Home / General / Conservative Voters Aren’t Monocausal

Conservative Voters Aren’t Monocausal

Comments
/
/
/
1024 Views

Oregon Sawmill-304-S

In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, there’s been way too many articles trying to explain conservative white voters in terms of one issue. Did white people vote for Trump because they were racist? Did they vote for him because they were misogynist? Did they vote for him because their jobs were shipped overseas and they have no real economic prospects? The answers are of course complex. The whole debate has been deeply problematic to begin with, for a number of reasons. First, most white people vote Republican anyway and so many of the stories about Trump voters ignore this and assume that such a vote was a one-time deal. Second, the debate about economic issues has been vastly overblown. Pinpointing that issue as a critical reason Clinton lost is a very different proposition than saying that’s why white people voted for Trump. The jobs issue matters a lot in understanding why specific blue collar counties with long histories of voting for Democrats shifted by up to 10% toward Trump and thus throwing some states to him. It does not describe necessarily why working-class whites as a whole voted for Trump. And yet that complexity has been ignored by people who don’t want to admit that economics is part of it. Moreover, the discussion of racism and misogyny has been misguided in the sense that people seem to believe that one is a racist or misogynist or isn’t a racist or misogynist, when in fact we all exist along a sliding scale of prejudice. There’s a lot of people wanting to call Trump voters racist but will defend to the death their decision to move to the all-white suburbs for the schools. Sorry, it’s not that simple as you’re racist because you voted for Trump and I’m not because I voted for Clinton.

The complexity of these issues gets a lot more dense when you deep dive into the particular region. That brings me to southwestern Oregon. This story is about how right-wing white voters in these old timber towns are so anti-tax that they aren’t even voting to fund their own police and libraries. An excerpt:

“We pay enough taxes,” said Zach Holly, an auto repair worker in a shop a few blocks from the library who said his vote against the tax was not about libraries at all, but government waste. “I vote against taxes, across the board,” he said.

An instinctive reaction against higher taxes has been stitched into the fabric of America in recent decades, starting with the property tax revolts of the 1970s through the anti-tax orthodoxy expressed by many conservative members of Congress today. But few places in the nation are seeing the tangled implications of what that means — in real time — more vividly than in southwest Oregon, where a handful of rural counties are showing what happens when citizens push the logic of shrinking government to its extremes.

“The trust is gone from people who are paying the bills,” said Court Boice, a commissioner in Curry County, which borders Douglas. At least four property tax proposals aimed at keeping county services afloat, like the library rescue plan in Douglas, have failed in Curry County over the last decade.

Just east of Curry in Josephine County, the jail has been defunded after nine consecutive defeats of public safety tax levies — there will be another try next week in a special election — leading to a policy of catch-and-release for nonviolent criminals.

Demographic and economic changes in this swath of the Pacific Northwest, where thick forests brush down to the rocky Pacific Coast, have given the tax resistance movement its backbone. Retirees who came in recent years for the low housing costs or the conservative political culture have become a major voting bloc. And the tech jobs that are fueling growth in Portland, a three-hour drive north, are mostly just a dream.

But what is even more significant is that for many years, timber-harvesting operations on public lands here paid the bills, and people got used to it. A law passed by Congress in the 1930s specified that a vast swath of forest lands that had passed into corporate hands and back into federal control would be managed for county benefit. But then logging declined, starting in the 1980s and 1990s, as it did across many other parts of the West, and the flood of timber money slowed to a trickle, with only a stunted tax base to pick up the difference. The property tax rate in Curry County is less than a quarter of the statewide average. Douglas County residents pay about 60 percent less than most state residents.

President Trump’s plan to overhaul the nation’s corporate and personal income-tax systems adds another wrinkle. His proposal would not directly affect local property tax rates, but the ripple effects, several local officials said, could be profound and unpredictable. More money in voters’ wallets from tax cuts in Washington could reduce the sting in asking people to pay more at home, or it could just reinforce the idea that all taxes are meant to go down.

So what’s going on here? The article gets at some of it. These southwestern Oregon counties went hard for Trump. They are genuinely right wing. For all Oregon is known as a liberal state, the reality is that it’s politics are probably as divided as any state in the country. It’s Democrats are on the far left of the nation. It’s Republicans belong in Idaho or Utah. This is why unlike Washington, where Republicans run credible statewide campaigns, Democrats blow out Republicans over and over again. Yes, the retirees are an issue, but the locals are just as right-wing. These are State of Jefferson people, as the area is festooned with signs for splitting from Oregon (and California counties like Del Norte and Siskiyou) and starting their own, properly white and conservative state with lots of guns and no taxes.

So what is it? Are these people racist? Yeah, no doubt. But that’s not why they are voting against their own libraries and not the only reason why they are voting for Trump. Sure, call them idiots if you want to. I’m not even going to disagree. But it’s more than that. First, they have tremendous cultural resentment toward Eugene and Portland. Those urban liberals are an obsession in these areas. Moreover, Oregon has changed dramatically in the last 50 years (this is the book I am researching on my sabbatical starting this fall). In 1960, this was a relatively poor but homogeneous state that valued white working class cultures based in natural resource economics. In the 1970s, that started to change, as tech and tourism became to replace logging and fishing as economic drivers. That continued to grow and as higher end companies such as Nike and Microsoft developed, the natural resources of the Northwest meant more for the economy standing and preserved than developed. Thus the spotted owl protests and the preservation of the last old-growth stands. Globalization and free trade agreements played a big role here. While NAFTA has been terrible for Michigan and Ohio, it’s been really good for the West Coast. But its benefits are highly divided. Cities like Portland and Seattle have exploded. But the old logging towns are left with nothing. And that’s what these places in southwest Oregon are. Sure, you get California retirees out there, but most of these towns are as desolate as anything you would find in western Pennsylvania. There’s nothing in tech, a little in tourism along the Rogue River and with mountain biking, but by and large, that old white working class economy is dead. This varies quite a bit by country. The article focuses on Curry, Douglas, and Josephine Counties, but not Jackson. There’s a good reason for that, which is that Jackson County has become the urban core, such as it is, of southern Oregon. With Medford (working-class town but reasonably big), Ashland (college town, Shakespearean Festival, brewery center, outdoor paradise) and Jacksonville (small town but historic and a tourist destination), Jackson County has responded to the challenges of the new economy more effectively and thus the anti-tax sentiment is lower. It still went Trump 51-42, but compared to Josephine at 62-31, Curry at 58-35, and Douglas at 66-27, it’s downright liberal.

Add to this a tradition of low taxes. The linked article discusses this to some extent, but let me expand upon it, as I get into this some in Empire of Timber (now available at a not horrible price!). The majority of taxes in these counties came from the Oregon and California Land Grant lands for many decades. The O&C was a failed railroad grant through the most valuable timber lands in Oregon that was reacquired by the government and leased to timber companies. Douglas County became the nation’s timber capital based on these lands. The deal was that the timber companies would pay taxes on the timber they cut and a big chunk of that went into the county larder. That meant that schools and roads and police were paid for with little to no money from the citizenry, creating a no-tax culture. So in the 1980s, when the timber industry declined (for many reasons, not just owl protection), not only did unemployment rise, but so did the need to tax the populace for this first time. This all added significantly to the overall atmosphere of resentment.

All of this is to say that the core of white conservatism, especially white working class conservatism, is really, really complex, much more so than is allowed to exist in liberal debates on it. Race and misogyny no doubt played a role in the voting of these people, but they also have very real “economic anxiety” and economic resentment in a rapidly changing state and economic reality. Add to this their unique history and you have a brew of right-wing extremism that hurts only themselves, and of course anyone unfortunate to live under their rule.

At the very least, I hope this discussion pushes back effectively against the simplistic discussion of the white working class and the 2016 election. Because I don’t think there’s anything about Douglas County, Oregon that suggests a monocausal reason for its conservatism. It’s conservative for a lot of reasons, some of them addressable perhaps by Democrats and some perhaps not.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Dilan Esper

    Great post Erik. I learned a lot.

    • Philip

      +1

    • Karen24

      Agreed!

    • Thom

      Me too.

    • Ronan

      Yeah, fascinating stuff. Ill definitely get the book when it’s out.

    • Yes.

      • Slothrop2

        Meh.

        They don’t have class consciousness.

        Send them below the OxyContin they can eat.

        • sharculese

          This has been your regular reminder that slothrop is a selfish child.

    • So, the short version is that the paragons of freedom and independence in Douglas country are pissed that that they have to pick up some of the tab for basic government services because they can no longer freeload off someone else’s taxes?

      • postpartisandepression

        I don’t think this can be emphasized enough- they were perfectly happy while feeding at the government teat while telling everyone that they made it on their own through all that hard work.

        • Yep. Seems to be a common affliction with these people.

    • RaisedByTigers

      Just wanted to echo what everyone else said–great post. Erik, have you thought about trying to publish a version of this somewhere?

  • StillWithHer

    The self-consciously anti-Dem left has been better and more interesting on this topic since at least the primaries.

    What has been interesting has been the extent to which it has been revealed just how frankly your mainstream Clintonite Dems enjoy a good, old-fashioned Manichean struggle that justifies a sort of cultural eliminationism. The very idea of trying to win over Trumpers is alien and bizarre because the wholesale defeat and humiliation of rural whites is a feature, not a bug.

    • Brien Jackson

      I’m rural, white, and working class. Go fuck yourself.

      • StillWithHer

        You just sliced my eyeballs with all that edge. Gah!

    • addicted44

      How do you recommend Dems win over the people described in Erik’s article?

      Here is Hillary’s Platform on Jobs, Labor, and Employment:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Hillary_Clinton#Economic_policy

      What else would you add that would swing these voters towards Democrats?

      What non-economic policies would you add that would have these voters not vote Republican.

      What policies do you think Dems should adopt which will not alienate more of their supporters than it attracts people who are not currently voting for them.

      • Downpuppy

        Trout streams. As long as there’s troutfishinginAmerica, there’s hope.
        Lost the trout stream, they just wanna blow shit up.

        • Dennis Orphen

          There’s no point taking your clothes off before bed when you know you have to put them back on when you get up in the morning.

      • Robespierre

        Send a person who appears not rich and not schooled (the second is more important) to advocate them?

      • How do you recommend Dems win over the people described in Erik’s article?

        You can’t, so stop wasting resources trying. My suggestion is to focus on the structural issues (gerrymandering, vote suppression) that are giving these yahoos the power to fuck up the rest of the country.

    • Karen24

      I grew up in rural East Texas and my family still lives there, and you have described nothing about my life.

      • StillWithHer

        Because clearly this post was meant to be an exposition on the features of rural white life.

        • sharculese

          This post is clearly an exposition on the fact that you comment one handed…

          (The implication is that you were touching yourself when you wrote this. genitally.)

    • Murc

      The self-consciously anti-Dem left has been better and more interesting on this topic since at least the primaries.

      Why you gotta turn this comment thread into a house of lies?

      The very idea of trying to win over Trumpers is alien and bizarre because the wholesale defeat and humiliation of rural whites is a feature, not a bug.

      Rural whites =/ Trumpers.

      Speaking only for myself, I only want to defeat and humiliate the later, not the former. You can stop being a Trumper; you can’t stop being white. (Although I suppose you can stop being rural.)

      • StillWithHer

        You can say that, but it isn’t the case.

