Home 2017 Races The Wandering Canvasser visits Floyd County

The Wandering Canvasser visits Floyd County


I spent the day today canvassing in rural Floyd County, with Flo Ketner, who’s running for the House of Delegates in District 7. It’s a county of sheer awe-inspiring beauty, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the backdrop, and lush green trees and plants and wildflowers all around. It’s full of independent, artistic people, who love to make and enjoy local music and art and food. It is also a place of extreme poverty, hardship, and unemployment.

We often hear people ponder “Why do rural people vote against their own self-interest? What’s wrong with them?” Sometimes I’ve even heard people say “Screw the rural people–they’re just some white people who only care about God and guns, why should we even try to win them over?” But I think we need to recast the discussion and ask ourselves: “Why haven’t we distinguished ourselves enough from Republicans on issues rural voters care about? Why haven’t we been able to convince rural voters that they are Democrats?”

Because the Democratic party–in principle at least–supports exactly the kinds of things that are important to the people I met today. They desperately need jobs–and need education and training for the jobs of today. We met a man who’d lived in Floyd for over 80 years. As he sat on his porch in his overalls, with the most incredible unobstructed view of the mountains, he listed for us all the factories that had closed down in the area. Another woman we met today, who apologetically confessed that she usually votes Republican, has to work hundreds of miles away in Richmond; she spends Monday-Thursday in Richmond, and only comes home to be with her husband on the weekends.

The Republicans want to cut training programs that could be used to give unemployed workers in places like Floyd a chance at a new job, want to cut health and welfare programs that provide a safety net for low-income people here, and their health care plan is expected to result in the closure of many rural hospitals, causing even greater job losses. And the Republican solution to rural unemployment is to “simplify the tax structure” (aka increase corporate profits) deregulate (aka increase corporate profits, at the expense of the safety and health of consumers and workers), and to back out of trade deals and impose high tariffs on other countries (which is likely to lead to trade wars, and decreased exports of our own American-made goods).

You might think all these corporate goodies will induce companies to open up businesses in rural Virginia. But there’s no real reason to think that corporations would locate in rural areas. Unless there are workers there with the necessary skills, it’s not likely. Furthermore, the people in Floyd are not fans of corporatism. In fact, they’ve been resistant to many big, corporate brands attempting to locate there–such as CVS, McDonalds, and Burger King. Most businesses in Floyd are local, owned and operated by residents, and that’s the way they like it.

Another thing they like a whole lot in Floyd County, and for good reason, is the beautiful nature around them. Preserving those pristine mountains, and protecting the land and water is essential. You can’t mention the pipelines in Floyd County without hearing an earful about the potential damage they will do to Southwest Virginia. Protecting our environment is seen as non-negotiable to these Virginians.

Education, training, small business development, anti-corporatism, programs that provide a safety net for those facing hardship, and environmentalism–where do we hear those themes? Oh, right, it’s the Democratic Party! Democrats offer: “targeted funding and support for entrepreneurship in underserved communities,” stopping corporate concentration, encouraging programs that protect and enhance family farms, debt-free college and free community college, and building a clean energy economy, with all the jobs that such a move creates.

So why are we not convincing residents of Floyd that we’re offering them solutions that would help them? Why did only 29% of Floyd County vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016? This is our challenge, and what will ultimately determine our long term success. We have to win back these voters, and not just shrug our shoulders thinking we can make up the 6,000 votes with a little bit higher turnout in Northern Virginia. We have to win back these voters because THEIR well-being depends on it, and because above all else, we are stronger together.

  • Corey Stewart rants/raves about The Economist magazine. Don’t ask.


  • Elaine Owens

    Far too many people in SW Virginia vote on social issues, also. Yes, they are suffering from economic losses and are concerned about how their area can stay afloat. However, many vote based on what their churches tell them (anti-abortion, what they see as secular encroachment on daily life, etc.) and what the NRA says. Those are potent forces to overcome. I do think that they actually bought the snake oil Trump was promising in bringing low-skill jobs back to the U.S. Plus, in much of America,and certainly in SW Virginia, there is a racist element that is below the surface, the element that Nixon’s “southern strategy” made use of so long ago.

    • The irony is that by voting Repubilcan, all else being equal they are voting to INCREASE the abortion rate. If they vote Democratic, they vote for a party that believes in contraception, sex education and other methods proven to reduce “unwanted pregnancies” and abortions…

      • Elaine Owens

        So true. I’ve even pointed out to a couple of people that Colorado, by providing free contraception, saw a drop in teen pregnancy of 40%, and an equal decline in abortions. They weren’t impressed. Facts don’t change some minds.

