Sunday, December 01, 2019

Can Bernie Sweep Appalachia Against Trump? Biden, Bloomberg Or Mayo Pete Sure Won't


Let me pick up where we left off early this morning, in the Blue Grass State. Whitesburg, home of the Trillbilly Workers Party podcast, with a population of around 2,000, is the county seat of Letcher County, Kentucky. In 2016 the county was Bernie country. And he didn't just beat Hillary; Bernie got more votes than everyone else running in all parties combined. Here's what happened on primary day:
Bernie: 1,788
Hillary: 838
Trumpanzee: 410
Cruz: 141
Kasich: 84
Don't get the idea this is a Democratic hideaway in a deep red state; it isn't. In fact, once the general election rolled around, with voters being asked to pick between the lesser of two evils, Letcher County looked a lot redder.
Trumpanzee- 7,293 (79.8%)
Hillary- 1,542 (16.9%)
They just wanted change, real change, for their families. Hillary wasn't offering anything but more of the same-- the same way Biden, Bloomberg and Buttigieg are today. At least Trump pretended to offer change, something he betrayed his voters on every which way to Sunday. This year gubernatorial candidate-- and governor-elect Andy Beshear (D) did a lot better than Hillary had across the state, just like he did in Letcher County:
Bevin- 3,089 (52.8%)
Beshear- 2,626 (44.9%)
I'd like to think Beshear's numbers increased so dramatically over Hillary's, at least in part, because of the popular podcast The Trillbilly Workers Party, which CNN described as "a leftist comedy podcast that denounces capitalism, ridicules the Democratic Party and loves Bernie Sanders."
Each week, its three hosts record inside a log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. There is no intro, they just start talking.

"Dolly's the No. 1 most unimpeachable hillbilly. You're a close second," Tom Sexton tells his co-host, Tanya Turner, on a recent episode, referring to Dolly Parton.

"It's true," the third co-host, Tarence Ray, agrees. They then riff on the inadequacy of the Democratic presidential candidates, the inner life of President Donald Trump and a local funeral service at which Turner and her girlfriend were informed "we were going to burn in hell for millions of years."

The Trillbillies, as they call themselves, sit at the intersection of two trends: a podcast boom and a generational divide between older people who are more centrist and young leftists who ridicule them. It's a dynamic most visible on Twitter, and a point of frustration for the Joe Biden campaign.

But Turner, Sexton, and Ray upend expectations about what those young leftists sound like and where they come from.

"We're not as well-read as your average, like, Brooklyn socialists, I don't think," Ray says. (His cabin is stacked with books.) Fans tell them their podcast offers "a kind of really detailed accounting of people living in late capitalism," he adds. "Really, we just wanted to describe what our lives are like here, but more than that, we have an analysis of the country, the way things are, that's informed by our very specific struggles and experiences here ... And I think that it benefits the left at large to hear that perspective."

The podcast, which launched in early 2017, gets more than 100,000 downloads a month, largely from people in Brooklyn, Chicago and San Diego. The Trillbillies think those listeners might be people born in places like Eastern Kentucky, but who moved elsewhere to find jobs. They make about $9,000 a month in donations on Patreon, a site that allows people to donate, like a subscription.

"We're not rich podcasters yet," Ray says.

In practice, their podcasts are full of stories about their lives told through a political lens, punctuated by Turner's wild laugher. In October, their guest was Matt Jones, a Kentucky sports radio host who at the time was flirting with a run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Jones pitched himself as someone able to speak the language of working class people.

"You beat Mitch McConnell, it changes the United States of America. It just does," Jones said. "And in my heart of hearts, I believe I'm the person who could do it."

After the 2016 election, places like Letcher County, Kentucky, were ground zero for the angry white working class voter that, in the conventional wisdom, elected Trump.

"At that time, I feel like a lot of journalists were writing stories where they lived, in big cities, and calling down here to plug in a name," Turner says. "If it were one or two, it would have been funny. But it became increasingly sad and offensive. And of course, we're not new to piss-poor narratives about Appalachia ... but it was a pretty big onload for us to deal with."

Trump won 62.5% of the vote here in 2016. But, Turner notes, her neighbors were not the ones making big donations to his campaign: "His wealth and power is coming from other places."

The three aren't shy about their criticisms of the left, though. They say the Democratic Party, both nationally and locally, has made too many moral compromises. And that those compromises haven't brought them much in return.

"The Kentucky Democratic Party should win awards in losing. Olympic level losers. Absolute gold medal losers," Turner said in a November episode.

The hosts also have contempt for most of the 2020 presidential candidates. Biden is "a cardboard cutout," Tuner says, one that, Sexton adds, "is falling apart before our very eyes." Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is "very far down on the list of good Castros," Ray says. Billionaire Tom Steyer, Ray says, is "part of a rising class of billionaires ... who understand that pitchforks are coming. ... I think he's probably trying to get out in front of it." Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren? "She's a true believer in capitalism," Ray says. Sexton cuts in: "By her own admission!"

Still, they show real affection for Vermont's senator, Sanders. And they say that this, too, is based on their own experiences.

"We are in the unhealthiest congressional district in the country," Turner says. "There's no one here that doesn't support health care for all people. You would have to be a criminal-- an absolute billionaire class sociopath-- to not want the sick and dying people around you in this community and in your family to not have access to quality health care. And very few people here do."
Hal Rogers is the congressman, a Trump enabler who hasn't had a serious reelection challenge since 1992 when he only won with 55%. When Democrats even bother to run someone against him, his win numbers are always in the 60 and 70 percents. It's the reddest district in Kentucky and one of Trump's strongest 3 districts in the whole country. Last year, in an anti-GOP wave election, Rogers beat Democrat Kenneth Stepp 172,093 (78.9%) to 45,890 (21.1%). Rogers sept all 30 counties. Letcher performed for him as an R+54. So far there isn't a Democratic candidate willing to run against Rogers although a progressive independent, Billy Hibbitts is giving it a shot and running on the kind of Bernie platform Kentucky Democrats have foolishly been afraid of.

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At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...a shot and running on the kind of Bernie platform Kentucky Democrats have foolishly been afraid of."

Considering what a corrupt disaster the Democratic Party is, I hope we see a lot more of this independent-like campaigning by progressives, because Bernie has proven that it's possible to run a well-funded campaign without resorting to taking money from big donors.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, that town is Whitesburg, not Whitesberg.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

coupla things:

if you were to name a county that was to be religiously for trump, Letcher would be the perfect name

"(Letcher county) just wanted change, real change, for their families."
Well, competing things here: Maybe they did know that $hillbillary was never going to be the catalyst for any change whatsoever. But they thought that trump's change would HELP THEM?!?!?
Were they smarter than democrap voters? Or were they dumber than shit? Could it be both?

We'll see next November. If they pick trump again, they're dumber than shit and/or just plain Nazis.

The podcast and its tri-hosts sound interesting though.

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


One thing I've heard from several sources, although I can't verify that they aren't sharing information, is that many people who voted for Trump weren't worried about Trump actually DOING anything for them. They just wanted to bring down the entire system, which they saw as only serving elitists against common folk like them.

At 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no explaining the thoughts MAGAts, 9:59. They clearly aren't capable of thinking. Trump controls them by manipulating their emotional hatred, and gets what he wants in return.


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