No Markos, people in Appalachia don’t deserve to die

Markos Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos, the largest progressive community blog in the United States. Daily Kos is so large, in fact, it can house Markos’ enormous sense of entitlement which has apparently grown to planetary proportions since the election of Herr Trump.

On Monday Markos published a breathtakingly offensive post called, Be happy for coal miners losing their health insurance. They’re getting exactly what they voted for.” It’s a short four paragraphs citing a New York Times infographic on the voting patterns of non-college educated, and coal-country heartlanders.

Markos doesn’t hide his contempt for those who choose a non-college route, but this is also about these non-college educated folks not voting for his candidate. Because they voted wrongly, they deserve to die. Here’s a quote: “…don’t feel sorry for the ones who enabled this nightmare by voting for the incoming Trump-Putin administration. For example, why should we weep for the retired coal miners who will now lose their health insurance thanks to the GOP majority—despite the best efforts of coal-state Democrats to change the outcome? Yes, this will be a terrible outcome for a group of people who have really drawn a shitty lot in life. But how sorry should we be for this crowd? Coal country swung hard for Donald Trump, winning 70 to 80 percent of the vote in some of these counties…Don’t weep for these coal miners…They are getting exactly the government that they voted for. Democrats can no longer offer unrequited love and cover for them. And isn’t this what democracy is all about? They won the election! This is what they wanted!”

So let’s unpack this.

Punching down at all people who live in coal country is not a rational progressive stance that anyone should take seriously, and Markos is a fool and a charlatan for saying any such thing in public. With this one shot, he’s lost all claim at being a progressive leader, and just needs to go write some code for his website and stay out of public view for a few years.

First off, he conveniently forgets that coal country in general, and West Virginia in particular voted for Bernie Sanders like he was the second coming of Christ (and you know how serious these folks are about Christ). Sanders won West Virginia 51.4% to Clinton’s 35.8%. That’s a 15.6% advantage. Sanders won these voters by talking about the economic reality people face in the devastated Appalachian heartland. Sure, insurance is a concern. But it’s nothing if you don’t have a doctor within a day’s drive, or worse, you don’t have a job to be able to afford the co-pays. Once Hillary won the primary, many of those Sanders voters either moved to Trump or stayed home because she simply didn’t present a credible economic message to the heartland. We have to fix this, not just in terms of messaging, but in terms of policy. It’s unsustainable that all jobs go to only college graduates. Sanders presented solutions that appealed to heartlanders, proving they would happily vote for Democrats that aren’t neoliberal. Had Hillary put Sanders on the ticket West Virginia might have swung differently. Had the DNC not kept their giant thumb on the scale for HRC, all the polling showed Sanders would have beat Trump. All of this is conveniently forgotten in the red mist generated by Markos’ animus for heartlanders.

Second, I spent enough time in the Appalachian mountains (20 years) to understand that “people with college degrees” aren’t the only people who count, but this is tragically lost on elite progressives like Markos. During the campaign Chuck Schumer famously said that for every blue collar worker lost in western Pennsylvania coal country, Hillary Clinton will pick up three college-educated, suburban Republicans in the eastern part of the state. Good lord, do we also need a roadmap to find our elbows in the dark? We’re counting on losing solid democrats and picking up republicans? This is exactly how we lost Millennials, FDR-Dems, and Sanders independents. And what’s up with the calculus here? Schumer would much rather have rich Republicans than working-class Democrats. How predictable from the Senator from Wall Street, but what’s sad is this is reflective of all establishment Democrats, not just Schumer.

Just in case it needs to be repeated: I need my party to work toward my policies and priorities — not the policies and priorities suburban, college-educated Republican soccer mom who sends her kids to private school. That’s why so many people stayed home nationwide.

How many times did Hillary go to coal country and talk about lost jobs? According to her campaign surrogate, Chuck Schumer, they didn’t matter. That’s now confirmed by a giant of the “progressive establishment” who insists that they are beneath contempt, and deserve to die.

We have to fix this, because we’ll never win another election if we don’t, and I’d argue we wouldn’t deserve to win again if we don’t.  

Here’s a story to illustrate. When I first started organizing I did a little fundraiser called “Party for Peace” at a music venue called The Down Home in Johnson City, Tennessee. I got some bands and speakers. It snowed, so it was a worst case scenario for turnout, but people showed up anyhow, because that’s how we rolled in Johnson City.