        It takes a certain feeling of alienation from the Dem party before you begin to fully appreciate a lot of the class outlooks that drive the supposedly benign Liberals in this country.

        • ap77

          Say what?

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            Translation: Democrats are bourgeois traitors to The Glorious People’s Revolution.

            • cpinva

              “Translation: Democrats are bourgeois traitors to The Glorious People’s Revolution.”

              thank you for converting that into (nearly) plain English. basically, from Prof. Loomis’ post, these people have gotten used to having their lunch paid for by someone else. an “entitlement”, as it were. now that someone else is no longer paying for lunch, the money has to come from somewhere else, and they’re having a four year-old fit over it.

              they’re agin “big government”, but they want the benefits that “big government” provides, and they want them paid for by someone other than them, the beneficiaries. so they vote republican (as does, oddly enough, pretty much every “Independent” in the country), who promises them tax cuts, which is all they hear. they ignore the fact that the republicans promise to cut every program that benefits them directly/indirectly. then they’re stunned when the republicans they elected try and do exactly what they promised to do, fuck them over.

              in summary, they are very greedy, dangerously stupid people, who deserve the gov’t they voted for.

    • The self-consciously anti-Dem left has been better and more interesting on this topic since at least the primaries.

      Not really. The left doesn’t have any better answer for these questions than Democrats. They are just more self-righteous in their talk about it.

      • StillWithHer

        At least they recognize there is a problem, rather than retreating into comforting “Trump will be impeached” fantasies.

        • That is not an answer except more self-righteousness. It has nothing to do with your original comment, which is wrong.

          • StillWithHer

            That is not an answer except more self-righteousness.

            Says who? If you interpreted “better and more interesting” to mean “has all the answers”, than the worse for your interpretative skills!

            • You are getting awfully close to not being here any more.

              • StillWithHer

                Then don’t engage me in argument, honestly. Childish to threaten to ban someone for disagreeing with you in a civil manner.

                • If you were arguing a point, that would be one thing. You aren’t arguing. You are making an incorrect assertion. Moreover, you are spamming the thread with your nonsense.

                • StillWithHer

                  Responding to people responding to me is now spamming. Great.

              • ThresherK

                Can I sweeten the deal by offering you a bribe?

                A batch of chocolate-chip-and-bacon cookies, from scratch, no questions asked.

                • tsam

                  If you put bacon anywhere near cookies, you’re going to jail. For good.

                • so-in-so

                  Make it pancakes and you might have a deal!

              • CP

                I second the bribe offer.

        • addicted44

          Way to validate Erik’s comment.

        • cpinva

          “At least they recognize there is a problem, rather than retreating into comforting “Trump will be impeached” fantasies.”

          well, aren’t they special! along with about a zillion democrats, who also recognize that there are problems. anyone who seriously believes that a republican majority congress is going to impeach Trump, hasn’t been paying attention for the last almost 40 years.

      • Self-righteous, or simply right? Right as in “Correct” about how things should be run? Dem states are wealthier, healthier, safer and happier than conservative states. Conservative areas in Liberal states are miserable hell-holes, or rat-holes if you prefer! where people refuse to raise taxes even to help themselves. They really will chop off their noses to spite their faces.

        the core of … white working class conservatism, is really, really complex, much more so than is allowed to exist in liberal debates on it

        The core appears to be stupid pig-headed resentment and an unwillingness to help themselves because they might accidentally help the “Other”- one of the dozens of “others” they hate and resent for no real reason than their otherness.

        You cant fix Stupid.

        • CP

          Note that none of this is particularly working class, either. It’s a motivation that runs from the wealthiest gazillionaires to the poorest trailer dwellers. The common denominator is conservatism.

          • imwithher

            Yep. Money and “jobs” have nothing to do with it. The problem is that they’re “conservative.” Which really means that they are stupid/ignorant and bigoted.

        • CP

          Also,

          Self-righteous, or simply right? Right as in “Correct” about how things should be run? Dem states are wealthier, healthier, safer and happier than conservative states. Conservative areas in Liberal states are miserable hell-holes, or rat-holes if you prefer! where people refuse to raise taxes even to help themselves.

          There’s something fascinating in the fact that America’s one percent 1) are still, by and large, right wing douchebags, and yet 2) are still, by and large, living not in untaxed, unregulated, free-market Randian utopias like Republicans have been creating all over the heartland, but in “socialist hellholes” like New York and New Jersey. Usually suburbs, exurbs, gated communities, maybe even Bruce-Wayne-like-mansions, but always in orbit around a big blue city.

          Which there are dozens of economic and sociological reasons for – but at the end of the day, is it really any surprise that, when given a trillion dollars and the ability to go anywhere they want, most people choose not to stay in or move to the kind of states that “business friendly” economics have destroyed? Even the richest man in Mississippi is still in Mississippi.

        • cpinva

          “They really will chop off their noses to spite their faces.”

          they’ll chop off their faces, to spite their faces. they have raised “stupid” to the level of an art form.

        • imwithher

          Yep. One more article about how “complex” it all is. And let’s admire and be thoughtful about the problem. Um, no. Sure, it isn’t “monocausal.” But it ain’t complicated either. There are two causes, and neither are “economic”:

          (1) Bigotry (racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, etc); and

          (2) Stupidity/ignorance.

          End of story.

          And the answer? There isn’t one. We can’t convert them. Only out number, out register and outvote them.

          • Origami Isopod

            Agreed.

      • Robert 14

        I don’t think that the distinction between Democrats and the Left here is particularly meaningful in addressing the problem of wide swathes of people in Western countries being left behind to rot. Depending on what people think has caused the problem, they are likely going to find agreeabLe responses on both sides of the divide.

        That said, I think there are certain messages from centrist Democrats that are particularly unhelpful. There is an establishment impulse to attribute bravery to the stating of “hard truths” that are anything but. This comes up with deficit scolds proclaiming that Medicare and Social Security must be cut but it also comes up when, far too many Democrats amongst them, people basically write off the possibility of decent paying low skilled work ever coming back. In both of these cases it isn’t brave; it is the class that has benefitted from specific policy choices over the last forty years telling the class that hasn’t that it must continue to suffer. If your response to the working class becoming the working poor is to talk up some kind of amorphous retraining program, then you are part of the problem. The “plan” sounds like self serving bull and people know it won’t help them. Of course, the establishment Republican “plan” to unleash the magic of job creators through tax cuts is bull too but then Romney lost on it. Trump won by emphasizing trade and the racialized aspects of competition for low credentialed work.

        What is needed is jobs. So many jobs that employers must compete for labour and bid up wages. So many jobs that employers are willing to train people on the job instead of chasing ever more credentials. There would still be winners and loses but we wouldn’t be writing off millions of people. Instead, we have been fighting nonexistent inflation and centrist Democrats have been complicit in that. If inflation actually returns as a problem, how about we fight it with higher taxes on those with money instead of higher unemployment for those without?

        • humanoid.panda

          This comes up with deficit scolds proclaiming that Medicare and Social Security must be cut but it also comes up when, far too many Democrats amongst them, people basically write off the possibility of decent paying low skilled work ever coming back. In both of these cases it isn’t brave; it is the class that has benefitted from specific policy choices over the last forty years telling the class that hasn’t that it must continue to suffer.

          As for your first point, the “cut Social Security and Medicare” crowd is basically gone from the party, and that’s a good thing. For your second point, saying “good paying low skilled jobs are not coming back” is deeply wrong, but saying “good paying low skill jobs on the production line of major factories are not coming back” is a simple statement of fact.

          • Linnaeus

            but saying “good paying low skill jobs on the production line of major factories are not coming back” is a simple statement of fact.

            True, but following up that statement of fact with “…and here’s what will be done about it” is a lot more helpful. The Democrats, to be fair, are getting better at this.

            • cpinva

              “…and here’s what will be done about it”

              this would certainly be more helpful, if there were an actual workable solution, i feel certain it would have been raised by now. it hasn’t, because there isn’t one. there are no well paying jobs available, for people with few or no marketable skills. $15 an hour for minimum wage is a worthy goal, but it won’t get you into the middle-class.

              gone are the majority of well paying, union manufacturing jobs, that raised people with high school diplomas or less, into the middle class. they aren’t coming back, and telling people you’ll get them back is a flat out lie.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                near as I can tell, things can be done around the edges but the only way Ds could *guarantee* job creation would be to actually create more government jobs, whether directly or in some kind of neo liberal private/public partnership. I think these days that takes superduper majorities in the House and Senate

              • Linnaeus

                Mind you, I’m not saying that the Democrats or anyone else should lie about jobs coming back. We’ve gotten quite good, however, about saying “the jobs aren’t coming back” over the last 20-30 years and not so good about saying what to do about it. The idea back in the 1990s was that people and communities would simply “adapt” and the problem of economic transition would solve itself. That was, at best, a fantasy and, at worst, a lie. We haven’t paid the costs of processes like automation and globalization so much as shunted them on to people and communities (and not just white folks, I might add) who are easier to forget about.

          • CP

            As for your first point, the “cut Social Security and Medicare” crowd is basically gone from the party, and that’s a good thing.

            This, exactly. I loathe these people, but I’m also capable of observing that the Democratic Party spent eight years of Obama moving decisively away from them, a trend that continued through Hillary’s candidacy. The Berniebros are whining about and crusading against a problem that’s already going down the drain, and obsessively pretending that the Democrats are still what they were in the 1990s because without that, well, their reason for being suddenly doesn’t look like much.

    • My rural Ohio and Pennsylvania relatives mostly went for Clinton.

      • Well, and this is the other issue with how this is all being discussed–lots of working class white people still voted for Clinton and will vote for the Democrat in 2020!

      • StillWithHer

        Driving through the rural midwest, I never see a political sign that isn’t pro-Trump except in the burbs, and then only rarely.

        • addicted44

          Ah yes, the Peggy Noonan theory of politics.

          You’re obviously trolling at this point.

          • StillWithHer

            Anecdote vs Anecdote

            • addicted44

              Argument by anecdote aint great.

              But argument by an anecdote known to be the punchline to one of the more popular political jokes is obvious trolling.

              • StillWithHer

                I am just not familiar with all Internet traditions yet, I suppose

      • Linnaeus

        All of my Michigan relatives went for Clinton as well. When I was back there visiting in December, the Trump voters I knew were all solidly middle to upper-middle class.

        Anecdotes and all, I know, but…

    • DamnYankees

      Why do the mods let great threads like this get derailed by this guy/gal and others like him/her over and over? Is anything really added to the conversation through this noise machine?

      • CP

        Seconded.

      • StillWithHer

        Just admit that you want this place to be a blatant circle jerk and stop pretending it was anything I did or didn’t do.

        • Origami Isopod

          a blatant circle jerk

          This from someone who spooges all over every thread they take part in. Projection isn’t just for wingnuts.

    • Tyro

      The thing is that if you look at their issues, it’s that they are, on a philosophical level, simply opposed to a Democratic party approach to solving their issues. The collapse of the extraction industry simply exposed that philosophical divide– it did not cause it.

    • NYD3030

      I mean you’re right in so far as Jacobin, Chapo, Katie Halper, etc are arguing that we need to appeal to these people on a material basis, whereas most mainstream dems seem think it’s hopeless due to the very powerful non-material identity motivations of white rural voters.

