead of you. How am I compromising that principle?”

  56. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Modulo Myself: “Rural people play a role as stock characters terrified of change adn so they’re easy to use. But most of their concerns about material change are legit. The actual towns of rural America have not been helped by Walmart and Amazon. If they are picturesque and end up being gentrified as a second-home place for city people, they will probably get a farm-to-table restaurant or two out of it, but that’s it. Outside investment is not the friend of the place it is going to, in general.”

    Because the town that I live in (pop. 12000) is proximate to metro Portland Oregon, I live in more of an exurb than in “rural America,” but Mu would let me say that I live in “Small Town Murka,” so I’ll run with it. You’ve hit on the big issue that I see talking to young people that I see at the school and some other places. The smart ones realize that their future is somewhere not called, in this case, Kelso, Washington, and that’s the biggest reason they move to the cities. Additionally, my exurban small town is 300-some miles from the biggest regional research university and about 150 away from the closest one, so we’re not going to get spillover effect that will result in research parks being built here, but our proximity to Portland WILL allow real estate prices and rents to continue to skyrocket (kind of a worst of all worlds situation, and the apartment that I moved out of now rents for over 110% more than it did when I moved out of it 3 years ago). The people who are lamenting the fact that the town is dying have it spot on. And there isn’t even enough agriculture in terms of mixed farming to even support a farm to table restaurant. The restaurant will need to buy what goes on its tables from south of Portland or north of Olympia. Fun stuff.

    2
  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The NYT continues its long-running investigation into the plight of rural whites with “Their America Is Vanishing. Like Trump, They Insist They Were Cheated.”

    Speaking as on of of these “rural (white) Americans” let me just say, their America never was. They were pansy assed cowards hiding behind a fable. They weren’t cheated, they were forced to play on a slightly more straight table, and couldn’t handle the fact that results in their favor were no longer quite as guaranteed as they used to be.

    Rural whites are now being forced to play on a very slightly more level playing field and they can’t handle it.

    To quote the immortal EF Goldman, “Fck ’em.”

    4
  58. Scott F. says:

    @Mu Yixiao & @KM:
    I’m with KM here – in the pilot analogy, the voters’ contribution is selecting the plane based on where they’d like to go. Then, they should let the professionals take over.

    I’d only add, that my “political” examples of not giving the people what they want are much closer to what you imply are valid reasons for changing course against the passengers’ wishes (like ice and fog), than about direction based on saving money (hotel rates). Defining safety protocols in a pandemic and choosing not to revive a dead industry are expert positions based on research and study, not about cutting costs and they’re certainly not based on whims.

    4
  59. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Modulo Myself: My brother, resident of Williamsburg, VA for the past almost 50 years now, keeps telling me that if working class people would simply live within their means, everything would be fine for them economically. Are you trying to tell me that my brother is insane? (Not that I would disagree, I just want to be clear on what you meant. 😉 And to be fair, I do question him on the degree to which he believes “living within your means” in an urban area is a realistic goal for anyone making less that about $75 or 100k,–far beyond the levels at which we define “working class”–but probably shouldn’t be. 🙁 )

    1
  60. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Heroes of Horatio Alger stories don’t need to go around reeking of self-pity. They have fabulously wealthy people buying them boots with straps on them so they can pull themselves up to the level where the elevator will carry them the rest of the way. (I recall using his stories as part of my MA thesis.)

    1
  61. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Yeah, I think it’s pretty well established that economic anxiety tends to increase hostility toward out-groups.

    And I agree with your earlier hobby horse comment as well.

    It reminded of this great Cracked article from 2016 because it mentioned the effect of Walmart “blast craters” on small communities, but more than that, I think still does a better job of explaining the zeitgeist that goes in the other direction that this NYT article and similar articles don’t mention much or seem to understand.

    I think the science on consuming an extra 1500 calories as a drink in addition to food is pretty clear.

    Sure, there are no redeeming features to soda except the taste. So what should government do about that? Reasonable people can disagree. Restricting cup sizes is one peg on the spectrum between “nothing” and “ban that shit,” but it seems like a pretty dumb policy to me simply because it’s going to piss people off more than it gets them to reconsider their dietary choices, so it’s probably counterproductive.

    And overall, I would say the US governments involvement in food safety and nutrition (you can’t really separate them, as the butter/margarine fiasco shows) has been a net positive.

    I do think nutritional guidelines (which are requirements in many cases), are separate from food safety. I mean, they are related, but they are separate functions, like how FDA approving vaccines is related but separate from the CDC providing health guidelines. Regardless, federal nutritional guidelines were pretty obviously terrible for a long time which had observable, negative effects.