The venue was run by a partnership of older guys, some had served in Vietnam and some had “served in the arts.” They had been running The Down Home “Picking Parlor” for many years to showcase mountain music, and had recently opened it up to electric bands.

In between bands I agitated on the issue of nuclear disarmament, because that’s how long ago it was, during the Cold War and Reagan administration. I talked about how much we spent on building warheads, and how much that money would buy in terms of education and heathcare.

I wanted everyone to reach out to their representatives and remarked that we have to work smarter, because look, “some folks don’t even know how many Senators we send to Washington.” It’s two. It’s one of those smarty-pants college kid things you say that’s meant to elicit gasps from your in-the-know compatriots — “oh my god there’s people who don’t know this!”

My smarty-pants illustration had no place in the context of the audience I was speaking to, because of course there’s people who don’t know that. Let’s not be a dick about it. But I was too young and stupid to know that the reason my room was somewhat full when it was SNOWING outside was because of the folks who didn’t go to college. THEY were the ones who drank a bottle of whatever and rounded up their buddies to come see their favorite band.

I finished my rap and went to the bar for a soda (underage), one of the Vietnam vets said to me in a big Sam Elliott voice, “I don’t know how many Senators we send to Washington, but I damn well care about what happens to that mountain up there.” God, I felt like an idiot.

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-10-36-55-pmRight up the road in the county next-door was Nuclear Fuel Services, a plant that supposedly converted spent nuclear fuel rods into usable fuel, somehow or other, that didn’t have to be buried in the ground. It makes no sense to me. Every so often the news carried stories about mysterious fires breaking out around the plant, and flocks of birds falling from the sky. Also, there were bizarre killings 20 years apart at a place called “Beauty Spot” which happened to be where the flock of birds fell from the sky, but that’s another story.

My point is, coal country is isolated and people famously mind their own business. It’s actually misleading to call it “coal country” because there’s a diversity of “dirty” industry up there. The Appalachians are dotted with nuclear and chemical factories, and they aren’t attracted to the boonies because of the views or the sweet mountain air. They come for the seclusion and corruption. Folks have died up there for generations — either from running moonshine or drinking contaminated water — and no one cared.

I doubt Markos is aware of that history, which is sad because it might help humanize the hill people to him. Maybe if he knew about the suffering the area has traditionally endured, he could shed a tear for people dying lack of healthcare under Trump, or Obama, or whoever. It’s not been good for anyone up there under any administration. That’s why it was easy for them to vote for Trump.

It’s unfortunate that Markos “showed his ass” as my mother-in-law would say. In that little rant, he painted a picture of himself that reveals a person who couldn’t care less about anyone outside of his highly educated, Democratic-voting tribe. It’s a shame because that’s not the progressivism he’s supposed to represent. That’s punching down, and it’s what bullies like Trump do.

So let’s stop and take a deep breath. Voters are in pain, which makes them vulnerable to being conned. They don’t deserve contempt. They need understanding and guidance. Those providing it will need to have credibility. Markos has a long, hard row to hoe before he cultivates that kind of trust again.

13 comments

  1. Greg Olson · · Reply

    At what point do you think people who rant about personal responsibility, should take take personal responsibility? I’m 61. My state has been getting back around 70 cents for every dollar paid to the Federal government for decades. The Appalachian states often double their benefits and more for every dollar paid in. I have no sympathy for these folks who spend what little money they have on guns, while I supply their food and medicine. The guys that hunt on my place are ironworkers and they see a lot of transient ironworkers from the south. They have had to fire all of them. Apparently it’s OK to curl up and nap on the job down there.

    1. Fisher Fleming · · Reply

      Geographic bigotry is a pretty unwarranted generalization. “Southerners are lazy?” As for federal funding, it tends to flow from high-income states to lower ones, yes, but it would ridiculous to conclude that it’s some kind of inherent superiority of the actual people in one state or the other. No different or better grounded than racism really.

      1. Barbara Dunn, JD · ·

        Thank you for some rationality on this. He really is off the deep end here. Many complex reasons for red state voting, but not this simplistic nonsense.
        I’m now in a purple state, but am an umpteenth generation Southerner w/ many RevWar ancestors who fought to establish this country.
        Remember that no state is monolithic, most red states are only ab 60-40% or 65-35% red.. So we just disregard the 35-40% of those Southern Americans
        who are progressives? That is ridiculous thinking. Also ridiculous and unthinkably cruel to want to deny health benefits to fellow Americans. We are NOT Paul Ryan, et al.