      I think it’s probably true that we aren’t going to win majorities in these white rural areas. But simply losing by less probably delivers the presidency to Clinton and wins a lot of close statewide elections in places like Wisconsin and Michigan that otherwise would go to Republicans. So from my perspective it’s worth it.

      Anyway great post again Loomis. You my fave.

      • D.N. Nation

        Agree with your second paragraph. But…

        I mean you’re right in so far as Jacobin, Chapo, Katie Halper, etc are arguing that we need to appeal to these people on a material basis

        These types of course don’t offer workable solutions to those ends, because they don’t have to, because daddy pays the apartment bill and Patreon pays the beer tab. Their ultimate unsaid argument is “replace mainstream Democratic hackery with our blend, and if it doesn’t work, well at least I got richer.”

    • Harkov311

      Socialist bitches and moans that liberals aren’t socialists, maintains that conservatives and fascists who voted for Trump are secretly socialist, which we can prove by wanting to believe it really badly. Film at eleven.

  • Anna in PDX

    I grew up in this county full of nimrods (Curry county) and my mom worked at the local public library. Guess there isn’t one now! I am still in contact with a lot of people from there and about half of them are absolutely knee jerk libertarians. Sigh.

    My dad lives in Josephine county now. People are basically bartering books among themselves. As for the crime issue, they call each other and house sit for each other because there are no cops to call.

    • cthulhu

      My dad lives in Josephine county now. People are basically bartering books among themselves. As for the crime issue, they call each other and house sit for each other because there are no cops to call.

      Well, I suppose if you are retired/not raising a family/engaging in subsistence living I guess paying for civic services seems less a return on investment. In a way, these communities are moving back in time when they were more independent and had to deal with everything on their own. I am sure debates 100-150+ years ago about the value of basic taxation in these areas are similar what is happening now.

      Sort of a basic attitudinal difference: “What great things can we do if we work together” vs. “I am fine just trying to live my life, don’t make things more difficult for me.”

      • Anna in PDX

        A big problem with this area according to my dad is not just retirees but gated communities of wealthy retirees. They are not part of the community at large, they are separated from it, they don’t want anything to do with it and they came there from somewhere else.

        • KithKanan

          Presumably they’re paying HOA fees for services that should be paid for via taxes in any civilized society, and then wondering why they should pay taxes on top of that when they can’t see anything they’re getting for them.

          • Dennis Orphen

            The county I live in now has a large, prominent gated community, and I have made the point aloud (meaning here in meatspace) in the recent past that everything they moan, bitch and carp about regarding the government is worse with the HOA there and they willingly buy into that ‘socialism’. Or sometimes I argue the other way, like enumerating the characteristics of the HOA and then saying, but that’s wrong because it sounds just like socialism.

            Anyway, you can troll people by comparing HOAs to socialism or vice versa, whatever feels good at the time. Go for it. You won’t change any minds but if you like seeing people go full pretzel logic, or want to be a hero and role model to any kids who might be sitting at the adult table on Thanksgiving……

            • LosGatosCA

              I once lived in a gated community that had another gated community within it – because you can trust other people’s servants, I guess.

              I imagined they had piranha in the moat around the ‘island’ that the 6-8 houses in that warm hearted group. I always wanted to drive one into a window when golfing by it – on the other side of the moat.

              • Dennis Orphen

                All your need is a panic room in those houses and, uhhhh, yo dawg….

            • Joe Bob the III

              But but but…property values!

          • cthulhu

            HOA: A system like taxes but with less democracy and less personal freedom!!

    • “no cops to call” = “I always vote against taxes”.

      You can’t fix Stupid.

    • postpartisandepression

      I guess paying for civic services seems less a return on investment.

      And yet with that attitude they wonder why no one wants to come and live there and why they are dying in the first place.

  • Murc

    I could quibble with a few elements of this post, Erik, but I don’t think this is the time or place. Instead I’ll just say that this is one of the best things you’ve written this month and indeed post-election; you clearly invested a lot of time and effort into it and it shows.

    I would encourage you to clean it up somewhat to hit a more formally journalistic, rather than conversational, tone and shop it around as an article; this deserves a wider audience.

    • I thought about it, but I have book deadlines right now and don’t really have the time for op-eds. This was way too much time for right now.

      • Murc

        Sadly (fortunately? both?) this isn’t a topic that will go away or be less salient for the immediate future. I guarantee you it will still be a hot topic for Democratic strategerizing in 2018 and 2020.

        I bet you’re super looking forward to that. Super looking forward to it.

        • Oh boy!

        • I have to concur with Murc that this is good enough to be published as an article. I’ll probably have more to say later, but I’m on break at work right now and it’s just about to end.

  • DrDick

    Great post and I would agree with this. However, I think there is also a substantial percentage of these folks.

  • erick

    Check out this documentary from about 10 years ago, it is in Benton county, near Corvallis so not quite the region you describe but similar. Highlights how much is simply an extension of the Culture War

    Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0492947/

  • NewishLawyer

    I agree that it is complex but this article would paint a situation that makes the situation more dire for Democrats, Liberals, the Left.

    It is sort of like the Hamilton Nolan article on West Virginia. There seem to be a lot of areas in the U.S., including in prosperous states where it makes no sense for many people, if anyone to live. You don’t need people in Southern Oregon beyond the places you mentioned.

    The Washington Post article on dentistry basically said that dentist don’t want to relocate to rural communities because they will never be able to pay their bills. Even without student loans, would they want to move to rural locations.

    Rural life appeals to a very specific type of person. I can get some of the appeal because of how the nature looks but the lack of services would ultimately get to me.

    But what is to do with rural communities where the economic justification is just not there for them to continue going?

    • Yeah, that’s a hell of a tough question.

      • Bloix

        It’s hard for me to care about these people when every time they open their mouths it’s to tell me that they hate my fucking guts. These are places that would dry up and blow away if it weren’t for federal transfer payments funded by my tax dollars and while they suck on my teat I have to put up with them telling me that they are the real Americans and I’m a phony. I deeply do not care about what happens to them and I resent like hell that they get to elect evil idiots to national office.

        • Spider-Dan

          Here’s the problem: these counties don’t vote 96-0 for Trump. There are a sizable number of people in these areas who DO understand where their services come from and DO want taxes to pay for them.

          So what do we do with the Democrats in these areas… abandon them to the wolves? Tell them to move if they don’t like it? This is the same issue that we face with liberals in Texas or Idaho or Alabama; even if we could pass a law that forces actual small government down the throat of these red areas, we shouldn’t because real people will be hurt.

          It’s the same reason why we don’t simply let the people of FL and ID and MS just die because they keep electing Medicaid-refusing legislatures and governors. We cannot intentionally punish the few for the idiocy of the many.

          • Linnaeus

            Bingo.

    • Brien Jackson

      The thing is though, the main focus of the WaPo article was Maryland’s 1st Congressional district, where I live. It’s not at all hard to get from just about anywhere out here to a town or even major city with a dentist. The problem really is that dental insurance is really hard to attain, especially since Medicaid doesn’t cover it.

    • Happy Jack

      Give them back to the natives. It makes up for past injustices and hopefully stops the whining from entitled white people.

      • LeeEsq

        There all sorts of bad assumptions in suggestions like this that make flippant answers like this just dumb. Most Native Americans might not want the land back or to live traditional lives. Many of them might want modern urban/suburban living. Even if Native Americans did want the land back, throwing the current occupants off the land isn’t going to decrease their whining. Its going to increase it.

        • Hogan

          And that’s apart from “We’ve sucked this land dry and rendered it uninhabitable without enormous outside assistance. Here are the keys. You’re welcome.”

    • twbb

      “But what is to do with rural communities where the economic justification is just not there for them to continue going?”

      They die out as their younger generation starts to leave once they hit young adulthood. The rest get more desperate and angrier, but they also get older and in worse health, until you have a lot of old, angry people living meager lives off the rest of the country subsidizing them, as they get angrier and more powerless.

      There’s not much you can do when they will not let you help them.

    • LeeEsq

      You can’t make people leave rural locations and many people don’t want to leave. The best but still bad answer would be to subsidize rural life as best as you can while hoping the young people move away. Moving away isn’t much of an option if urban and suburban communities in more prosperous places refuse to build housing.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        I suppose we could provide subsidies for people to relocate.

        It won’t solve the problem completely, but it might help a bit…

        • Linnaeus

          For such subsidies to be effective, though, you’d have to do a lot more than give people a few hundos for a U-Haul and gas. You have to figure out where the people will go, and it will likely be a place where they don’t have social supports like neighbors and relatives who can help out. They may be moving to a place where the cost of living is higher than where they’ve left, and if they need subsidies to move, they’ll need subsidies to find and keep housing while they look for work. If the work that’s in demand in the community that they’ve moved to isn’t work that they’re trained for, then they’ll need to get training/education, and they’ll be likely to need help with that.

          On top of that, you’ll have to get the support of representatives and senators who represent places that will be depopulated. They’ll have to be bought off somehow.

          Are we willing, as a nation, to pay the costs of all that? I don’t think so.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            And do people really want them moving in next door and taking their daughters on ATV rides without any helmets on?

    • Tyro

      But what is to do with rural communities where the economic justification is just not there for them to continue going?

      The electoral college is supposed to give rural areas more representation and the like. And you can’t deny that it does, but it doesn’t pay off for them the way more representational systems like France do, where rural areas are heavily, heavily subsidized and supported to keep their communities functional.

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      I can get some of the appeal because of how the nature looks

      The “nature” in such places is very very fake – very tiny strips of forest left next to the roads to hide the clear-cutting of the forests. The reason the logging industry left is that there weren’t any trees left to cut.

    • The Great God Pan

      On a related note there is a good piece in the June issue of Harper’s about the lack of doctors in poor, black, rural communities. It seems like a hopeless situation.

      • Linnaeus

        Why don’t they just move?

  • Murc

    Also too, dear god, we’ve been seeing a lot of this lately, haven’t we?

    “We pay enough taxes,” said Zach Holly, an auto repair worker in a shop a few blocks from the library who said his vote against the tax was not about libraries at all, but government waste.

    This isn’t even a purely American thing; so, so many Brexit voters whose vote wasn’t motivated at all by policy, but by a desire to use a policy vote to express some kind of cultural or political resentment.

    This seems… new-ish to me? I don’t mean as a phenomenon, I mean that people are willing to admit it. Usually they’d construct some manner of pretext, but now they just straight-up admit that they don’t give a shit about the matters at hand and their vote is all about making a statement about their own pathologies.

    • mds

      a desire to use a policy vote to express some kind of cultural or political resentment.

      Yeah, and some of that cultural resentment starts to get us a little closer to monocausality again. Because how does Zach Holly define “government waste,” I wonder? Probably not actually as police, the fire department, jails, or even public libraries. After all, there’d be plenty of money for all those things without higher taxes if only the undeserving weren’t getting a free ride at taxpayer expense.

      • Domino

        I imagine the “resentment” can be directed at many things, including poorer whites whom Zach Holly views as lazy, only to see them getting Medicaid and the gov’t going out of it’s way to take care of the lazy SOBs and do nothing for him.

        Depending on his salary, he’d have a bit of a point. But of course, ask him what he would do with the people on Medicaid, and outside of “make them work” (which won’t do anything) he doesn’t have an answer.

        • so-in-so

          But of course, ask him what he would do with the people on Medicaid, and outside of “make them work” (which won’t do anything) he doesn’t have an answer.

