Like many of you I watched the other day as a man who no one had ever heard of testified in front of the House January 6th Committee. His name was Stephen Ayres.
To look at him you’d think nothing much about him. If there was a category called Average American I think he’d probably fit it. Hard working guy from the Midwest with a wife and kids. Probably a good husband, dad, friend. Goes out with his buds for a beer after work and a hunting trip every fall. Never really thought about politics till his favored candidate lost the election in 2020.
And that’s where things changed. I have to admit I am kind of fascinated by him. The people who egged him on to come to Washington for the January 6th “rally” I know about and I think I understand their motivations (they wanted to hang on to power). But the people who heeded the call, those are the ones I’m interested in finding more about.
And to do that I think you have to look at where Stephen Ayres comes from.
It’s called Trumbull County in Ohio.
Trumbull is in the upper northeast section of Ohio, literally minutes away from the Pennsylvania border. It is more than predominately white, 87% in fact. I would guess, though I can’t say for sure, that any resident who favors a taste of Mexican food thinks of Taco Bell or Chipolte as scratching that itch.
From 1950-1970 Trumbull exploded in population, rising 72% as good factory jobs and their assorted ancillary positions brought thousands to the county. The population peaked at around 250,000 in 1970 and since then has slowly declined to the point where now it is home to approximately 196,000 folks.
Welcome to the Rust Belt where good paying union jobs left and never came back.
The median average household income is $48,000 per year. The rest of Ohio has a median average household income of $58,000 per year. In 2016 the median average household income was $48,000 so it never really changed during the Trump years.
Up until 2016 Trumbull was a reliably Democratic area. Then along came Donald Trump who claimed to speak for all the little people of America while at the same time claiming to be in the 1% of richest Americans. He told Trumbull that their lot in life was the fault of “crooked Hilary Clinton” and kept pounding that into them till he ended up winning Trumbull county by 6% in the 2016 election. This helped him win Ohio and thus the Electoral College. In 2020 he increased his margin to 10% in Trumbull.
So for those who ask themselves “why did these people believe the Big Lie?”, remember the Big Lie was just the end product of the Slightly Smaller Lies that Trump told since he first got into the presidential race. If you believed Hilary was a crook, if you believed it was a perfectly fine phone call, if you believed that COVID would be gone by spring, why would you not believe that the 2020 election was stolen?
Only 19% of Trumbull has an undergraduate degree and most of them work for the county’s largest employer, the county health care system. Pretty much everyone else graduated high school and stopped there with their education. As Trump once said “I love the uneducated”. Of course he does. They tend to be less curious about the world, willing to believe what the guy on the TV screen says.
As if to prove that point, Mr. Ayres responded to the question of whether he still believes the Big Lie said not so much anymore because “I did my own research”.
I want to believe he deliberately used those words as a fuck you to the QAnon Qwazies in the audience.
The statistic I found most interesting came from a comparison of the 2020 Census to the 2010 Census and it has to do with age groups. While the county population in general decreased by 12% between those two Censuses, the 35-49 year old age group, the ones who are considered to be in their prime earning years, decreased by 36% while the 65 and older group increased by 25%. The 65+ group was the only demographic to increase. That means less people making the most money were being replaced by more people making less money and taking a larger chunk of government spending dollars.
That would put pressure on any county, let alone one that was hovering at the 9% level of unemployment. By the way, since Biden took office the unemployment rate has decreased to 4%. Funny that.
I’ll add to this another factor that has to be taken into consideration. While Mr. Ayres certainly did not look or sound like someone who is involved with this, it’s hard to totally discount that Trumbull County was one of the most severely impacted by the opioid crisis. In fact the county has sued and won a ruling against the major pharmacy companies over this issue. There were 68 million pills dispensed between 2012 and 2016 just in Trumbull, roughly 400 for every man, woman, and child.
Have you ever seen someone in an opioid rage? They bear quite a resemblance to the looks on the faces of many of the insurrectionists on January 6.
Look statistics can’t tell you everything about a person. Did Stephen Ayres march into the capitol because the economy of his home county was falling apart or because he didn’t have a college degree or because of any other statistic? Not just because. They are factors that when added together with more personal reasons amounted to this conclusion.
Keep that in mind as we attempt to reintegrate these folks into civilized political debate. If we want to keep this democracy of ours we are going to have to do that. Ayres at least had the guts to attempt to apologize to the assembled Capitol Cops at the hearing. Some accepted, others didn’t. It’s still too soon, but it’s a start.
And I hope he’s a fan of Dad Rock