I know who I’m voting for

As much as it pains us to acknowledge it, America’s two party system is largely what ensures policy gets done or dies. For better or worse, it’s protected us against god-knows-what. In the US if your party receives 3% of the vote, you’re certifiably crazy. In Britain 3% is all it can take to put someone in the Prime Minister’s seat. At least we can say with some mathematical authority than an actual majority of the electorate picked the guy sitting in the oval office.

So as we hurl toward a November election, I know who I’m voting for and don’t even feel certifiably crazy about it. I think you can get behind my choice. You might even be inclined to support them, too.

I wanted someone who thinks like me, and I think like a lot of my friends like you.

  • A belief that women have a right to abortion, the government probably ought not fund it directly but should protect the ability to get one, and the duty of a woman to live with that responsibility.
  • Believing that men and women have the right to marry whomever they choose and live according to their own hearts and minds.
  • An understanding that we can’t fight our way out of every conflict and war should be rare, but is sometimes necessary.
  • Holding the knowledge that incarceration is necessary for some people, but a lot of people incarcerated for drugs have done more harm than good to many communities by splitting up families, ruining job prospects, and dragging down social resources.
  • The fiscal sense to know that access to education is immensely important, but is largely harmed by buckets full of money thrown at the problem without addressing root causes.
  • Ditto for healthcare.
  • Healthcare access is important for everyone, but let’s not settle for a government program if we can figure out a better, more efficient way. If that comes to be the only way, then let’s do it smart.
  • Deporting 11 million immigrants is bad policy, a waste of money, and harmful to economic growth.
  • Deporting, er, rounding up 500 million guns in the US is also probably bad policy, a waste of money, and, more importantly, unconstitutional until an amendment is passed.
  • That in a good capitalistic society the “pie”, the share of available wealth, can actually grow.
  • Welfare recipients shouldn’t be tested for drugs, but let’s figure out a way out of the “vicious cycle” that is welfare today.
  • Space travel is awesome, and could just as well be done as a public-private partnership with the likes of Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk.
  • Protecting the environment is important, but recognize we can’t just flip a switch overnight. Government is likely too corrupt to pick the best, most efficient, winners.
  • Muslims are people, too.
  • The path to citizenship should have a clear, efficient, and legal mechanism.
  • Common Core standards probably aren’t the worst idea, but states really are better suited to education standards. A student in Indiana that can study bio or agri-science is probably better off for everyone than a student in New York studying the same thing. The Federal government pushes out an increasing amount of that experience.
  • The wealthy aren’t to be feared, and neither are the poor. Recognize that people of all wealth levels do things most people would find bothersome. But a lot do things most people would find noble and respectable.

A lot of that probably sounds like Bernie Sanders or many progressives. A lot sounds like fiscal conservatives. None of it mentions religion. And it appears it’s not a “take half, leave the other” kind of approach. For once there is a way you can keep Democrats out of your wallet and Republicans out of your bedroom. You can actually get behind a group of people who are socially liberally and fiscally conservative. Leave people alone, protect you and your assets, and be smart with where money is spent.

I’m thinking I’ll vote for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. A ticket that has more governing experience than Trump or Clinton. A ticket that supports the kind of governing approaches that have been immensely popular in New Mexico, Massachusetts, and I’ll add Indiana since Mitch Daniels would fit comfortably with this ticket.

In America a vote for a third party is often considered a “waste”, and like I said, our two-party system has protected us from who-knows-what kind of crazy. But it’s clear it’s also produced the current election. If there were ever a time to support a third party, this is it. It’s time the religious right go take their small corner. It’s time for racists and bigots and homophobes to go take their small corner. It’s time for the folks who would regulate everything from hair dressers to hot dog water go take their small corner. And the rest of us adults with actual common sense and a sense of fairness and live-and-let-live ethos can be heard.

I had a political science class once where the instructor mentioned if you go far enough right and far enough left on the “political spectrum” you end up meeting each other. In that reality, the spectrum is more of a sphere. The Libertarian party may conjure ideas of crazy people, but the rational among them should be dismissed no more than the far left Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders or the far right Religious Conservatives like Ted Cruz. Hillary and Donald may be centrists in a lot of ways comparatively, but we all have good reasons for supporting neither. Clinton’s been around in this work for too long. Trump is…Trump.

I wrote the other day how most people have one or two “vote-moving issues“. This is where a person can seemingly vote against their own interests or beliefs on most everything, but because a candidate supports one super-important issue to them, they vote on that. For a long time that was voting Democrat just to push the needle on shutting up the religious conservatives decrying marriage rights. Now that we’re beyond that, I don’t have a vote-moving issue anymore. Instead, I’m looking for a full platform, and a Johnson/Weld ticket fits.

No one cares what millennials think, so stop saying they do

Kelly Hannon at NUVO has a letter to the editor wherein she talks about the ridiculousness of Indianapolis’ transportation network. It fills in a lot of the same talking points we’ve been hearing from the Indy Chamber and others about the need for more and better transit options in Indianapolis.

I find them to be pretty weak. Which has me concerned, because this is starting to appear and sound incredibly one-sided.