          The GOP had their answer during a primary debate in 2008: “Let them die!”

    • Judas Peckerwood

      This seems… new-ish to me?

      Clearly you’re not a member of my extended family.

    • erick

      And these people pay very little taxes. There is no sales tax in Oregon, their state income tax is going to be very low and their property values, assuming they own any, are low so the property taxes aren’t much. Federal they likely mostly just pay FICA and Medicare, which more than likely unless they don’t live long enough to get cancer or other expensive diseases means they will get back far more in lifetime benefits than they paid in.

      • djw

        their property values, assuming they own any, are low so the property taxes aren’t much

        In addition to relatively low property values, the property tax rates there are extremely low. Curry and Josephine county property taxes as around half the per-assessed-value rate as the third cheapest county (and less than a 1/4 the state average).

    • NewishLawyer

      I see a lot of my liberal friends post stuff on facebook like “I would gladly pay more in taxes for people to have universal healthcare.” These aren’t necessarily well off people either. Not super struggling but they can hurt after some bad luck.

      I’m not sure if these memes are supposed to be convincing and to whom or just virtue signaling but it strikes me that there are deep divides in this country if you have people who are willing to live in a post-apocalypse to avoid taxes and those who want more taxes for a decent society.

      The not paying for libraries thing is not super new. I’ve been hearing variants of it from right-wingers since the late 1990s or early aughts. Usually some derp about how libraries are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution so government should not provide for them.

      A few years ago V.Slayer posted some Federalist Derp about how middle class and above people like me are more likely to take out books from the library than lower-income people.

      The other argument is that Amazon makes libraries irrelevant. Also derp but it exists and is not going away.

      How do you bridge this gap?

      • Brien Jackson

        On the other hand, there was that really notable survey about how many Sanders’ supporters weren’t willing to pay the tax levels he was calling for to pay for his plans. One thing about the low rate of taxation in the U.S. is that people really have no idea what public goods require to pay for, and they get sticker shock once you start actually trying to pay for things.

        • ironic irony

          Ding ding ding!

          People tend to think lots of public services are paid for in, I dunno, Bitcoin or Monopoly money.

      • mds

        Usually some derp about how libraries are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution so government should not provide for them.

        Then again, conservatives also hate the US Postal Service and want to destroy it, and that is in the Constitution. They lack even the courage of their own derp.

        • twbb

          Ditto for the census, and international treaties, and (among others) the Eighth, Fourteenth Amendment, and Seventeenth Amendments.

      • LeeEsq

        I never got the Amazon made libraries irrelevant argument. Amazon has most books and usually for relatively affordable prices but not everything. Libraries are more likely to have more obscure or older titles to borrow or they could get them from other libraries. There also lots of books that I want to read but do not necessarily need to own in physical or electronic copy.

        • Chetsky

          I never got the Amazon made libraries irrelevant argument

          Amazon is pricey when you’re workin’ minimum wage, right?

          Something else: others up-thread suggested that maybe the young move away. But if the young are so poorly-educated (b/c no taxes to pay for decent public schools, and nobody’s rich enough to send to private schools) that they can’t get decent jobs, they aren’t gonna move away, are they?

      • LeeEsq

        Oh, and the obvious reply about libraries not being in the Constitution is that they fall under state and local government and the Constitution allows states to do anything they want not exclusively reserved for the federal government for a large part.

        • twbb

          Technically, nothing in the Constitution precludes a federal library system.

      • LFC

        Pertinent to point out that public libraries are about more than circulating books. At least where I live, the public libraries have computers (helpful for people who don’t own one, as not everyone does) as well as copy machines, and of course non-circulating reference works and magazines and newspapers; they host certain community events and speakers, have notices about services available (e.g., for the elderly or for non-English speakers, etc.), classes, etc. (Plus various electronic resources available to anyone, audiobks, ebks, and whatnot.) In short, they are fairly integral parts of the community, even for those who may use them only intermittently or mostly to check out a bk now and then. More to be said but I’ll stop there.

        And as LeeEsq notes, the ‘Amazon makes libraries irrelevant’ argument is ridiculous.

        • Dennis Orphen

          All this and the children’s stuff too. And sense of community and social aspects, which I guess you said.

        • so-in-so

          “Google books” would be a bit better answer, but the core issue is people don’t want other people to be informed unless they pay for the privilege. Either because the speaker is under educated and doesn’t want others to know more than he does, or because an under-informed populace is easier to control (the Mercers and Koch’s view, I expect).

      • daves09

        The Kochs are big on supporting anti-library measures-pretty much on the “I don’t like to read so why should we have libraries.” principle.
        The only thing that is keeping those places going is transfer payments but at a certain point the total lack of services-60 miles to the supermarket, 80 miles to a clinic, will finish them off. The great plains are full of towns that don’t even have ghosts anymore.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Well, Colorado Springs famously stopped watering the grass in their parks because the dumbshit wingnuts who infest the place refused to vote for sufficient taxes. While that particular crisis was solved – mostly by reallocating funds because the city had become a national laughingstock because of it – they have cut funds in other areas. This winter the wingnut city councilmen were bitching about how long it was taking the city to clean up all of the fallen trees in a big storm we had – the city tree department reminded them that he was the only employee left as they’d cut something like a dozen others. He told the paper that at his current rate of progress he’d get to every fallen tree branch in something like 50 years.

      But if you talk to the people who nevertheless refuse to vote for taxes their reasoning is amazing. Basically, they imagine that the vast majority of what they pay in income taxes is wasted on lazy blacks and hispanics in the inner cities and so they don’t want to pay a dime more, they just want government to stop paying welfare for the lazy minorities and use the savings to pay for their parks and roads.

      You can’t point out that city funds and federal funds are different – they don’t care. Explaining to them that at their income level they actually pay no federal income tax on their 1040A, they just pay social security and medicare, is also pointless. And of course don’t even try pointing out that half the federal income tax goes to various flavors of military and that there isn’t a secret welfare system only minorities and Democrats can access.

      Worst, though are school districts infested by these retirees who don’t give a crap about anyone but themselves so of course won’t vote to fund the schools.

      In the end, all of this anti-tax stuff creates a locality that is an extremely unattractive place to live, impacting the local economy further because businesses avoid it and people don’t move into it.

      • Brien Jackson

        The best summation of the issue really was that amazingly profane Twitter thread about how the people in these areas create places young people, educated people, businesses, etc. don’t want to be, and reap the rewards thereof. Double bonus points for the irony that they no doubt rant and rave about Marxists who don’t understand the glory of the free market too.

        • Origami Isopod

          that amazingly profane Twitter thread

          Do you have a link to that?

          • Brien Jackson

            I would if I could remember who wrote it.

      • they just want government to stop paying welfare for the lazy minorities and use the savings to pay for their parks and roads.

        Also known as “wastefraudnabuse”, which in Republican doctrine accounts for the majority of government spending at all levels.

        • so-in-so

          At what point does cutting the salaries of wingnut politicians become the most obvious way of removing waste, fraud and abuse? I know it isn’t happening…

      • Joe Bob the III

        A recent phenomenon in my town is that the city forestry department has money to cut down diseased trees, which we are losing by the hundred to emerald ash borer, but not enough money to grind down the stumps. The results look about as you would expect.

      • UncleEbeneezer

        But if you talk to the people who nevertheless refuse to vote for taxes their reasoning is amazing. Basically, they imagine that the vast majority of what they pay in income taxes is wasted on lazy blacks and hispanics in the inner cities and so they don’t want to pay a dime more, they just want government to stop paying welfare for the lazy minorities and use the savings to pay for their parks and roads.

        Right?! Conservative voters aren’t monocausal but they sure as hell all seem to have some element of this as a significant part of their worldview, which is why I’m entirely ok with saying they voted for the most blatantly racist/sexist/xenophobic candidate in decades because of their shared racism/sexism/xenophobia etc. When I find a Trump voter who doesn’t echo your statements within 5 mins of casual conversation, then maybe I’ll start thinking our focus on their bigotry is overstated or unfair. Call me when you find one, I’m not holding my breath.

  • NeonTrotsky

    In fairness to the peoples of these counties, the state constitution is basically written to make it as hard as possible to raise taxes. For example, if a majority of registered voters don’t show up then even if a tax measure passes it doesn’t count, which means that the only time these things generally have any chance of passing at all is during presidential election years.

  • Thom

    Many readers may not know that Oregon has income tax but no sales tax. (Washington is the other way around.)

    • Dennis Orphen

      I’ve never lived in the 360 and done all my other spending in the 503, but I used to think about it all the time. And I haven’t been north of Prescott for years anyway (or south of Gladstone, keeping in the spirit of the original post). I would elaborate more, but it’s getting close to 6pm and I’m not even close to having my tuxedo on yet.

    • Anna in PDX

      My husband who is a fourth generation Portlander really hates how many residents of the ‘Couv have gamed this. Live there, work here, shop here, tie up traffic here…

    • bobbyp

      Yes. And deep blue Washington repeatedly votes down an income tax, flees to the suburbs to engage in classic land squatting, resolutely demands two parking stalls/apt. in urban areas, opposes rezoning, and sends their kids to private schools.

      It’s complicated. Go figure.

      In all the interviews with these folks, I have yet to see the article where somebody gets in these people’s face and screams, “Just what the fuck do you want?”

      • Philip

        See also Francisco, San.

      • ColBatGuano

        And deep blue Washington repeatedly votes down an income tax, flees to the suburbs to engage in classic land squatting, resolutely demands two parking stalls/apt. in urban areas, opposes rezoning, and sends their kids to private schools.

        This situation is what makes me laugh every time one of our resident purity trolls shows up blathering on about “neoliberal shills”. The idea that there is a huge constituency for massive tax hikes is Trump-like.

      • cpinva

        “Just what the fuck do you want?”

        all the benefits of “big government”, with none of the costs. at least, none of the costs paid for by them. they are mentally four year-olds, living in adult bodies.

  • mongolia

    two quick-hitter replies:

    1) i think there’s a point that hasn’t really been enunciated in this discussion, which is that the answer for “economic anxiety or racism” ends up being “both” because of ecosystem effects, of the sort that your post describes – these people have been in communities with “traditional” attitudes towards race/gender, have had their industries destroyed by forces outside of their control, are being dominated politically & culturally in their state by others, and the people around them have similar resentments to the types they have. so combine all these factors for 30-40 years, and you get the perfect ecosystem for a “burn it all down” reactionary politics

    2) despite the point above, i really don’t think dems should expend much effort trying to directly appeal to these folks. that doesn’t mean “don’t have plans to alleviate their hardship,” but the way trump and the gop reach them is through a sort of cultural resentment politics that dems wouldn’t be able to counter through policies to fix the economies of these areas (if it’s even possible to…). the best thing we could do for people like this is to have dems win the house, senate, and presidency, and strengthen unions, improve healthcare, etc., over the protestations of the people who are being helped by these policies. which means, electorally, that using the general odiousness of the far right to shame moderate suburban gop voters to shift to dem is likely the best strategy we’ve got

    • StillWithHer

      that using the general odiousness of the far right to shame moderate suburban gop voters to shift to dem is likely the best strategy we’ve got

      Was that not Clinton’s strategy circa 2016?

