Understanding Trump Counties

newspaper-adGranted, I can only speak to my experience living inside a Trump County as a progressive, but the Trump mindset is unique. Over the course of my 50 years inside Preble County, I’ve watched a thriving community plummet into the pitfalls of poverty — complete with high levels of foreclosures, a rising jail population and a drug epidemic that began decades ago with meth. Our local economy, once driven by ‘mom and pop’ businesses, became Anytown, USA as national chains invaded and crushed locally-owned enterprises.

Posts About My Trump County

Preble County’s most prolific writer is unknown here. Could it be because the 1955 Eaton High School graduate is gay and is known as the ‘godfather of modern gay fiction?’ I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes. In this rural community anyone who does not adhere to our mores and values is often dismissed and forgotten. >>Read more about Victor J. Banis.

Fear And Ignorance Rules
Clermont County, where I occasionally hike, is another strong Trump County. It is also where I was exposed to some good, old-fashioned White Supremacy. But Ohio is home to 35 hate groups, placing us ninth in the nation. God Bless ‘Merica! Read more >>>

We Need A Savior!
Preble County is a one-party town, but that doesn’t prevent the local GOP from preaching to the choir on their Facebook page. A recent look at the memes they post show there is little to no local influence or local original thought in how to solve our problems. Instead the local party seems to be waiting on a political messiah to clean up our mess. Read more >>>

Trump’s Rich, He Doesn’t Care About Health Care
For one Preble County man a much-needed health care procedure was postponed a year so he could adjust his employer-sponsored health care plan. The man, a college-educated employee at one of our ‘better’ employees, further explained that Trump just isn’t overly concerned about the plight of ordinary people and their health care needs. Read More >>>

How Did We Become So Fearful?
Books like American Panic sheds some much needed light on our country’s obsessive fear. In Preble we are mostly white, high-school educated protestants and as Panic shows we are the perfect vehicle for  a litany of fear. In Preble County, we love Jesus and Stand with Israel but we are still plagued with blight areas and a drug epidemic. Read more >>>

Truth Is, I Think Trump Sold Us Out
As I spend this year listening and learning from a broader base inside Preble County, many of the comments I hear from those who voted for Trump suggests some buyer’s remorse. But many of them still say, at least he’s not Hillary. Read more >>>

Tag You’re It

In our current political chaos, we have created a society where a bully voice wins. And the louder someone yells or the more outrageous their claims, the more power we give them through air time or page views. This has also led to a ‘tag you’re it’ blame game. The game is hardly new, just refined, but it always plays out the same. Read more >>>

Foreclosures High, Employment Options Low
After reading a quote from a local gatekeeper that asserted we have the ‘greatest workforce’ I looked into whether it was an accurate statement. What I found was limited job options and a hiring practice that, because of our heroin epidemic, may be preventing those wanting a ‘new start’ from finding gainful employment. In the process, I also discovered we have not solved our home foreclosure problem. Read more >>>

Modern Definition Of Town Hall Meeting Indicative of Political Dysfunction
My Congressman held a town hall meeting — well sort of. It was more of an echo chamber, sponsored by the Tea Party, designed to push home the Party’s latest thrust to repeal the ACA. The problem is in Ohio, and in Preble County where I live, repealing the ACA will exasperate our heroin problem. Read more >>>

Is Heroin Epidemic Destroying Our Workforce?
When gatekeepers say we have a ‘great workforce’ is it a realistic look at what is happening inside the county? Or could it be a ‘if we don’t say it, it’s not real,’ head-in-the-sand approach to politicking — one that perpetuates the problem by not addressing it? Read more >>>

That Time A Jury In My Rural County Set A Rapist Free
Ohio ranks 17th (2014 data) in the nation with 32 rapes per 100,000 people — a rate nearly 20 percent higher than the national average. Ohio has also been the source for some of the most notorious rape cases garnering national attention, like Brock Turner and Steubenville and our legislators struggle with something as basic as creating commonsense laws. Read more >>>

Making Preble County Great Again
I pondered the national political chaos as I read about the ‘state of the county,’ an annual presentation given by local political leaders. Since I live in a Trump county the slant here is obvious. So are our problems. They mirror the problems other Trump Counties face: which, in general, is a lack of adequate funds. Read more >>>

Books To Read

Although the goal of this list is to help those seeking to understand the current political debacle, some of these books are worth reading to understand the United States in general. Others focus on problems specific to small towns and small town politics.

General Understanding

Albion’s Seed. Few books have enlightened me as much as this one. It is not an easy read — very dense and heavily footnoted — but it provides an in-depth look at the four British American colonies that, by and large, launched the United States. The book examines the various folkways of each of the colonies and, in many ways, helps explain the Red-Blue divide that exists in our country today.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. This is another great book to broaden understanding of our country’s inception. When I first delved into studying American history, I naively presumed that all the colonies were the same — and that there was one country (Great Britain) competing with Native Americans to own this land. American Nations explains all the various cultures competing for dominance.

Small Town, America

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. I prefer to read scholarly books when possible (as opposed to reading drivel on social media) and the author of Our Kids — a Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard — is highly knowledgeable. He is also the product of a small Ohio town similar in size to mine. As he notes in the book’s opening, his hometown in the 1950s, Port Clinton (pop. 6,500 in the 50s) was the ‘passable embodiment of the American Dream.’ Today it is not. He explains why.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. My section of the country has a strong connection with the Virginia colony examined in Albion’s Seed. This means the values and mores here are largely those of individuals described as ‘waste people’ in White Trash. What this book effectively does is addressing the myth that America is a society without a class structure by demonstrating how this segment of our society has been exploited and manipulated throughout most of our history.

Wrapped in the Flag. Few symbols evoke as much emotion as the American flag and Claire Conner knows a thing or two about what it means to be a ‘real American.’ Raised from her youth by John Birch Society regional leaders the story of Wrapped is her journey from ultra-conservativism to a more balanced understanding of what it really means to be a human — and an American. It’s an excellent book for those wanting to examine the obsession with ‘God, Guns and Glory,’ that exists in many parts of the country.

The End of White Christian America. Besides the flag, few elements of life evoke more passion than the belief that Christianity will save the country and the world. However, as this book notes, White Christians are on the brink of becoming a minority as America becomes increasingly diverse.

Hillbilly Elegy. This New York Times bestseller was written by a man raised just 30 minutes south of my hometown. In his youth he lived, for a short time, in Preble County. My Congressman apparently relies on him as a ‘rising scholar,’ concerning Appalachian-connected people. Although the book is labeled as the one to read to understand the Trump win, I don’t agree. It feels a little too ‘Horatio Alger’ for that. However, it is a nice snapshot of one ‘working poor’ family’s experience of lack in the land of plenty.

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town. This book explains the societal conditions, public policy, American values, and business environment that brought the meth crisis to America’s small towns. My hometown has been dealing with meth (and now heroin) for more than two decades.

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