Being raised in Southern Ohio, the northern part of Appalachia, you are a witness to a lot of words, phrases, and actions that are not common to a lot of America. For example, you do not wash your clothes, you “warsh” them, cantaloupe is called “Mushmellon”, if you live in a valley, you actually live in a “holler”, and “howdy” is how you generally greet somebody, at least in my family. Though the rest of America may make fun of us for the way we talk or act, there are some things that people may forget about us: we take pride in what we believe. God, guns, and family are key values to what make up the pride we take in where we come from.
Our mindset is that a person must work hard for what they want. In Appalachia, coal mining is the main source of income. If your family heritage is from an area of Appalachia, chances are that someone in your family has worked in a coal mine. During the rise of industry and expanded use of natural resources, the whole country relied on coal to produce power. For this reason and businesses taking advantage of its employees and especially child labor, labor unions were created on behalf of the workers. Historically, democrats have been the “pro-union” party and workers’ rights and republicans have been the “anti-union” party with policies limiting collective bargaining and other negotiations that labor unions utilize. This has influenced the way voters in the Appalachian region vote.
In almost every presidential election until 1976, the voters in the Appalachian region consistently voted for the Democratic nominee for President. This is because of the democratic party’s view of unions. After 1976, the ideologies of the parties started to spread farther and farther apart. The parties became focused a lot more on social issues rather than economic issues. One thing about Democrats in the Appalachian region are that even though they consider themselves Democrats, they are strong social conservatives. This goes back to our pride in God, guns, and family. The Democratic Party started leaning more towards secular policy and gun control, and clean energy policies and they began to lose a lot of voters in the Appalachian region.
“We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” -Hillary Clinton
However, probably the biggest shift we have seen in the Appalachian region concerning parties comes in the 2016 presidential election. With the Democratic Party leaning more towards clean energy policies because of their outcry of climate change, that threatens a lot of families in the region. Hillary Clinton, who was the Democratic Nominee for President, at a rally in West Virginia in March of 2016, said that her administration would put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business. That’s the wrong thing to say when you are trying to campaign in a state where the main income is coal, don’t you think? Apparently HRC did not think so. It angered people so much that she was not even welcome to visit some cities in the state. Officials in Logan, West Virginia were contacted about hosting a Clinton rally. They responded with this answer: “Mrs. Clinton’s anti-coal messages are the last thing our suffering town needs at this point. The policies that have been championed by people like Mrs. Clinton have all but devastated our fair town, and honestly, enough is enough. We wish them the best in their campaign, however we again state they are not welcome on our city’s properties.” Turns out, the people of West Virginia voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election, ironically enough.
In my own county of Ohio, Pike County, there was a huge shift in parties for the general election. Ever since the end of the Civil War in 1865, there has been more registered Democrats in the county than Republicans. In 2016, that changed. We had more registered Republicans than Democrats, which shows how people feel the Democratic Party had left them behind in 2016. If you ask people around here why they switched parties or did not vote for Hillary Clinton, the most common answer you’ll get is that she wanted to take away their job or that they could not trust her, and I agree with them. Do not campaign in an area when you pledge to take away everything they have. Not a smart move, Mrs. Clinton.
Though there are still a lot of problems in Appalachia, we are proud of who we are and where we come from. No matter what party or ideology, if you threaten to take away the very things we find value in or love, you will lose our support and I believe that is what the Democratic Party learned in the 2016 election. Appalachia is a place where we care deeply for our neighbors, we love God, and we love our guns. Take that away, and there is nothing. That is why Republicans and conservative values now control the core of Appalachia, when it used to be the Democrats, although I do not see that coming back anytime soon.