      • mongolia

        it was part of her strategy, along with trying to recapture bho’s ’12 coalition. it appears to have had some modicum of success – see how much blue atlanta, phoenix, san diego, miami, etc. were this cycle, but it wasn’t able to offset the shift in rural areas to go even further away from dems.

        • msdc

          And of course, there was a rather large thumb or two on the scale in the closing days of the campaign. Without that, the strategy doesn’t look like such a bad one.

  • Brien Jackson

    I agree that this is really, really great stuff. Ironically it gets awfully close to boiling down white conservatism to something close to monocausality though: They’re reactionary and resentful. There are many manifestations of that, but that’s the basic core all the way down.

    • ap77

      Agreed – that was my impression as well.

    • mongolia

      how much of it is just that they’re cleek’s law come to life as a political party’s base? like, even reactionaries tend to have an overarching ideology – these guys seem to just be against whatever libtards want just because they want to see libtards fail

      • Brien Jackson

        Well, that’s kind of what they’re reacting to. A world, as they see, where urban has replaced rural and gay people, non-Christians, foreigners, etc. while “traditional values” are rightly sneered at as straight up bigotry. The latter one is easy to understand and gets the most attention, but really it’s the former that’s been brewing for a long time fermenting the right-wing as we know it now…and it’s just sheer bug eyed insanity that there’s no good answer for.

        • cpinva

          and they are no longer able to publicly/loudly express their hate for those groups, and not expect to be called on it, publicly/loudly. that which they sneeringly refer to as “PC”.

    • ASV

      Resentment as close to the unitary cause is also what PRRI found. In fact, they found a mild relationship between economic hardship and Clinton support among the white working class. What they call “economic fatalism” (“college education is a gamble”) was associated with Trump support, but that’s as easily a cultural attitude as an economic one.

      • xq

        Probability of voting Republican increases with income. This has been known for a long time, has nothing to do with Trump specifically, and shouldn’t be treated like a surprising finding. Nor does it exclude the possibility that economic hardship has something to do with the large swing towards Trump in some counties. The PRRI study is an example of the overly simplistic approach to this subject.

    • xq

      But “they’re conservative because they’re reactionary” doesn’t actually tell you anything. Why are they reactionary and resentful? It’s complex.

      • Brien Jackson

        Because that’s their personality type. Like, there are people who look at a changing world around them and figure out how they’re going to adapt to new things. Then there are people who angrily try to stand athwart history yelling “stop,” with predictably poor results. Then they become resentful of totems of the new world they don’t want to live in, don’t want to adapt to, and can’t thrive in.

        • xq

          I think upbringing has more to do with political views than innate personality. There are large regional differences in the US; hard to believe that’s entirely due to selective migration by personality type. There are large differences between countries in political views too; that doesn’t seem to be due to systematic differences in personality.

        • Dennis Orphen

          Everything we’ve been discussing has reminded me for a long, long time of some science fiction story I read, probably in one of the Dangerous Visions anthologies, about one of the last neanderthals, who sort of is adopted and protected by the chief of a homo sapiens tribe. Can anyone help me remember the title and author? Please? I’ve tried the Orphenbot 3000 google-fu many times, and I get too many other stories about cavemen to sort through. Please. Please help me (fly voice)

  • pdxtyler

    Oh man this is spot on. I once spent 6 months trying to organize Douglas County workers and to me Roseburg will always be what I picture when I hear decaying industrial town. A big issue during the campaign was the belief that if they had to pay more in raises the county would just start shutting things down. It’s ironic because in their latest audit Douglas county actually has enough reserves to run the general fund for something like 15 months without a dime in new taxes but the county commission has really pushed privatization of everything. They privatized the public and mental health department about two years before they closed the libraries which caused the county to lose a bunch of revenue they would have received with the medicaid expansion in the ACA. That could of potentially created some good jobs addressing addictions and behavioral health in an area that really needs it, but that would conflict with conservative ideology.

    I agree that there really is no easy answer for places like this. Anecdotally, I went back to Roseburg to try and add like 25 workers to one of our bargaining units earlier this year. These were really good people who had figured out they were making $3 an hour less than the unionized person doing their same job in a different department, and we ended up being able to move forward and get them in. However at least half of those same workers had trump bumper stickers on their cars. I have no idea how you would ever get them to vote for a Dem, and these are the folks down there who ended up being pro-union!

    • Brien Jackson

      I’m starting to accept that the only answer is the most obvious one: This is going to continue until they destroy their localities to the point that they don’t have any choice but to realize what they’ve done. The question is whether the rest of us can hold the country together in the interim.

      • It’s sort of starting to happen in Kansas, although we will see.

      • twbb

        You need to be loudly, repetitively, and publicly telling the people that right-wing policies got them there. Otherwise the GOP lie machine will just create a new narrative as to.how it’s somehow the left’s fault.

        • Brien Jackson

          I don’t think so. At some point people do blame the leaders in power, and after a while it’s hard to keep blaming Democrats when Republicans are running everything. Erik is right that Kansas is a pretty good example of this, with Brownback’s plummeting support.

          • twbb

            And this is why we fail. 40% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is a literal demon. Two thirds of them thought Obama was born in Kenya. These are not rational people who learn from experience. They have to brainwashed back into reality.

            • Dennis Orphen

              They have to brainwashed back into reality.

              There aren’t enough cheap motel rooms available for a weekend, metal office chairs to handcuff their wrists together behind, and bright lights to shine in their faces in the multiverse(s) to even begin to try that. Or is that how you deprogram a cult member? Gee, I wonder why I’m confusing the two. At least the Hari Krishnas can’t get past the airport gates anymore without a boarding pass anymore, so it everything isn’t all bad.

              • twbb

                If you constantly bombard them with the same message, it might sink into a few of their thick heads.

                • Dennis Orphen

                  Can a really big Samoan or two deliver that message with a length of 2×4 about a yard long, with one end roughly planed or lathed round enough to get a good grip on? Asking for a friend.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                The bright light to shine in their faces is the tee vee, social media in PC, tablet, and smartphone.

        • Phil Perspective

          You know what would win in Kansas? A Sanders-esque candidate. But the powers that be will only allow it over their dead bodies.

          • Brien Jackson

            Like Sebelius?

            • mds

              If Obamacare gets repealed, a sick burn will be treated as a pre-existing condition.

          • Morse Code for J

            Kansas only requires a filing fee of $75 and 5,000 signatures to run for governor as an independent. Where are these SANDERS-ESQUE candidates? Or is collecting 5,000 signatures just a dastardly DNC trick?

            • wjts

              Debbie Wasserman Schultz stole my pen.

              • Dennis Orphen

                John Podesta stole my risotto recipe. I stole it from Napoleon Solo. Now some big Russian guy is threatening to hurt me if I don’t go clothes shopping with him. As long as I can bring my truffle pig with us (it’s also a service pig, I got PTSD) I’m game. Not spending any money though, I just give advice.

          • ColBatGuano

            Sen. Russ Feingold would like a word.

  • Gizmo

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    I have family connections in two states with similar dynamics – Alaska and Wyoming. Both are states where excise taxes play a big role in the state budget. My little brother the policy wonk told incredulous tales of alaskans who had been living high on energy royalties for so long that they were indignant that they might have to start paying taxes to fund basic services like schools.

    Wyoming is doing pretty well on coal lately.

    This gets back to a fundamental disconnect in American politics – Are we in this together, or not?

    Its clear to me that the cancer within the body politic is the libertarian idea that we can get something for nothing. Its based upon the delusional view that our working civilization was created by magic, rather than the hard work and sacrifice (taxes!) of countless generations of citizens. Its a willful denial of all the contributions by the people who came before you.

    This is a deeply corrosive idea that’s worth fighting.

    Which gets me back to Trump – as awful as he is, the Republicans and their poisonous ideology are the real obstacle to progress. I don’t think there is much chance that we’re going to convince a small-town Oregonian who won’t fund a public library to get behind programs to help small-town america. We simply have to out-vote them.

    • Lurking Canadian

      I don’t think it’s “something for nothing” really. It’s “why should I pay for [X] that I don’t use”?

      I don’t mind paying tolls when I drive on the highway but why should I pay for highways I don’t use?
      I’ll pay my health costs, but I’m never getting pregnant, so why should I pay for maternity care?
      I’m not having kids/my kids are grown/I sent my kids to private school, so why should I pay for other people’s kids to go to school?
      I’m saving for my retirement, why can’t they save for theirs?

      etc,etc,et nauseating cetera.

      It’s not just that they don’t believe in The Commons, they don’t seem to believe in economies of scale either. civilization

  • sigaba

    That meant that schools and roads and police were paid for with little to no money from the citizenry, creating a no-tax culture.

    My understanding is that the situation in some of the very red midwestern states was similar because of property taxes on railroad rights-of-way. There’s some statistic that 90% of some Kansas county’s public school system was paid for by taxes on the Santa Fe railroad.

    This suited everybody just fine as farmers hate railroads, and the railroads profited mightily on their monopolies through the same communities. People were being quite heavily taxed but it was through a cloak of private enterprise, the ATSF and UP were effectively tax farming with a side of transportation services.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    These people don’t just sound like Trump voters, they sound like Trump himself. Ignorant, selfish and impervious to reason. I don’t think it’s possible for the left to appeal to them. It would be better to find a way to isolate them in their own misery until they come to their senses, or die (I have no preference).

  • Breadbaker

    What you describe as the situation in the Oregon timber counties is pretty much what the State of Alaska is now contemplating with low oil prices. People feel they are entitled to state services without paying taxes (plus their Permanent Fund dividend), and they assume there is adequate waste in the state budget that can be cut so they won’t ever have to pay them (when revenues at the current level basically won’t pay interest on state debt). It becomes a political shell game and has three times now created odd coalitions of Democrats and the odd reasonable Republican or independent to try to find a real solution.

  • encephalopath

    I grew up in Jackson County and spent lots of time from my youth into early adulthood pulling chain in a sawmill in the 80s an 90s.

    You are fully correct in your assessment of the region. The timber sale money is gone and those satellite counties around Jackson are just screwed. There’s nothing to replace it in taxable income or property. The fishing industry is also shadow of its former self.

    Jackson county is a regional hub by virtue of being the largest population wise. It has multiple large hospitals, the largest airport between Sacramento and Portland, and non-timber agricultural output. The surrounding counties don’t have any of those things.

    I have a state economist friend who talks about economic development in rural Oregon. There have been multiple big meetings where they discuss what to about about these rural counties. “What if we create this particular kind of infrastructure? How many jobs will it make?” Over and over they end up concluding that there is nothing they can do that will generate more economic activity than it costs to make the infrastructure. Without an exploitable natural resource there is just no solution to making these thinly populated and dispersed rural economies work. In fact the state would be better off, money wise, if you just emptied out these rural counties entirely.

    I keep hoping that Jackson and Deschutes counties can turn blue enough to get rid of Greg Walden. But unless someone comes up with a way to fix this rural county income problem, it just won’t happen.

    On a side note, the whole area still kind of embraces the Jefferson State thing, mostly as a historical artifact. The Southern Oregon University public radio stations are Jefferson Public Radio, for example. Other people foolishly take it seriously. I don’t think it was ever actually meant to be a real thing in the 1940s either. It was a political maneuver to get the respective state legislature to pay the region some attention, rather than a serious separatist movement.

    • Yeah, outside of tourism and the sort of economy Ashland has developed, I just don’t really know. Maybe some of the tech companies moving down there because the land is much cheaper, but then I can’t see that really happening because of the isolation (the competition for largest airport between Sacramento and Portland is Eugene and nothing, as you know).

