Lissa Lucas, Frank Rich And The “Hillbilly” Vote


You may recall last month when Lissa Lucas, a woman running for state delegate in West Virginia, was blocked from speaking before the state assembly when she began naming state politicians who who are funded by the oil and gas industries. Lucas, who was trying to mount opposition to a proposed bill that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on private land, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates, as is Jason Harshbarger in the Republican primary.

Lucas raised some $45,000 when video of her brief appearance before the assembly went viral. But she’s unlikely to win the seat because it’s a heavily GOP district, and Harshbarger is solidly allied with the local district rulers such as the energy industry and the pro-gun lobby

(As are most state delegates, as this VICE story noted. A few days before Lucas was dragged from the podium, Just days before the public hearing, lawmakers mingled at  a whiskey tasting event hosted by the Shale Gas Alliance.)

Lucas has supported the West Virginia teachers’ strike and has a variety of interesting positions, as seen on her Facebook page. She’s also got a blog, where she wrote a great reply to a 2017 story by Frank Rich in New York, “No Sympathy for the Hillbilly.”

In it, Rich lamented the “outbreak of Hillbilly Chic” among some Democrats, who he said were wasting too much time trying to find common ground with the “Trumpentariat,” a process he described as “self-righteous slumming.”

It’s reminiscent of a number of stories by liberal pundits and writers that have come out since Trump’s election in which rural voters are dismissed as idiots and more or less told that if Trump’s policies end up impoverishing them — as they ultimately surely will as more and more of the national income heads to the top end of the pyramid and business regulations are eradicated — they’ll be getting what they deserve. “Let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests,” Rich wrote. “They’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether.”

“If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters,” Rich added.

Hey, sounds like a great strategy, not to mention incredibly immoral. Lucas’s view is that Trump supporters actually don’t want to be poisoned by industry and might be open to anti-corporate policies.

In her reply, “Screw You, Frank Rich,” Lucas wrote:

I’m a progressive here in rural WV, and—bless your smug little heart—you’re sure doing a great job of helping our local coal and frack baron oligarchs with your cockalorum, er, erudite commentaries.

Um, let’s take your blatherskite curious statement above and break it down:

1/ Outreach and identity politics: You seem to recognize the importance of outreach to other demographics, but regard outreach to what you’re calling hillbillies as “a fool’s errand.” Let me make what should be an obvious point: reaching out to segments of white voters is not “cater[ing] to white-identity politics” any more than reaching out to segments of black voters is catering to black identity politics. It is, in fact, important to show how your political philosophy will benefit all of us, even those you consider hillbillies. When you don’t make that case, you lose votes. Can this really be a surprise to you?

2/ Name-calling: “Hillbilly,” huh? So how exactly, do you define a hillbilly? Try writing an article expressing the opinion that there should be no sympathy for ~insert gender/racial/sexual orientation/national origin/religious etc. -based epithet here~ and let me know how that goes over. I genuinely don’t get why it’s okay to attack Appalachians with ugly stereotypes when you know better than to do so in any other case.

3/Math. Neither major party candidate won a majority. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, and about 2 percentage points. But almost 20% of Trump voters chose him reluctantly. (Hint: some of those reluctant voters were “hillbillies.”) There are certainly folks whose votes won’t be changed by outreach; there always will be. But you want to discourage reaching out to “hillbillies” in general? Being a hillbilly makes you unreachable by definition, is that it?

4/ Values. You’re actually claiming the moral high ground at the same time you’re embracing oppressive stereotypes and saying we “hillbillies” should reap our consequences and die from “industrial poisons.” Have you not a single shred of self-awareness? You ask “why do they hate us” and go on to embody the answer in possibly the most odious way you could manage with your keyboard.

Read the whole thing here. It’s a little dated, but well worth a look.



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