The following post, written by the Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.
It is often postulated by politicians, news media, and others that the Trump voters of the rust belt and flyover country are the forgotten voters of our day. Supposedly, these voters are overlooked and misunderstood especially by the coastal elite.
However, for all the attention these voters have received by the news media and the politicians in Washington, D.C., it is difficult to see them as forgotten. More so, when so many other groups of people in this country have received far less attention both by Congress and the press.
In fact, Trump voters in the rust belt and flyover country are arguably the most remembered group of people in the whole country. Every single day there is a story in the news about them. The analysis of Trump’s tweets is almost always about appealing to his base. And despite the dwindling power of this shrinking segment of society, they continue to hold a firm grip on a feckless Republican controlled Congress. The Republican leadership in Congress fails to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his crimes and his petulant and racist remarks because they fear his base.
It is really bad when even their gerrymandered and voter suppressed seats are so insecure that they are spineless in holding Trump accountable to his oath of office and common decency.
Trump voters in rural America from the rust belt through the farm lands of flyover country have not been forgotten. Though it is decidedly Republican policy that has decimated their livelihood along with changes in technology and culture that they themselves bear responsibility for being resistant to.
The people who have really been forgotten in our country are people like the citizens of Flint, MI, who still suffer from lead poisoned water. The resilient people of Puerto Rico still devastated not only by storms but the failed government response do not get the attention they deserve. The millions of food insecure people and those experiencing homelessness, those with mental illness and our elderly hid away in institutions of depression, receive far less attention in the press and by the politicians than Trump’s voter base.
People of color, LGBTQ+, and other minorities who live with systemic prejudice and structural oppression every single day do not get the congressional attention needed to craft policies to improve their lives. When will their forgotten stories be told? When will their lives and their well-being be the intentional focus of policy change and media coverage?
When will the media stop appealing to the Trump voter and tell them plainly that he doesn’t care about them or their mining job or farm or manufacturing industry? His latest effort to appease farmers devastated by his terrible trade tariffs with $12 billion is only a ploy to silence their frustrations and buy their votes in November.
Trump voters are not likely to admit that they were conned or that they continue to vote against their own economic self-interest with policies that only benefit the wealthy and do nothing to improve wages or access to healthcare, childcare, or education. Moreover, they will continue to excuse Donald Trump’s treasonous acts and misogynistic behavior, which betrays their own so-called “family values”, because Trump appeals to their racist fears and validates their prejudice.
Instead of pandering to a predictable population, it is time to tell the stories of diverse voters who are supporting surprising candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is time for Congress and the news media to focus attention on the truly forgotten people of this country.
It is time to shine light in the shadows of their suffering and need. It is time for focus groups and public policies that reflect the changing demographics of the United States. It is time to tell the truth that the people of flyover country have not been forgotten but are the focus of many in the media and are the biggest fear of Republicans in Congress.