        • God b watching U

          The self-serving trope that ‘rural people vote against their real interests’ is JUST THE SORT of cultural imperialism/ ethical paternalism/ and counterproductive wish fulfillment that continues among Democratic apparatchiks who seldom listen – really …. and preach, shame, and blame from their high horse more damningly than any church preacher at a country revival meeting.

    • God b watching U

      MY MY! What an ignorant, smug cultural imperialism/ un-ethical paternalism / self-serving wish fulfillment you have there!

    • Rick Shaftan

      They are voting their economic interests. That’s why they voted overwhelmingly for Trump. You rich sophisticated urbanites don’t understand that. You think everyone wants to be as miserable as you are.

    • beetjuice021

      I don’t see why churches are so obsessed with abortion when the Holy Bible, of 780,000 words, never once mentions the word ‘abortion’, and when it does mention deliberately causing a miscarriage, treats it differently than the loss of a human life. The Bible does however say women must cover their heads in church and you must not wear two-piece clothing which I don’t see people following.

  • Jason Peterson

    From one itinerant canvasser to another, thank you for this.

  • Meredyth Hall

    It’s not going to help to have a pipeline apologist, if that, on the top of the ticket in November. If Northam doesn’t come out against the pipelines (looking more and more unlikely every day), we are really losing an opportunity to pitch ourselves in rural areas.

    • God b watching U

      Well said about the ‘meaning’ of pipeline politics. It is a conundrum that the Democratic Party must resolve or they may easily lose in the Fall.

      Most Virginians live in cities. Cities tend to vote Democratic. OK.

      So, the theory goes, let’s judge, shame, and blame rural folks for not thinking and acting and behaving and believing like city folks.

      Trouble with that theory: ITS CULTURAL IMPERIALISM / un-ethical paternalism / and counterproductive wish fulfillment.

      Rural people are well aware of this imperialistic house of cards.

      We see that city folks be always blubbering about ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ this and that, when IN REALITY

      – most of city folks food comes from rural places. Urban ‘edible landscapes’? well ain’t that cute. How far are cities from feeing their city populations from within city limits? Tell the truth, city liars! And if you tell the truth that cities NEED rural places will you also tell the truth that city folks’ use corporate economies to depress what farmers get paid, what agricultural workers get paid, etc …. and won’t even acknowledge that agricultural workers are NOT included in Social Security AND DEMOCRATS have not changed that law despite having decades to do! SHAME on shameless lying Democrats who keep farmers and agricultural workers in persistent economic distress!

      – most of city folks energy comes from rural places. Urban solar panels? that’s good. But please show rural people that cities can produces all or most of their energy within city limits! Can you?! NOPE, because YOU blah blah blah about ‘green’ energy and ‘sustainability’ but can’t sustain your city without raping rural places with mountaintop coal removal, with dangerous extraction mining (coals, and countless other minerals for your gadgets, infrastructure, etc), with making sure that nuclear plants and nuclear waste is NOT in city limits! Cities need to demand that nuclear plants be INSIDE city limits! need to demand that coal-fired and gas-fired plants be INSIDE city limits! need to demand that every bit of park space be give to solar field and wind fields! RIGHT?! NO, we rural people see what hypocritical liars city Democrats are! Look in the mirror imperialistic city Dems! You’ll see a selfish, lying ‘Trump’ likeness.

      AND what next do rural people see? City DEMS gladly dump their nasty sh*t in rural places! And if that is not true, show me the landfills in city limits! show me the nuclear waste sites in city limits! show me the toxic waste dumps in city limits! show me that all the partially de-sh*tted gray water stays in city limits!

      Can you?

  • Rick Shaftan

    This condescending attitude thinking these folks are voting against their own interests explains why your party is dying everywhere in America that isn’t an overcrowded city or a majority black area. None of you understand why Trump won, and you never will.

    • jjhman

      I understand perfectly well why Trump won. You almost come across as narrow minded as the lefties. Well not quite.

      Trump did not win as a Republican. He trashed every manifestation of Republicans in the primary. The Repubs lost, I think, 5 House seats and 2 in the Senate. So I think the rural and trashed city voters were voting for someone to do something different. Look at the Repubs in office now, they are acting like they won a landslide of banker, inheritor, libertarian voters. It is only the Dems who have a candle of actually identifying the problems in the country and working to solve them. But I don”t hold out much hope. They are caught in a paradigm of education, technology and free trade plus massive “safety nets” will solve our problems. The last 20 years has shown that that approach, just like the Repubs “cut taxes and regulations” is only making things worse.