Meanwhile, many people who in fact most use and need social benefits are simply not voting at all. Voter participation is low among the poorest Americans, and in many parts of the country that have moved red, the rates have fallen off the charts. West Virginia ranked 50th for turnout in 2012; also in the bottom 10 were other states that have shifted sharply red in recent years, including Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
In the spring of 2012, I visited a free weekend medical and dental clinic run by the organization Remote Area Medical in the foothills of southern Tennessee. I wanted to ask the hundreds of uninsured people flocking to the clinic what they thought of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, whose fate was about to be decided by the Supreme Court.
I was expecting a “What’s the Matter With Kansas” reaction — anger at the president who had signed the law geared to help them. Instead, I found sympathy for Mr. Obama. But had they voted for him? Of course not — almost no one I spoke with voted, in local, state or national elections. Not only that, but they had barely heard of the health care law.
Nobody is talking to them. Nobody. I’m goddamn sick of hearing the condescending crap that poor white people vote against their own best interests. NO THEY DON’T. They don’t vote, period, because nobody has made them a priority. Not Republicans and not Democrats who are trying to act like Republicans, not for the last 40 years at least. Nobody has given a shit about these people since RFK and we’re gonna sit here and talk about how they’re just too dumb to know they’re going to get screwed? Thank you, no.
Where exactly are they supposed to get their information, by the way? If these people have been abandoned by politicians they’ve also been abandoned by news organizations that are supposed to be making a good faith effort to inform them. Who covers poor communities? I used to do it and I’ll tell you who does it: No one. Unless there’s a shooting, a convenient lesson to package up as a cautionary tale for scared rich suburbanites, no one covers the poorest communities in America. There’s no advertising to be sold there, no subscriptions, and certainly nobody there is signing up for the newest hyperlocal app, so fuck those places and those people, they don’t deserve the news.
This ignorance isn’t about anything other than we threw these people out and we get mad that they don’t care about what we care about. It’s nonsense. When is the last time a presidential candidate spoke to them? When is the last time a campaign put resources where it never had before and got poor people to vote? When is the last time anyone fought for them?
I mean it. When?