      • encephalopath

        The problem with tech and other sorts of enterprises is that anything that is successful is going to get bought by a larger company and moved somewhere else.

        Musician’s Friend, for instance, used to be run out of Medford an a warehouse in White City. Then it got bought by Guitar Center and moved to some distribution center in the Midwest.

        Harry & David used to be a fully local company in Medford too. It’s now owned by 1-800-Flowers and were it not for the fact that that may of the agricultural products are grown and packaged locally the whole thing would probably be moved somewhere else by now, as well.

        How do you come up with a locally tied business that can’t be cannibalized and moved somewhere else for the sake of corporate profit.

    • Anna in PDX

      I hear that the marijuana industry has helped. In Josephine County anyhow. Why my stepmom was just complaining that she can’t pay people for manual labor less than $20/hr because the pot farmers are so flush.

      • encephalopath

        Well that’s good news of a sort.

        I’ve suspected that Sams Valley has some particular agricultural potential because of its wet to really hot and dry climate in an oak savanna.

      • encephalopath

        The Illinois Valley is kind of the same climate as Sams Valley. The Cave Junction economy can surely do more than the Oregon Caves and what used to be Rough and Ready.

        • Anna in PDX

          Yeah, I think it’s a bit weird but if it helps then good (and at least this industry is taxed)

    • msdc

      Over and over they end up concluding that there is nothing they can do that will generate more economic activity than it costs to make the infrastructure.

      Which still might be worth doing, if the money is coming from some body that is willing to eat the costs in the interest of building more robust social and economic infrastructures. Given the balanced-budget constraints on state governments that pretty much has to be the feds. In this era of low interest rates, it wouldn’t even have to add that much to the deficit, and the cost might be more than worth it for the employment it generates during construction. This would have been an ideal use of stimulus money.

      Unfortunately, the people it would benefit hate the feds, hate deficits, and hate the stimulus.

      • encephalopath

        This has worked to some extent in Eastern Oregon Crook County in Prineville with Facebook and Apple opening data centers there.

        • BubbaDave

          But how many people does a datacenter employ? Even at the scale Facebook runs, I’d guess we’re talking dozens of jobs, not hundreds.

          • encephalopath

            This is true… you’ll have a bunch in itinerant non-local labor that show up to build the thing, both the building and the technical infrastructure.

            Then a few dozen people will run the place. And almost none of those people will come from the local population. They will have moved in from somewhere else.

            You get local tax (property and income, no sales tax in Oregon) from the local employees (the corporate building probably got a tax waiver to move in and do the thing so you’re getting nothing directly from Facebook and Apple) and those few dozen employees buy stuff locally.

            That’s all you get to boost the local economy in the long run… that’s it.

            • encephalopath

              And this is why the economist people, when considering what they can do to make jobs, don’t really ever come up with anything.

              Corporate business structure funnels money back to the corporation, leaving as little as possible in any local community they operate in.

              • AR

                You can’t really build the data centers in that region. The centers work the Colombia River basin because it has a large amount of cheap electrical power from the dam system. It is the same reason the region used to be a major aluminum smelting hub. There is no real equivalent power source in SW Oregon (you have some potential from geothermal around the Cascade Mountains but its not particularly developed). Things have been tried but none of it really represents the kind of solid middle class/low education/traditionally male jobs that the timber and fishing industries provided and all of it represents a shift from jobs that are fundamentally about how you physically work to how you interact with people, such as casinos, golf resorts, etc. The only exception really is that a decent number of people in Curry County work at Pelican Bay Prison in California and Douglas County has some real wine potential thanks to climate change, which will help to give it an alternative agricultural base but this is all ether to small scale or still developing to make a big difference.

  • Souris Grise

    In the past, did the timber companies just accept paying taxes on the timber they cut? Any attempts by the companies to lower or eliminate those taxes? And were the taxes on cut timber in addition to the taxes companies ordinarily pay (or at least are ordinarily supposed to pay)? And does the lack of a sales tax in Oregon historically relate to not increasing the cost of timber, or was that result just a coincidence?

    I guess I’m sorta fascinated by areas where companies essentially paid, through the county, for public services and infrastructure. Now, companies demand counties provide all sorts of tax breaks before relocating there. It’s like an alternative universe. Jeez Louise, I’m sorry. I should read your book rather than lob essay questions for you to answer to take the edge off so much leisure. ;)

    • The companies basically accepted the taxes to the best of my knowledge, in part because they were developed in part to avoid the previous system of timber taxation, which was to tax them on all standing timber, thus incentivizing cutting it all. But I’m not sure of all the details of how the companies thought about this as time went on. The tax issue is mostly tangential to the book so I never went that deep into these details. I probably should know all of this.

  • NickUrfe

    I wonder whether it’s worth noting that a similar phenomenon really isn’t visible among other economically disadvantaged communities: no one talks about ‘economic’ or ‘cultural’ resentment driving African Americans to the Democratic Party. They’re for the Democrats because Democrats are for them.

    And while this is an interesting point of comparison, it’s also part of what makes a lot Liberals want to say “Fuck ’em”. Why should blue states pay for red states? Why should blue cities pay for the red suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas? These people have had every opportunity to vote for a party that, while imperfect, represents and defends their interests much more fully than the one they vote for consistently. We’ve come to the point where instead of asking, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” we should be asking “What’s the Matter with Kansas, et al”. If they want to live in towns without fire departments, schools, or libraries, what’s it to anyone else? Or rather, if they want to live in these places, how do we spare them the worst harms they want to do themselves when they return worse and worse leaders to Congress and the Presidency?

    • Murc

      I wonder whether it’s worth noting that a similar phenomenon really isn’t visible among other economically disadvantaged communities: no one talks about ‘economic’ or ‘cultural’ resentment driving African Americans to the Democratic Party. They’re for the Democrats because Democrats are for them.

      I’m not sure this is true.

      Well, I mean… it is true, certainly, but it depends on how you define “cultural resentment.” There are definitely a non-trivial number of African-Americans who vote Democratic because the only alternative is the party of howling racism, and that’s going to be a single-issue dealbreaker for a lot of folks, is it not?

      I am not black and cannot pretend to understand the black experience in America at all, but I have to imagine that lots of black people must resent the fuck out of the Republican Party and the cultural forces it has allied itself to. Yes? No?

      • Vance Maverick

        I too am not black. However, my sense is more that the resentment, while deep and intense, is directed at white America in general, with reason. As for the political choice, it’s not so much that African Americans resent one party less as that they observe that one party is willing to work with them to an extent and not make things worse.

    • Dennis Orphen

      I don’t know how to paraphrase the first paragraph, but I think I can paraphrase the second:

      Goldman’s Law (also the working title for some cop show elevator pitch I haven’t come up with yet, maybe something where Bill Drake meets Dirty Harry)

  • aab84

    My issue with the “economics or racism” debate is that it often assumes the two are separate things. I don’t mean in the sense you describe here: that both economics and racism are doing work. I mean that, in many instances, their economic grievances are racially and culturally based.

    There’s a wealth of research that people care about relative, not absolute, economic position (once you get past an “I’m starving” level). In many instances, the “economic anxiety” of Trump voters is probably less “I’m worried about putting food on the table” than “I’m worried that I perceive my economic position to be declining in comparison to others, particularly racial and cultural groups I don’t like.”

    There was a recent piece somewhere (can’t remember where, but may have been Vox) where the writer described Tea Party resentment as basically being about thinking life is waiting in a long line with stability and security at the end, then seeing all these minorities cutting the line and being resentful. The writer presented that analogy to the people she was interviewing and they all thought it was dead on.

    TLDR: much of their economic concerns are heavily racialized and I don’t know that setting the two up as a dichotomy or trying to parse them out is necessarily helpful.

    • NickUrfe

      I think that story about the line getting longer originated in Nancy Isenberg’s interviews for White Trash which was covered pretty extensively by Vox and others, especially after the election.

      • Vance Maverick

        Also Arlie Hochschild.

        By the way, concur with the sense of the commentariat that this is a strong post.

    • Ellie1789

      Exactly—it’s not either-or, but both-and. Or really, all-of-the-above and, because can throw the misogyny into the stew of resentment, too. The economic concerns are heavily racialized AND gendered. Whiteness, conservative/reactionary gender ideology, and class are all tied up together and mutually reinforcing, rather than being separate or mutually exclusive.

      TLDR: the cultural historians of the 90s were right—it’s (still) all about race, class, and gender.

      But I would also add that this particular toxic combination is hardly exclusive to the twentieth/twenty-first-century US. There were similar kinds of racist, misogynistic backlashes among white European men of the working class, peasantry, and petty bourgeoisie in the 1840s, late 19th century, after WWI …. Perhaps actually a problem of Western imperial societies?

      • Ellie1789

        (And agreed with the above, very thought-provoking post!)

      • so-in-so

        Before pinning it on western imperial societies we need to study non-western and or non-imperial societies to see if they behave differently. I would think, anyway. Not to excuse the behavior, but is it western society or a majority of human society that has the problem?

        • Origami Isopod

          Given that xenophobia and misogyny seem to be near-universal if not universal, I would bet on the latter.

    • gkclarkson

      This strain of racial entitlement isn’t really new to tea party resentment though. It’s been going on forever.

      The “mule” monologue from Mississippi Burning pretty much conveys the same idea. Or really any sentence that has ever non-ironically used the word “uppity.”

  • ironic irony

    The complexity of these issues gets a lot more dense when you deep dive into the particular region.

    I’m not completely knowledgeable on Oregon history, but would you argue that any racist motivation to vote Trump is less here than, say, a rural county in Alabama (with a long history of slavery)? Do you think there are rural areas of Trump counties where the biggest factor in who those voters vote for is based on race and race relations?

    Thanks for this post. It was a great read.

    • Tyro

      would you argue that any racist motivation to vote Trump is less here than, say, a rural county in Alabama (with a long history of slavery)?

      Oregon was founded explicitly as a whites-only state in the 1800s. Oregon wasn’t anti-slavery so much as it was anti-slave, much like West Virginia.

    • Marc

      Oregon is almost 88 percent white (as per 2015 census data) and 2 percent black, so the dynamics are quite different from Mississippi. See

      https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/41

  • randomworker

    I’ve seen a number of confederate flags here in Western Washington the past few months. (Maybe they’ve always been there?) What’s that about?

    There’s a saying revolution doesn’t happen when things are desperate and people are scared shitless where their next meal is coming from. But rather when things have gotten better, but not fast enough, and people can see what they are missing. No idea if this is true historically, but it seems to make sense here.

    The tax thing is perplexing. As mentioned earlier, a lot of these ppl aren’t paying any taxes.

    • Bruce B.

      I remember seeing a very few when I was in college in Tacoma, in the latter ’80s. There were a few more when I came back to the region after spending most of the ’90s elsewhere. And they’ve been on the rise ever since.

  • bernard

    For all Oregon is known as a liberal state, the reality is that it’s politics are probably as divided as any state in the country. It’s Democrats are on the far left of the nation. It’s Republicans belong in Idaho or Utah.

    Its, its, its. One extra for emphasis. Sorry, it’s a tic, but please.

    • Dennis Orphen

      I had to google it when I started commenting here, just to not seem any more barbaric and crazy than I already do.

