Reporting in From Trump Country
I live in Darke county, Ohio. In 2004, Darke county voted for Bush, who got 69.5% of the vote. In 2008, it voted for McCain, who got 66.9% of the vote. In 2012, it voted for Romney, who got 71%.
So you may not be surprised when I tell you the area in which I live is heavily tilted toward Trump in this election, and when November 8 rolls around, I expect him to win my county handily, likely gathering something like 70% of the vote.
Do I live among idiots? No. I live among wonderful people who will clear your driveway when it snows and watch your pets when you go away, who love and care for their friends and families, who are decent people in their day-to-day lives and are folks I am proud to call neighbors. Most of them will vote differently than I do in this election. They do not live differently than I do. Our lives in Darke county are rather more in common than they are different.
But they are voting for Trump! And he’s awful! Yes, he is; as I’ve noted before, he’s manifestly the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory. He’s also up against the second-least popular presidential candidate ever (after Trump himself), whom the GOP and their allies have spent decades denigrating, who even her supporters must realistically acknowledge is not overbrimming with public-facing charm, who has a raft of policy and social ideas that don’t play expansively well in a county that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Washington as its representative since the Great Depression.
This isn’t to excuse Trump or the GOP. I wish my neighbors had both a better presidential candidate to support and a better party to field that candidate, one that (in my opinion) better represented the area’s generally conservative but essentially pragmatic nature. I think Darke county is the sort of place that the GOP has been gulling for years, relying on its appeal to the area’s social conservatism to push through policies that don’t help the locals at all. There aren’t a whole lot of one percenters around here to benefit from the fiscal and economic policies the GOP (and Trump) want to promote, and particularly in the case of Trump, the people here, reliant on farming and manufacturing, have a lot to lose.
It is to recognize that the Democratic party in general hasn’t gone out of its way to make places like Darke county a priority. The local Democratic party’s outreach, as far as I can see, is a single tent once a year at the county fair; the biannual Democratic candidate for OH-8 (when there is one; there hasn’t always been) gets little if any support from the national or state parties as far as I can see. Pragmatically it makes sense to cede the district; there’s only so much money to go around. But on the other hand it might be a little hypocritical for me or anyone else to criticize the locals for voting for the GOP — even when it has a historically awful candidate, who no one should vote for — when the GOP is the only political party that’s showing up in a real and significant way.
Darke county isn’t going away — its population and demographics (97.5% white) have been remarkably stable for decades. It will likely always be a conservative area; so long as the GOP exists and at least nominally represents conservatism, it will like vote for the GOP and its presidential candidates. What will be interesting to see is how it, and the places like it, will handle the inexorable shift of the nation from white and conservative to multicultural and, if not entirely liberal, at least liberalish. It is of course already happening. This is very likely to be the third presidential election in a row where Darke county’s preferred candidate didn’t make it to the White House. Given the direction of the national demographics, it might be a while before one does.