I grew up in York, Pennsylvania, a small city in the south-central region of the state with a population of around 45,000. I lived in the city itself, right near the city border in a working-class/low-income neighborhood.
York is a racially-diverse blue island in a sea of deep red. My neighborhood includes white folks (a strong Pennslyvania German flavor), Black folks, Hispanic folks, Greek folks (Greeks immigrated to York in the 70s-80s) and a small population of Asians. At one end of the tiny two-house street I grew up on was a housing project, on the other end a “political” (read: drinking) club that is to this day whites-only. Such is the conundrum that is my hometown, a place that I both love and am perplexed by in equal doses.
You may have heard of U.S. Representative and Enthusiastic Trump Toady Scott Perry. He recently had a bit more spotlight cast on him due to the January 6 commission revealing Thursday night that he sought out a pardon for his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. He is the representative for my hometown area, from a little town in my home county, Dillsburg.
I do not follow my hometown’s politics as closely as I once did, but I do know the baseline environment that elected someone like Perry. As I mentioned, York is a reliably blue island for Democrats surrounded by Republicans. The particular brand of conservatism practiced in York County has long been uniquely racist, delusion, mean-spirited, paranoid, and very difficult to explain to people properly. One example I used to give was my father leaving a bar the night John F. Kennedy was shot. The reason? The bartender said drinks were on the house because that Catholic bastard was dead and the Pope no longer runs the country.
Yes, it really is that scary.
It is easier now to explain it, given Trump. Trump is sort of an avatar for them, so I tell people that York County conservatives were sort of proto-MAGAs. Perry’s district doesn’t include just York County, of course. It stretches well north of Harrisburg and encompasses multiple counties. And it doesn’t even include all of my home county.
But he fits the region well. Perry’s district used to be the 4th District, which used to be the 19th District, as it went through a series of redrawing, including in 2018 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared the state’s district map an unconstitutional gerrymander.
Prior to Perry, the county was represented by Todd Platts, a relatively moderate Republican who broke from his party over SCHIP and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Prior to him, it was a classic old-boy nepotismfest. Bill Goodling, who might be only notable to a political junkie for being nailed in the 1992 House banking scandal, was the Congresscreature of my childhood, elected in 1974 and serving until 2002, and before that, his poppa George Goodling served since the early 1960s.
But really, Perry is the ideal representative of the style of conservative that lurks in the suburbs and rural enclaves of my home county. In my hometown, you can find a mean mofongo at a Puerto Rican restaurant in York, attend a Greek festival or soul food festival, and see Amish folks on buggies in the southeastern part of the county. The surrounding countryside is beautiful. But it also includes some of the worst type of racist, paranoid, and potentially violent politics you can find in America.
And Scott Perry is their hero. May he soon be their fallen hero.
The last word goes to a York County native, Del McCoury, who is an example of something much better than Scott Perry that comes out of York County.