      #notdyingonthathillthankyouverymuchitsnotworthit

  • DamnYankees

    Wonderful post. Very educational.

    One thing I wish people would unpack more is what exactly “cultural resentment” is. And I actually say this as someone who thinks “cultural resentment” is the best explanation we have for Trump voters, and really conservatives more generally. I think this is a hugely important issue, but also horribly ill-defined, including by me.

    What does it mean to “resent” a culture, in a political sense. Like, there are cultures I have an affinity with. And those I don’t. But I don’t think I resent any culture. Not even sure what that would look like for me personally. For my sake, if there are parts of a culture I like, I tend to spend time with it (especially concerning food!). And if there are parts of a culture I don’t, I leave it. As a person who was raised an Orthodox Jew and now lives as an atheist with a Chinese wife in a very Chinese house, I think this has worked out well for me. But I certainly don’t resent my old culture.

    To me, the issue of cultural resentment is more of a hidden moral resentment. We don’t phrase it that way, but I think that’s what it is. It’s a counterreaction to civil rights in the sense that if someone is pushing for civil rights, whether for black people or gay people or women, I am presented with two choices – get on board, or be immoral. But what if I don’t want to get on board? Either because I’m racist or sexist, or I’m just not that interested in changing my life? What’s the avenue for settling my mind? I think you need to create a backlash. You need to say that no, I’m not bigoted, but I’m also not immoral. How do you do that? By ignoring the substance of the political opposition, and focusing on their identity or their tangential traits. This is the substance of “cultural resentment” to me.

    I don’t know how to fix it. It feels like a completely unavoidable consequence of moving from a less moral world to a more moral world. I don’t know what the answer is.

    Am I thinking about this the wrong way? Being too “mono-causal” in my explanation of where intensely felt cultural resentment comes from?

    • Marc

      I really like Eric’s post, and here is my take on the resentment (which is quite real.) The right has been playing off working class resentment for decades (think “limousine liberals” or “pointy headed intellectuals” from the 60s.) But the cultural antagonism with rural whites has really dramatically accelerated. Democrats used to get a solid fraction of the rural vote, even in places that they lost; rural whites are block voting in ways that minority groups historically do. That’s because they perceive themselves as a persecuted minority.

      We can’t control the right wing media, political dysfunction, and so on. But we can control how we treat others, and there has been a truly unhealthy dynamic in liberal discourse. Basically, if you treat people with contempt, they notice and they reciprocate: and liberal attitudes towards rural whites are a mix of patronizing and insulting. It comes through in casual stereotypes and mind-reading the motives of others instead of asking them why they do what they do, usually by ascribing the worst possible causes to behavior.

      Added to this is a climate of perceived (and I’d argue, at least in some cases, real) intolerance by large segments of the left. Social media swarms to get people fired, for instance, or misguided campus activism. And these things are amplified enormously by right wing media.

      Yes, the right wing does these things too. But the people who, say, voted for Obama in 2008 aren’t the same as the people that we lost 50 years ago in Alabama, and too often we treat them as equivalent.

      Stir in loss of status, an economy that’s going nowhere, a Democratic party that doesn’t seem to have any answers, and a sense of real threat and you have all of the ingredients for what you see in places like West Virginia.

      And we have to deal with this, at least if we want to win any Senate seats in rural states and if we don’t want to have to write off almost the entire Midwest in presidential races. In my view we have to start by emphasizing tolerance and checking our own attitudes – you can stand for social justice without insulting and threatening people, for example. It’ll take a while to unpack, and errors like the entire Trump con to give us openings, but it can be done. It won’t be done if we treat them as an enemy tribe.

      • twbb

        “and liberal attitudes towards rural whites are a mix of patronizing and insulting. It comes through in casual stereotypes and mind-reading the motives of others instead of asking them why they do what they do, usually by ascribing the worst possible causes to behavior.”

        To be fair, rural white resentment of urban intellectuals is several thousand years old at this point.

        • Marc

          Agreed; but you can counter rather than reinforcing these attitudes, and we’ve been doing a lot more of the latter than the former.

          • gkclarkson

            Wait, you’re actually being serious?

            This blog your posting at, on multiple occasions, has gone out of its way to skewer the hack journalists writing the “why can’t liberals just be nice to the Trump voters?” articles.

            http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/02/trump-supporters-are-nice-people

            http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/11/empathy-for-the-devil-i-i-mean-super-nice-misunderstood-salt-of-the-earth-types

            • Origami Isopod

              Marc is a civility troll. The vast majority of his comments at LGM have been of the nature of, “Why do liberals have to be so mean to conservatives?”, with a side order of “Stop being so mean to straight white cis men!”

              • mds

                Yeah, the presumption that liberals cannot comprehend, let alone be, white working-class or rural voters is something of a tell, even if one were unfamiliar with his oeuvre. It conveniently doesn’t seem to occur to him that some of us might actually know whereof we speak, based upon our own upbringing, relatives, work experience, etc. I mean, I have family in small-town southeastern Iowa right now. Could Marc even find Iowa on an unlabeled map, I wonder?

                • Origami Isopod

                  Similarly, one side of my family is entirely blue-collar in origin, and some still remain blue-collar (and those relatives voted for Drumpf). Other side is dead-center middle-class, with local/regional accents and other markers that are now considered déclassé. And I’ve certainly been condescended to by liberals from wealthier backgrounds and/or with postgraduate degrees. As little liking or respect as I have for them, I am perfectly okay with their directing vitriol against the Trumpanzees — especially the sorts of pathological cases described in the NYT article.

    • Joe Bob the III

      I’m reminded of Wayne LaPierre’s recent speech when he said America’s greatest domestic threats are academic elites, political elites, and media elites. He didn’t enumerate who these elites are, though he did name check Bernie Sanders, but I guess his audience knew who he was talking about.

      In terms of cultural resentment and academic, political, and media, one of these things isn’t like the others: academic. What’s the thought process that puts college professors in same category as a member of Congress or Rupert Murdoch? I mean, those guys are political and media elites, right?

  • Gwen

    I’m assuming that the residents of Southwest Oregon still have to put up with the same communist tyranny that the rest of the state does… Like not being able to pump your own gas?

    • So the thing about the gas pumping deal is a) it’s a real pain when you know you can do it a lot faster and b) it creates a lot of jobs for people who don’t have too many other options.

      • Gwen

        I was joking about it being communism.

        Still, it seems like there might be better jobs to create… like possibly building roads or inspecting water supplies.

        At any rate I like to give my friends in PDX grief about this.

        • Dennis Orphen

          The western world’s only indoor gas station (the Radio Cab barn) makes it all worth it, and then some. That liquor store on Sandy with the indoor parking in the back is pretty cool too. I hate getting rained on when I’m running for a handle of Mono and a bottle of Cabin Creek.

      • Linnaeus

        To be honest, I kinda liked “mini-serve” in Oregon while I lived there.

        • AR

          So I have worked in Oregon legislature and just about every time they meet, someone brings up changing the law and like clockwork, the AARP kills the bill. The gas price is not really that different, what matters a lot more is if you are in a big urban area or an area close to a refinery. When I travel up and down the I-5 Roseburg is usually among the cheapest gas I can find, particularly if I keep to name brand stations. As such, nobody is really that deeply committed to changing things, and the AARP really cares about keeping things as it is, so jokes aside, nobody really cares that much (it should be noted, New Jersey briefly allowed self service but changed back).

          Also, by and by, they did change it a little bit, allowing self service at night in rural areas that lacked the population to keep a gas station open and attended 24 hours a day.

  • humanoid.panda

    Via Dreher, here comes another paean to working class Trumpers ostensibly from the left, but devoid of Erik’s ability to make fine, or any distinctions.

    What caught my eyes is this bit:

    Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. Means-tested programs that help the poor but exclude the middle may keep costs and tax rates lower, but they are a recipe for class conflict. Example: 28.3% of poor families receive child-care subsidies, which are largely nonexistent for the middle class. So my sister-in-law worked full-time for Head Start, providing free child care for poor women while earning so little that she almost couldn’t pay for her own. She resented this, especially the fact that some of the kids’ moms did not work. One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s. My sister-in-law was livid.

    So, let’s unpack this for a moment:
    1. Ostensibly, this is a complaint about the technocratic tendency to means-test benefit recipients, and thus provoke enmity by people just above the cutt of line. Fine: this is a good critique.
    2. But notice the details. First off, HRC ran on universal early childhood education, which didn’t stop the sister-in-law from voting for Trump. Still, one could ascribe this to HRC not making it part of any narrative, not going to WI, MI, being a symbol of upper middle class feminism, etc, etc.
    3. But notice the specific complaints: some women didn’t work (which means most did!), one woman carried a Macy’s bag (poor people reuse bags all the time..). And let’s be honest: the economics of the welfare state are such that for a poor woman to go shopping at Macy’s require either a miracle of some sort, or this story being an invention.
    3. So in the end, what the sister-in-law wants is not a universal welfare state, but a welfare state that reifies social hierarchies that put her above the unworthy poor. Which is something that no Democrat should be willing to give ground on.
    4.So, in the end, in a 2 party system, people who think that welfare should only flow to the worthy are going to find themselves allied with the Republicans- not because they suffer from false consciousness, but because, in the end, people define their interests in a culturally defined ways.
    5. This is not to say we need to waive of the WWC: we just should be clear-eyed about the limits of what we have to offer.

    • Did Dreher approvingly quote Freddie yet again?

    • Chetsky

      one woman carried a Macy’s bag (poor people reuse bags all the time..)

      ISTR reading that many women (esp poor women) will carry bags from fancy places, in the same way that they might have a single item of clothing that is fancy, to dress up an otherwise modestly-priced ensemble. I definitely remember reading about the latter — a black woman was writing about how she -simply- could not dress shabbily, if she wanted to be treated with any respect whatsoever.

    • Brien Jackson

      THis is underappreciated: When we talk about conservative voters and welfare, we generally assume racist motivations and a desire to not help POC. And that’s true, but also just as much is this desire to shame and belittle. So even amongst people who may be okay with the idea of a welfare system that helps people, even non-whites, with the basics, they’re very much committed to the principle that it shouldn’t be anything nice, and that anyone on welfare should be humiliated. It’s clearly a means of bolstering their own feeling of worth.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        wouldn’t want those on welfare to get *comfortable*, after all

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Yes. I spent much of my early adult life thinking racism was just about tensions caused by competition for jobs and resources, etc, but now I realize how much of it is, “I NEED SOMEBODY TO SHIT ON! And you libs keep trying to take that away from me!”

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Progressives have lavished attention on the poor for over a century. That (combined with other factors) led to social programs targeting them. Means-tested programs that help the poor but exclude the middle may keep costs and tax rates lower

      Annnnd I wonder why we had to have means testing, and who was screaming about cost and tax rates at the time of these regimes’ creation? Hmmmm….

      One arrived late one day to pick up her child, carrying shopping bags from Macy’s.

      This doesn’t even mean she went to Macy’s once or ever bought one blasted thing at Macy’s. It means she acquired some Macy’s bags.

      This is similar to the yahoos who resentfully shake their fists re. “I go into the big city and I see all those BLAACKS on welfare driving Morcedes…”

      (Really, I hard a redneck call a radio station once and actually say More-cedes in such a rant.)

