Thursday, January 12, 2017

The NY Times returns to the "scene of the crime"--um, I mean "election": rural Iowa

The New York Times today published this story, "In Iowa, Trump Voters are Unfazed by Controversies," the latest in many media outlets' return to "rural" areas to talk to voters about how they're feeling regarding the Trump transition--especially given that Trump garnered a high level of support from rural voters.  (See more post election coverage on the rural vote here, here and here).  The dateline for this particular story, by Trip Gabriel, is Monticello, Iowa, in the east central part of the state, near the Mississippi River and Illinois, and not far from the University of Iowa.

Gabriel's home base there is Darryl's Diner, which has a "Table of Knowledge,"--actually two of them, one for Democrats and one for Republicans.

Gabriel had spent time in Iowa for the New York Times in the early days of the 2016 presidential campaign (meaning, of course, 2015).  He had gone to Monticello, in Jones County, because it was the first stop in Hillary Clinton's campaign in Iowa.  With hindsight, Gabriel reflects, the early media chase of HRC all looks rather silly.  Gabriel observes:
The Iowans I interviewed largely went about their lives outside the political hothouse social media. They did not follow hour-by-hour developments of the presidential transition. Indeed, on Wednesday, several were unfamiliar with the reports that Russia was holding compromising information on the president-elect, which Mr. Trump addressed in a news conference.
Many were hazy on specific policy details about how, say, House Republicans were seeking to replace Medicare with a voucher system. These voters feared an outbreak of European-style terrorist attacks by Muslims in the United States, maybe in their own communities. And overwhelmingly, Trump supporters did not want their hard-earned money redistributed to people they regarded as undeserving.
One resident of Monticello observed that some of his neighbors had voted against "their own self interests" by supporting Trump, who was "against T.P.P. [Trans Pacific Partnership], which would help exports of ag commodities." 

Gabriel also reported from other places around the state, including Des Moines County, in the southeast part of Iowa (not the same area as Des Moines city, Iowa).  There he talked to Sandy Dockendorff, who seeks to be chairperson of the state Democratic Party.  Gabriel quotes Dockendorff:  
It was all about making fun of Donald Trump — he would never be president and how horrible it would be [but] the only one talking about jobs was Trump. 
Interestingly, I have seen thorough analysis indicating that Clinton actually talked about jobs more than Trump--and in those terms.  Nevertheless, before I read that analysis, my overall impression of the Clinton campaign was the same as Dockendorff.  She also notes that "rural Iowans were critical of Democrats for opposing job-creating projects like oil pipelines."  

Another recent NYTimes story, this one a few days ago out of Covington, Louisiana (population 8,765, but part of the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner Metropolitan Area), featured interviews with--again--mostly "good ol' boys," middle-aged and elderly men, offering opinions about reports that Russians had influenced the 2016 election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee and releasing emails and other information.    

Like many in Iowa, these Louisianans were firmly casting their lots with Trump, skeptical of what the mainstream media (a/k/a liberal press) had to say.  Here, from that story's lede, are three quotes from three different residents about the particular issue of Russia hacking the election:
“Sour grapes,” explained Bob Marino, 79, weighing in on the recent spycraft bombshell from the corner table of a local McDonald’s. 
“Sour grapes,” agreed Roger Noel, 65, sitting next to him. 
“Bunch of crybabies,” Reed Guidry, 64, offered from across the table.
Another resident, David Gubert, said, "If that's [hacking is] what it took, I'm glad they [the Russians] did it."

So there you have it.  Southern "rural" voters--at least the middle-aged white ones--seem to view things in a more one-sided fashion than the rural Iowans, though both seem unbothered by Russia's role in our election.   (Thanks to Campbell Robertson and Mitch Smith for reporting).

Postscript.  This NPR story on January 14 out of a rural part of metropolitan Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, features a youngish couple who voted for Trump, noting the wife, Jamie Ruppert, voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.  She is a jobs-focused voter who was drawn to Trump's "Make America Great Again" mantra.

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