The angry white voters who claimed Democrats and liberals have abandoned them are probably right. The only thing that could save the jobs these people imagine they are entitled to have would be education and education is the one bit of reality that poor, pseudo-conservative white people resent the most. Back in 2008 Barak Obama made his infamous statement about the disenfranchised white voters, "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." He wasn’t wrong and he is just as right today, except that you’ll have to add meth and oxy to the things they are clinging to. Those three hallmarks of the unemployable are still going strong and Donald Trump is reaping the rewards of stoking those brain-dead fires.
The real problem liberals and progressives have yet to face is that the core problems of the welfare states are un-fixable. Here are some facts that prove my point, “32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. That’s 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read.” Those statistics have not changed, for the better, in a decade and we can count on them getting much worse over the next four to eight years. Over the last ten years, at least 25% of the US population did not read a book in part or whole in the previous year. Trump and Republicans may “love the uneducated,” but society and our democracy can not afford them. The purpose in creating a public education system was to prevent idiotic catastrophes like Donald Trump and the “modern” Republican Party from destroying the nation.
And that’s where the problem lies today. Substantial portions of the nation are never going to change, except for the worse. Places like most of the Southeast and Midwest have chased out the smart kids and encouraged the dumb ones to stay and reproduce and, culturally, the places and people have become intolerant, uneducated, unemployable, and proud of all of those “qualities.” When I was young, alcohol was the primary self-medication drug of choice for the losers who couldn’t escape. Today, there are far more effective drugs for that purpose. I came from one of those parts of the country and, like most of my high school graduating class who went on to obtain an education and some sort of career, I got the “hell out of Dodge” as soon as possible and stayed away. There is nothing that would ever induce me to move back to Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, or any of the states similar or worse than where I came from. Minnesota is as red a state as I can tolerate and away from the Twin Cities it’s a good bit redder (and dumber) than I like.
And I’m not alone. Reams of newspaper and books have been written about the exodus of talent and creativity from “the heartland.” Lots of people have wrung their hands over the fact that those desperate and depressed Trump voters are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty, ignorance, and drug addiction. Unless some miracle of disease and death suddenly purges those places of their populations, it’s only going to get worse.
Growing up in western Kansas, a high school teacher’s son and surrounded by “educators,” I was consistently unimpressed by what passed for education in my 1950’s K-12 experience. I, immediately, enrolled in the local community college where that experience only got worse. After losing my college savings to a scam Texas for-profit “computer school,” I stumbled on to a downtown Dallas community college and discovered that there are actually people who have a talent for teaching who are attracted to institutions that are committed to education. After a few years of suffering the more familiar uninspired “higher education” in western Texas and Nebraska, I moved to southern California. I was lucky to be in California in the 1980’s, before Reagan’s Prop 13 damage began to wreak that state’s once-great education system and make it unavailable to working class people. Even more, I was lucky to be there while California was enjoying the only economic stability in the country so that I had the luxury of being the sole support of my family and going to school part-to-full time for 8 years. The point to take away for this essay is that out of 130 credit hours from three different California state institutions, I endured no more than 6 hours of mediocre classroom experience. California attracted high quality instructors and there was enough competition for positions and institutions that kept instruction quality at a level I’d never seen before or since.
The reverse is true for the red states. No one with skill, experience, or credentials wants to live in those depressed and depressing areas. The chances of attracting instructors of quality to the Southeast, the Midwest, or much of the Northeast are slim-to-none. Even if the nation were to apply Peace Corps tactics to enticing teachers to work in the depressed areas as a way to pay off college debt, the end result will be that those few quality teachers will identify the few quality students and encourage them to get out before their hometown destroys their life. Clearly, plenty of that is going on now in most of these places, based on the fact that small towns are losing population and skills and can’t find any way to attract new blood. The brain-drain exodus from those places might actually accelerate if outside education resources were applied.
While it’s not true that intelligent people are no longer having children, it’s true that damn few smart people are staying “on the farm” or in small towns when opportunity, tolerance, entertainment, security, and quality of life are available just a short plane ride away. The Trump disaster is just an indication of elections to come, as impoverished states cling to their political power through a rigged system designed to protect the rich from democracy. Now, that system is protecting the rich and the stupid from reality and democracy. Either the Electoral College has to die or the nation will die from the damage done to democracy by that idiotic institution.