    1
  62. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tom Maguire: “I’d rather have Cruz in the Senate then see him step aside (or get successfully primaried) and be replaced by a Trumpian True Believer.”

    A distinction without a difference. Cruz tried to run as Uber-Trump and got nowhere. Supporting Trump is simply party loyalty for the next run.

    1
  63. Skookum says:

    …their America never was. They were pansy assed cowards hiding behind a fable.

    Wow. I’m a liberal who was raised in and live in rural America and I completely disagree.

    Where I grew up and where I live now, the timber was extracted by the mid-1970s. People who made their living by logging were forced to change their livelihoods, for the most part. Who they blamed is another story: They blamed the spotted owl and environmentalists, not the capitalists who made a fortune and left them to hang.

    To add misery to insult, the state government re-routed the main highway that went through one of the small communities and closed a Forest Service ranger station. All of the shops, gas stations, bars, and restaurants closed when the tourists and government employees vanished.

    No one even bothered about the economic impact.

    Two years ago the rural area where I grew up by completely burned in a catastrophic fire. Some locals stayed, but a lot of the burned-over land and was purchased by the wealthy who are building McMansions on the scenic riverbanks.

    Further back, coal companies in Appalachia extracted all of the coal. The people proudly worked hard for their families, despite black lung and the environmental impact. Now they say they want coal mines, but what they really want is jobs.

    Now the water is being extracted from the aquifer where I live now, and there will soon be water wars.

    Like all farmers, those who have ranches take big risks to stay in farming. Many are extremely wealthy (on paper), but when climate stops depositing snow on the mountains in the winter and the aquifer dries up, they will be up a dried-up creek without a way to paddle.

    I deliver meals to people who live in the “urban” part of the county. Most of the people needing nutrition are older women who did not earn retirement and people with disabilities.

    We do have a problem with drugs, but this is a problem where ever one lives. The issue is that most with a drug habit are unable/unwilling to hold down a job and would rather live in filth and eat fast food than get treatment (even if they could get it).

    Although where I live is a Republican strong-hold, I believe the worst of the lot have been radicalized by Fox News, social media, and preachers-for-profit.

    In my community, we don’t talk politics in public because, somehow, we seem to realize that what makes living here is friendship and caring for one another.

    The Republican party is smartly grooming photogenic young and articulate people to run for all local offices, so they are building a pool of potential candidates for higher office. Our local Democrat organization struggles to keep a membership capable of making any meaningful difference in election outcomes.

    I’m frustrated with people blaming their economic circumstances on Democrats rather than the Republicans who don’t work in their best interest. I’m frustrated that people just tune out rather than pay attention to what’s going on in our country.

    But to label them as “pansy-assed cowards hiding behind a fable,” just doesn’t harmonize with my view of reality.

    5
  64. Michael Cain says:

    @Scott F.: And even that within limits. The passengers may say, “Fly this plane to Heathrow!” That doesn’t magically create landing slots in the extremely congested Heathrow traffic pattern that would allow the plane to land.

    1
  65. Andy says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    South Dakota is a Welfare Queen taking over 50% back from DC than they send in taxes.
    The reality is that 90% of the Red States would be in economic trouble without the support of Blue States.
    Yes, they want the money that progressives bring, but don’t want to be told not to rape their underaged kin.

    That’s a myth that doesn’t seem to die.

    Every state except two (NJ and CT in 2020) receive more from the federal government than they pay in taxes, and the reason for that is deficit spending. South Dakota is near the bottom of the list, actually, as one of the least dependent on federal money. In 2020 (without Covid payments) SD got $3.6k per capita net from the feds. Virginia, the state at the top of the list, received $133k per capita net.

    1
  66. Andy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I grew up in Lakewood, left for 25 years of military and government service, and returned in 2018, so I wasn’t here for the original Tabor votes and politics. Seems pretty popular now, though.

    1
  67. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    The smart ones realize that their future is somewhere not called, in this case, Kelso, Washington, and that’s the biggest reason they move to the cities.

    A lot of smart people have to stay behind though. Parents, hating crowded cities, the unspeakable love of farm animals… whatever, lots of reasons.

    And the folks who are left behind vote (the smart ones and the stupid ones). And with the way districts are drawn, and states exist this means that basically land has votes.

    Given this, I would say that while it might be smart for an individual to get out of Kelso, OR, it’s not very smart of society to let Kelso fall apart. Or Wyoming.

    The folks from Wyoming will never get along with the folks in NYC or Portland. There are differences. But there’s way-of-life differences, and there’s weight-dragging-you-down-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean differences.

    If, at the end of Titanic Jack was chained to Rose, she would have let him know that there was plenty of room on the door for both of them, even if she wanted her playful dalliance with the lower class boy to just go away once they left international waters and resumed real life.

