Tonight, Chris Hayes did a special edition of his show on MSNBC in the form of a televised Town Hall in McDowell County, West Virginia. The audience (and county) voted overwhelmingly for President Walking-Sack-Of-Shit. Strike One. It featured Senator Bernie Sanders. Strike Two. (Yes. I’m still mad.) I watched anyway. It takes three strikes, right? And people tell me I’m supposed to stay “informed” by listening to “other opinions.”
Chris Hayes did a pretty good job asking questions, and Senator Sanders did a pretty good job speaking only when necessary and letting the residents – clearly suffering – do most of the talking. Topics covered included much of what you’d expect: Obamacare vs. the new “WealthCare” bill (authored by Caligula), how they did and would impact the county’s residents, coal jobs, opioid addiction (initiated flagrantly by two drug companies, inflicted intentionally on a tiny, vulnerable and isolated population) and what, if anything, the future holds for the county’s residents. In one particularly sick and cruelly twisted irony, they’d been sold on the idea of having a federal prison built there because it would give them jobs. Jobs, it turns out, which would require a clean drug test to pass. Suffice it to say, the residents remain unemployed.
Bafflingly, the audience seemed to be Democrats by all measures, yet nearly all voted for President WSOS. Why? Hayes and Sanders drew out the surface answers – He promised jobs! He promised the replacement of Obamacare would be EVEN BETTER than what we had now!
Yes. We all get that. But the more pressing question to ask is, “Why did you believe him?”
Well. I have a few ideas about the answers to THAT question I seriously doubt would ever get aired in a one-hour Town Hall with Chris Hayes and Bernie Sanders on MSNBC. One starts with “R” and ends with “acism.” And let’s not forget the one that starts with “S” and ends with “exism.” Two of American society’s chronic debilitating diseases that Senator Sanders, for all his strengths, proved unwilling to address as a candidate or a career politician. That pattern continued in tonight’s town hall. A truly probing and compelling piece of television journalism would have tackled those questions. Those layers. It didn’t. Neither Sanders nor Hayes had anything but sympathy and admiration for this crowd.
I’d like to be clear. I, too, have sympathy and admiration for the people in that town. I believe their education was likely subpar. I believe career opportunities available to them were and are non-existent. My heart broke (as it should) for the young woman who said that there really IS nothing to do there except to get high. That does not mean, however, that they should be shielded from being awakened to the role racism and sexism played in their horrible decision to vote for Trump. If anything, I believe that makes it even more of an imperative.
If racism and sexism is playing such an insidious role in them making decisions that have the effect of destroying the fabric of our nation, don’t we have an obligation to point it out to them, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them, or how much it adds to their troubles? Goddamn it, would those same West Virginia residents be as careful with the feelings of Black people who are suffering? Or do they silently wonder why People of Color don’t just do what the cops tell them, so they don’t get shot? Or worse still, do they ask it out loud?
I like to think I have as much sympathy for people as I did before this shitshow of an election cycle began. But if I’m honest, I do believe I’m a little more stingy with it than I used to be. It isn’t like there wasn’t a viable alternative to Candidate WSOS. It isn’t as if the gradual and natural browning of America wasn’t (and isn’t) exploited in “working class” (CODE FOR WHITE) towns in American politics. It’s not as if a fucking imminently qualified WOMAN with education, brains and incredible experience and poise WASN’T THE AVAILABLE ALTERNATIVE to follow an incredibly successful African AMERICAN, scandal-free, economically powerful and intellectually unparalleled president.
One resident towards the end stood up and movingly spoke about how much it meant to him that Bernie Sanders, a Senator from the Northeast, cared more about McDowell County residents than Mitch McConnell. Everyone nodded solemnly and applauded in agreement. I wanted to throw my cat at the TV. Because make no mistake. If the purpose of the town hall would have been to discuss racism, sexism, hate crimes, homophobia, transphobia, or gun control, I seriously question if Bernie Sanders would have would have shown up.
It would have been great if there had been this level of sympathy for those ruined by the crack cocaine epidemic in the ’80s as for opioids.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 14, 2017
Not surprisingly, the audience was primarily white. There were a few women wearing hijabs and more People of Color than I expected throughout the audience (and one even asked a question…) -but there was no doubt we were in a heavily white-majority town. So, I’d like to give a special shout out to the camera person who, toward the end, caught the close-up of the Black baby sleeping sweetly and soundly on the white lady’s chest. I’m gonna go ahead and assume she was the nanny.
Photo is a screenshot from an MSNBC clip of the Town Hall.