      And… I must say… they way they talk about it, it’s as if they don’t even know that we’re talking about a 12 year old $5,000 used car purchase. You could argue that it’s not fiscally prudent to take on the maintenance and repair headaches of an aging German car, but I will not give them the benefit of the doubt on this one that this is what they’re thinking about.

      Used cars are a great value. AC repairs are optional.

      • Origami Isopod

        It means she acquired some Macy’s bags.

        Which you can do at a garage sale, if the seller has them on hand. For free, usually.

      • Hogan

        “I go into the big city and I see all those BLAACKS on welfare driving Morcedes…”

        “How do you know they’re on welfare?”

        “Well . . . you know . . . black.”

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Exactly.

  • Nick never Nick

    Everything you write about economics and sawmills applies to Wallowa county as well (part of future Cascadia!) — but Wallowa (from the same Nez Pierce word as Walla Walla, not sure what it means, though), isn’t quite the shithole you describe. This might be because it is stunningly beautiful, and has established itself as a real retirement place, as well as where a lot of people choose to move to. This might be because . . .

    – the Wallowa Mountains are amazingly beautiful, and the population centres of the county are right under them

    – enough hippies moved there that they created self-sustaining hippie aspects to the economy that now attract non-rednecks

    But for whatever reason, the county isn’t filled with despair. Several bronze foundries have been set up to serve the local artists, there are good restaurants that serve a variety of good food (when we were young, there were two, the Circle T and the Davis Cafe), the school boards are filled with non-nuts, they have decent relations with the Nez Pierce. The summer rodeo is part powwow. I know that natural advantages can make up for a lot, but is that all that it is?

    None of this is disagreement, I just wanted to offer a perception of a different corner of the state.

    P.S. the county paper, the Wallowa Chieftan, is still published by maniacs.

    • Dennis Orphen

      7008 people in the whole county? Wow. I thought only Harney could put a number like that. and Wikipedia says that there are 3 Oregon counties with less people. {type, type, click, parse}, well they’re small, but still.

      • Nick never Nick

        I don’t know if this has any effect on the practical economy, but because of the mountains, Wallow County is basically two roads — one leads north into Washington and Idaho, the other leads north and then loops into Oregon. The Wallowa Mountains cut off the entire south, east, and west. Maybe having 3-4 communities strung along a single highway leads to some salubrious effect? Fewer services have to be supplied off in the hinterlands?

        I dunno . . .

        What’s funny is we live in the UNPOPULATED part, what’s known as the North End, with around 2-300 people, maybe. One time when I was at Duke I met a guy from Joseph, the second largest town (1000 people). “Hey, I’m from the North End!” I said, and he just started to laugh.

        • Most of my dad’s side of the family are in Wallowa County

          • Nick never Nick

            I always enjoy your analyses of rural Oregon because you (like me) kind of hate it and feel a sort of revulsion towards the people who live there, and yet care enough about it and them to try and make sure that other people hate the place and its people for the right reasons and not some ignorant bullshit. When I drive through a town like Hermiston, I feel like my soul is being steadily diminished — I always try to remind myself that your descriptions are more related to that than Wallowa County.

            I just realized that I went to school with some of your relatives . . . I presume that the genial and somewhat portly Mr. Loomis who taught high school English (I think) in Enterprise is related to you?

            • Nick never Nick

              I slept on this and think that ‘hate and revulsion’ are probably not good words to use here — ‘frustration’ is probably better. Anyway, you’ve got a book to promote and you certainly don’t need to be on the record in this way, so if you want to delete my post I’d completely understand.

    • encephalopath

      This is all true… and yet, Greg Walden still represent the Oregon 2nd.

      Do bronze foundries represent enough change to displace his and if not, where does this change come from?

  • gkclarkson

    Reading some of the comments in this thread reminds me of the resource curse and rentier state theory, and how democratic values, civic mindedness, and civil society just never seems to properly develop in places that rely entirely on external revenues.

    I think it really boils down to the fact that quite a lot of these rural places are just the vestiges of rentier communities.

    • ColBatGuano

      Yeah, the ability to live off the taxes paid by timber companies seems to have bred a rather resentful, selfish population.

  • rlc

    All I have to say brother, is ayup.

  • louislouis

    I still don’t really get the obsession about white working class voters for Trump. Sure, they swung in some instances and in some important areas, but you have to eliminate a lot to make them a but-for cause, including the millions of people who didn’t vote in this election, which is something that always happens. Then you have the fact that the vast majority of Trump support coming from non-poor suburban white voters. If anyone looked at the subject honestly, I’d imagine they’d find white working class voters that went both ways and a ton of non-voters, and not because of disgust with the “process,” but because they are so caught up in the inherent stress and precariousness of their own lives to care. And I’m sure some that did care were thwarted by things like not owning a car or not being able to take off work. I try to be charitable with the Frank Rich, J.D. Vance-citing liberals who harp on this stuff, but at a basic level is seems like they are lashing out at people they find incomprehensible and disgusting for an election result they feel the same way about.

    • CP

      I still don’t really get the obsession about white working class voters for Trump.

      It allows people to discuss the Trump phenomenon in terms other than the racism and other prejudice that’s at the root of it, and is for that reason phenomenally popular among a whole host of people.

      • Origami Isopod

        More or less.

        The U.S. started going full wingnut after the civil rights movement, and they went completely bonkers with Obama’s election. That’s really all you need to know. Everything else IMO is a side detail.

      • UncleEbeneezer

        Having conversations about the Not-Racism of things is really what we (Stewie voice:) Hhhwhite People do best.

  • daskraftwerk

    Also available at Powell’s at a reasonable price! Not sure if you get a slice back from Amazon, thought I’d note for those PDXers though!

  • Alworth

    Erik, great post. We here in Oregon are fascinated by the behavior of the counties you mention. It’s instructive to distinguish Southern and Eastern Oregon, which behave differently despite similar Trump margins. The timber counties have really been decimated, and ranching/farming counties (Malheur, Baker, Umatilla), while not flourishing, still maintain their western, extractive industries lifestyle. Another big difference is that Southern Oregon had many poor, Southern immigrants looking for gold in the 19th century and is much more religious than the east, where the immigrants mainly came from the Midwest and plains states.

    One thing I can’t help but notice today is the similarity between Josephine Co voters and Trump voters in the sense of how sprite motivated them. Voting against bonds to fund cops and libraries is an end-stage act of nihilism: let the world burn. So was voting for Trump. Many today are looking at the buffoon in chief and wondering how voters could have chosen this man when this behavior was so obviously already evident. But that’s just the thing: so many voted for him *because* of it.

    Let the world burn…

  • Brien Jackson

    Thinking more on this: One thing that needs WAAAAAAAY more attention than it gets in the “what makes people right-wing wackos” genre is the effects of cognitive dissonance. So much right-wing/American myth making has been demolished post-Reagan, in ways that most people just aren’t capable of dealing with. You can see it right here in what’s probably the most important detail of this story: Most of these people seem to legitimately have no idea how much of their public services budget was picked u by taxes on businesses, and of course this doesn’t square with the belief that America is an incredibly heavily taxed nation. So you either admit you’re wrong about everything, or you develop new working theories about how there would be plenty of money if not for wastefraudnabuse.

  • Matt

    If these fuckers just want to watch the world burn, they should go inside their houses and start one there. They’re like a drowning man who not only will try to drown his rescuer, but who thinks his rescuer is being controlled by a sekrit organization of Jews and reptilian aliens in a plot to turn cows gay.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    The library thing… maybe these folks just aren’t keen on what libraries are about? (Learning, knowledge, reading.) That would account for some of it. Still, those kinds of folks tend to like cops, so I dunno.

    I bet a gun library would be popular! We can’t all afford to own one each of the coolest guns, by why not a gun library where a citizen can borrow a Barret .50 caliber? Especially when Hillary or Obama are visting the nearby big city?

    Folks might be all for government subsidy of that kind of scheme. The public interest and common good would sprout up anew as concepts in their political discourse. ” I hear there’s a Black Lives Matter terrorist march in the city! What do you mean the vintage MG-42 is checked out? Do you have an M-60, then?”

    (In a sense, the National Guard, Army Reserve, and active duty forces are much like this, in that Uncle Sugar can afford so many cooler weapons than a citizen can, but tryant that he and his NCO’s are, there are so many rules and responsibilities involved.)

    My other modest proposal is rural de-electrification. It was a big spending gummint libruhl program in the first place and never should have been done. Tear down the wires and ship them to China for the scrap metal value! Let them buy PV solar panels from China. Within a generation, resentful chip-on-shoulder male country songs will jabber on about how “Ah’m a country boy who can rewire my solar panels’ batteries on a hot summer day, unlike you city froots with your elitist powerplants.”

    • alercher

      What this country really needs are more small-town theater companies, with local talent trained by arts majors deployed across every hill and dale.

      Sure, laugh. The artistic quality of this work might not be high. Some of this mild-mannered cultural revolution might be silly or condescending. But a big problem with resentment is that it is boring. Anything would be better.

      Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump are just bad entertainment. And once people start making theater for themselves, they’ll have to think about it more, and look for better models.

      This suggestion is only partly in jest. My anarchistic inclinations (normally kept in check by so-called reality and other politics) are that much of economic activity is about giving people something to do, and the ruling system is just unimaginative. The arts majors are recruited into advertising.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        You’re onto something! I read (many moooons ago), I think in the Village Voice, a piece about how in the 19th century, mining and timber and frontier towns would recieve travelling Shakespeare productions, and this was normal fare for regular folks … until the elites decided it was too good for the rabble and (I forget mechanism) made it and similar things high-culture only. Hmph. Stoopid history, always making us question our present!

        (If I were at work earlier in the day, and grumpy, I’d work a Juggalo comment into this, but I’m feeling big-hearted. Or tired.)

        Also, our political messages might go down better inside of art (and not hit-you-over-the-head type politicized art) than it does in our more traditional pointing and laughing, pointing and scolding, or my personal favorite, conflict-avoiding shunning.

  • Keaaukane

    Great post, Erik. If you ever get around to doing a book about the decline of Oregon, please also include a section on the criminal justice system. The Oregon voters passed a harsh mandatory minimum sentencing law (Measure 11) in 1994. I have been told that since then, Oregon has not been able to build a single school, because so much money was used up building prisons to house the mandatory minimum criminals.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      A clear-cut exmaple in “In the eyes of the GOP, the teachers union voters vote wrong, cops and prison guards vote right, now watch how the money flows.”

  • postpartisandepression

    It is not complicated – these people have had 8 years of a democratic president who may have rescued the overall economy but was complicit in making sure ALL the benefit went to the top 1%. Banks were rescued, home owners were left to rot and be abused. These voters don’t pay enough attention to the details like the house and then the senate went to republicans during that time because Obama was at the top.

    Sadly Hillary did not run hard enough on the idea that we understand our failure or the idea that we will PUT a stop to ALL the benefits going to the top. Bernie did to some extent and tRump said it even more loudly even though it was a complete lie.

    These are low information voters who have no interest in examining whether a politician is competent enough to actually accomplish anything. It is all about the show anyway and dems fail because they don’t have a Faux News of their own to keep the drumbeat going.

    How will dems overcome this deficit? I do not know. There is a lot of damage to undo with even more to come with the dismantling that is going to occur between now and hopefully only 2019 when a dem congress is sworn in. Heaven help us if he lasts until 2021.

It is main inner container footer text