  68. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: you really can’t use 2020 as evidence of anything, as that year was a complete outlier.

    Looking at 2019 and earlier shows a very different picture.

    (I don’t know what “w/o Covid” means to their data — the impacts were large and broad enough that they might as well have “2018 with alien invasion”)

    2
  69. Chip Daniels says:

    One of the things about the modern industrial economy, and the internet in particular, is how it rewards centralization.

    In abstract economic theory, there should be 14 different versions of word processing and spreadhseet apps instead of Word and Excel, but the value of interconnectivity means that it is more efficient to just have one, and preferably one that is interoperable with your social media app and web browser app and operating system.

    In the same way, there is an economic value to WalMart and Amazon and massive agricultural corporations like Con Agra that can’t be denied. There is an economic value to big cities and centralized hubs of finance and jobs, opportunities that smaller towns just can’t beat.

    I don’t have a solution, and part of me wistfully dreams of a world where small artisanal shoemakers can compete with Nike but we don’t live in that world.

    5
  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: In the case of Kelso, I don’t think there are enough jobs for kids–smart or dumb–to stay. Kids from Clatskanie, Rainer, Wauna, and Scappoose compete for jobs in Longview and Kelso when THEY stay for the same reasons, so it keeps unemployment pretty high–even now our unemployment rate is 5.3% compared to 3.1 in Seattle and 3.7 statewide/nationwide. I think lots of kids would like to, but I don’t know anybody anymore that can see a bottom line to doing it. And I ask frequently. An additional factor that’s interesting here is that compared to when I was growing up in Seattle, most of the kids who are announcing their university acceptances are announcing that they will be going to school out of state. Even kids from low-income families who are in programs like AVID–for first kids ever to go to college from their families–are choosing out of state schools even though there is a two-year college 3 miles from their high school and several schools at commuter distance.

    When I first moved here (almost 30 years ago), the kids at the high school I taught at in Clatskanie still believed there was enough opportunity in the county so that even if they didn’t plan on higher ed–or even vocational training–they would be okay. Most of the kids now don’t seem to harbor that kind of delusion. Then again, they’ve grown up in a town where the most recent vulture capitalist who bought the paper mill cut the staff, cut the pension contribution, and cut salaries by about 50% from the previous cuts. It’s like living in a Bruce Springsteen song here “these jobs, they’re leaving boy, and they ain’t comin’ back.”

    Even the kids whose dad owned the Ford dealership sold it and moved away. Sheesh!

  71. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    The w/o covid doesn’t include all the Covid stimulus money sent to individuals and states. That money puts every state well in the hole. Without that, it’s still lower than in earlier years because of the economic downturn decreased tax revenue.

    In prior years, more states are on the positive side of the ledger because 2020 was economically bad, but the relative rankings are largely the same. Point being, if you want to target a state for being a federal welfare queen, then the target you should go after is Virginia.

  72. Gustopher says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    In the same way, there is an economic value to WalMart and Amazon and massive agricultural corporations like Con Agra that can’t be denied.

    Is it economic value, or short-term economic efficiency targeted at a few?

    If we were to factor in the costs of social services to those who have lost their jobs or had wages cut through lack of competition in the labor market, and the costs of disruptions in the supply chain when there is a problem with one of the near monopolies (see the baby food shortage), I don’t know that we come out ahead. Costs and risks are being externalized.

    Did Abbott Nutrition, the source of the moldy baby formula, suffer any significant price for the harm they caused other than lost revenue?

    There was a time when a corporation had to serve a public good, beyond enriching shareholders. That time has passed.

    To put it another way: Insurance is just an economic drag on my finances when my house isn’t on fire, which is honestly most of the time.

  73. Gustopher says:

    @Andy: Using 2018, and tossing in a fudge factor for “some percentage of federal disbursements aren’t backed by taxes”, I see a bunch of blue states that could be a very prosperous country on their own dragging around a bunch of purple and red states.

    Tossing in the fudge factor removes Utah and Colorado from the revenue positive states.

    (2018 chosen because I don’t know whether years here are true years, or a fiscal year that starts in April or what — there’s no overlap with the Covid 19 crisis)

    But you would probably want to use an average across a bunch of years, as the Trump tax cuts skewed things — a lot of the big revenue cuts would be in blue states as they are the economic drivers (along with increases because of Salt deduction caps). The website doesn’t make that easy, at least from my phone. (There’s a little tableau link, so it might be doable)

    But 2020 is a bad year to use. Unless you want to grant that Biden has cut the deficit in half, which I wouldn’t.

    ETA: The stock market has been doing great since 1930!