      2. I guess you don’t live in the real world, Greg.

    2. Barbara Dunn, JD · · Reply

      Down there? What patronizing BS.

    3. Down there? What patronizing BS.

  2. HE is 100% CORRECT they WILL be getting EXACTLY what they voted for, if they do die, so what, it was their choice. I no longer have any empathy for any one in the red sates, the south or mid west, they will ALL get exactly what they voted fro by voting for the GOP, DEATH.

  3. Well as someone from the coal field areas, I understand the frustration of what happened in this election of people voting against their own interests. But people here generally believe in what a person says, take someone at their word and then hold them accountable.The reason they voted for Bernie in the primaries is because they liked his message of change in Washington, which Trump picked right up on that SAME language and started spewing even as he was lying through his teeth. HRC didn’t say a word against the Washington establishment of which they saw her embedded in.

    It was the DNC not realizing this and just the whole way they handled the primary that turned many away. You can tout that uneducated crap all you want to…I saw many educated powerful people here in the mountains go from supporting Bernie to voting for Trump. Yes we do need more education here but not everyone is without a degree or to know which side their bread is buttered on.

    We are people who once supported unions in droves but unfortunately…I don’t think they were ready for HRC as president, especially one they saw her as part of the elite of Washington politics they have endured under for YEARS. which they want changed and no part of anymore and the message they heard about HRC ALL over the airwaves was about putting miners out of work soundbite. The marketing team they had hit a home run here and I can bet they did in the rust belt too, with a different message.

    It really hit home on a pain level that we are really hurting from because of coal’s demise. We were already starving and dying before this election and have been ignored for decades. Even when they heard the whole speech they didn’t believe the rest of the message. they did not believe HRC, who has been a part of Washington for decades too, would go against energy companies either. Trump touted himself as an outsider. But I believe many voted because they wanted as different as they could get from what is in Washington. Many just stayed home because they are sick of the whole process.Throw a grenade into the election and see what change happens.

    Sad thing is we KNOW all about how bad coal is. We know it will not last forever here and how bad it is for us, for the environment, for everything…But it’s what we have developed, it’s all our leaders have bent over for and developed and it fed a few of us for generations. Plus it’s political on a local level like you would not believe. Speak against coal is a shunning here that can prevent you from getting any job that is available, because of the power the energy companies have over our local governments and businesses. The only way I can speak out about it now is because I’m getting old, am sick and disabled and can’t work.

    The only bright lining about this…we hold people accountable for lying to us, in our own way and in our own time. DNC should work on the next mid term elections with this knowledge instead of telling us how stupid we are. P.S. I didn’t vote for Der Gropenfurher. I voted for HRC because Bernie said to change the DNC from within….well DNC you want to win…get to changing.

  4. Mr. Moulitsis evidently thinks that ALL health care originates with socialist government policy, and is provided thereby. His obvious bitter, sore loser attitude shows his lack of real-world experience in the American work-place, and that the American economy, if unleased, makes government-funded health care essentially unnecessary to all those willing to work. That Appalachia is populated by those who simply want to be allowed to work, rather than be taken care of by Big Brother from cradle to grave, seems to escape his limited vision of reality. May he find solice in his poison pen writings, and find compassion for those he obviously disagrees with, politically.

  5. […] leftist elites might feel it is not worth engaging this population – some like Markos Moulitsas might simply want them to die. But others feel despite the disadvantage Democrats have on cultural issues with those in rural, […]

  6. Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing.

  7. […] the wake of electoral embarrassment in November, elite Democrats doubled-down. Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas editorialized  that we should “be happy for coal miners losing their health insurance. They’re getting […]

  8. […] Since inauguration it’s been taken as gospel that racist white working class folks elected Trump. Let’s at least be honest. We haven’t been the least bit interested in courting their votes. The narrative has been the opposite. I was a Daily Kos gathering this spring where it was taken for granted that white working class Trump voters “are not worth our time,” and we should “never knock on their doors again.” Another suggested they be taken out of the VAN, because if you don’t see them, I suppose they will cease to exist. Liberal leaders have even described about how white working class folks deserve to die from lack of healthcare.  […]

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