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  74. gVOR08 says:

    @Andy: @daryl and his brother darryl: As it happens, Dr. K has a nice chart the balance of payments of the states with the feds v urbanization, 2020 data, per capita. Yes, all states received a net surplus, which, as Andy notes, is a reflection of the deficit. The deficit was abnormally high in 2020, presumably Biden’s fault, using the time machine Obama used to plant those Honolulu birth announcements. SD is nowhere near the bottom, which in 2020 was CT. There is a clear trend line and SD is pretty much on it. A more normal deficit would lower some of the more urbanized, ~= blue, states to net donor.

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  75. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    You should be looking at the balance of payments per capita for a more accurate representation IMO.

    I don’t think “blue” and “red” correlates very well because of the obvious outliers – it does correlate well with other factors:
    – median state income. Since federal income taxes are progressive, high-income and high-cost-of-living states inevitably pay more per capita. And here, the number of very high-income earners can make a difference – taxes on the top 1% account for around 20% of total federal revenues.
    – the number and amount of federal entities (military bases, federal employees, federal contracts, etc.)
    – These two factors related to the relative state population.

    Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have consistently been donor states for over a decade because they are high-income states, yet don’t have a lot of big federal entities.

    If you look at a poor state like New Mexico it is high on the list as a receiver state because of the national labs there.

    Hawaii is an expensive, high-income, and very blue state. It’s high on the list because it has a low population and lots of military bases and government employees. Alaska is similar – high income, but the federal government is a huge employer on a per-capita basis.

    California gets more federal money by far than any other state, but it has a huge population, high average income, and a lot of 1 percenters.

    Virginia is way at the top of the list because it has many military bases, many federal employees, lots of federal contracts, and lots of general sucking on the federal teet. Combined with a comparatively small population – only about a half million less than New Jersey.

    And Virginia challenges the notion that rural areas are filled with dumb white racists sucking away all this money from the good, upstanding, and educated “blue” areas. A lot of blue areas are sucking hundreds of billions of dollars.

    If we put DC on this list, we’d have to rescale the chart – the figures are 2-3 times Virginia IIRC.

    And things would be more dramatic if we accounted for the recycling of funds – for example, a significant portion of Virginia’s federal tax payments to the federal government come from income taxes of federal employees, military personnel, employees of federal contractors, etc. States like Mass, NY, and CT all have higher percentages of private-sector income.

    And the whole notion that the net “donor” states could secede and be better off is kind of dumb because the high income and relatively low federal spending in those states do not exist in isolation. California, on its own, will immediately lose ~$400 billion annually (about 10% of it’s total GDP) from the federal money spent there. The upper basin states on the Colorado River would no longer have to guarantee that California gets 1/3 of the river’s water for free. Most of the resources California depends on would suddenly be subject to tariffs. NY would no longer be the financial capital of a nation of 340 million, but of a rump state of maybe 1/4 of that. Considering how dependent New York is on the financial sector, how is that going to play out?

    Breaking up the US is kind of fun to fantasize and speculate about, but in reality, it would pretty much suck and be economically damaging for everyone.

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  76. Monala says:

    @steve: One of the things several comments make me think of is Obama in 2008. His “cling to guns and religion” comment came in the context of describing how rural communities had been decimated by job loss and other factors, and the people in those communities had been ignored for too long. His conversation with Joe the Plumber was about talking about the economy and what he hoped to do for Joe and other Americans like him. In other words, so many of the things people on this thread have said Democrats should do, Obama did. Yet he was still demonized, often for those very efforts. It makes me very skeptical that these “if only Democrats would…” pieces of advice can be effective.

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  77. Andy says:

    @Monala:

    And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations

    People tend not to think you’re helping them when you use insulting and condescending language.

    And there was a factual problem, too – working-class people liked guns and religion long before they got “bitter.” The idea that they only turned to these things as a coping mechanism is just not correct.

    Imagine a Republican talking about the economic plight of inner-city communities this way and making similar errors. Would he/she get the benefit of the doubt for having good intentions or demonized for condescending and ignorant (and racist) comments?

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  78. Modulo Myself says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I think that the views of your brother are pretty on the way out. Maybe I’m wrong, but the farther America advances from the government-subsidized post-war boom (which is the core of the individualistic model of economic success) and the more obvious the lack of public investment becomes, the harder it will be to believe in the power of personal saving or hard work or discipline as the key to economic security.

  79. grumpy realist says:

    @Andy: speaking as someone who is carrying out a government service mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it irks me considerably when people accuse me of being the equivalent of a layabout who doesn’t contribute anything. Especially when I’m carrying a 60 hr/week workload.

    You don’t want to pay my services out of federal taxes? Then amend the Constitution.