Here’s Kelly:

Currently, only 33 percent of jobs in Indianapolis can be reached via transit in 90 minutes. That’s ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous that the wait time to get on one of these buses for a 90-minute trip can be between 30-60 minutes. And what happens if you have to transfer, and the second bus is behind? Or it has already left? If you currently get around this city in your car, I ask you this: use Google maps and find out what your commute would be to work, or to your favorite spot across town, if you had to use IndyGo mass transit. I did.

I don’t dispute the numbers, and she’s not wrong about transfer times. I’ve learned the quirks of the system enough myself to know when a transfer is even remotely feasible. It’s usually easy if you’re heading someplace within a few miles of Downtown. Not so much if you’re heading out to the fringes of town. But it’s clear Kelly owns a car here, which is important. She doesn’t mention where she lives around town, either, even generally, so it’s hard to make a lot of judgments here.

Like I’ve always said: people who live in rural areas know what they’re signing up for. A lot of that goes for people building a home outside 465.

The fact is, getting around the city of Indianapolis is a privilege, and not a right. Our current system in inequitable. There are too many people in this city held back from employment opportunities, educational opportunities, as well as social services, health clinics, and grocery stores simply because our city has not invested in creating a transportation system that serves all.

Alright, you lost me. First, driving isn’t a right, either. Car ownership isn’t a right. This isn’t a fact at all. You just made that up. No one owes you or me anything. I do believe that reliable and efficient transportation can be the sort of “hand up, not a hand out” that drives a lot of our political discourse in 2016. I’ll never fault anyone for trying to get to work. But don’t call it a right or privilege. By this rationale, everyone is owed a bike share station near them, too. We have rights listed in the Constitution and that is it. What you’re talking about is a nice-to-have.

Kelly talks about upward mobility in Indianapolis, and it is true Indianapolis does not do well in regards to upward mobility. But much of the research on upward mobility point to problems in education, largely K-12 schools, as the bulk of the problem. That’s a complicated and multi-faceted issue. Transit is a small part of it, in that a parent could possibly earn more money through enhanced job access, or save money through reduced private vehicle expenditures, that can then be spent on a child. Doesn’t mean it will, and there are a lot of extra hand-waves involved. People have to be empowered to move around and be effectual, too.

I am tired of hearing the ol’ pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ideology when it comes to getting jobs in this city. When it comes to opportunity, there is no hiding the fact this system continues to perpetuate the imbalance of power between the wealthy, white, and/or able-bodied population and the poor, of color, and/or disabled communities. For it to take an average of over 90 minutes to get to 67 percent of the jobs in the area is a leading reason why Indianapolis’s upward mobility ranking is so low. I am tired of hearing those who are unemployed be blamed for not trying hard enough, when in actuality, they are running a completely different race than those of us with the privilege and funds that allow us to own a personal vehicle.

Here’s where you run into a problem. A big problem. By saying you’re tired of getting people to “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps”, you’re saying you have a problem with conservative principles. And it’s awfully hard for any electoral math to work in your favor, especially in Indiana, when you discount at least 50, and in the case of Indiana, about 60% of the voting public. Even if you say this is just a Marion County issue where there’s a majority of Democrat voters, this ultimately has to go into the suburbs to be effective with all the job access, particularly in the low-skill labor we’re talking about here.

And that’s the other half of this big problem: it’s clear Kelly owns a car and drives it regularly. That she’s never ridden a bus before, or so it reads. That’s her privilege and a choice. Because she could choose to do without. But she doesn’t because current options aren’t good enough for her. And that’s quite a slight to the people she’s championing. And it furthers this awful branding that our transit system has: it’s a service to the poor. A welfare mechanism. Whereas in other cities they treat buses and transit like a piece of infrastructure, no different than a bridge. For all the people claiming we need to be like other cities, perhaps the first step is to stop being unlike other cities and shift your cultural connotations about who uses a bus and why.

And to add to my earlier comment about disregarding conservatives in this context: every voter has a vote-moving issue. If you’ve ever wondered why your union-dues paying uncle votes Republican, perhaps it’s because he really loves to hunt and his gun ownership is his vote-moving issue. All else be damned. For some it’s their ability to homeschool, gay marriage rights, abortion, or any number of other issues.

Locally, a person’s vote-moving issue in transit is likely to be: “Can I benefit from this directly?” If we keep promoting this idea that the current system is only for icky welfare types, don’t be surprised when they vote against it. If we keep promoting this idea that “it’s what millennials want”, don’t be surprised when everyone else over the age of 35 says “Screw them” and vote against it. If we keep promoting this idea that transit is what business wants, don’t be surprised when a bunch of people say, “I’m not a business, screw them, they can pay for it” and vote against it.

These are all vote-moving issues. The environment may be one for another block of people, but not a lot of people.

Years of marketing work has taught me one thing: people want to see themselves and see their own benefits. The easy, low-hanging fruit is, “You won’t have to spend money on a car.” Because in the US the regulations we have on cars make it impossible to build a new, reliable, car that’s under, say, $5,000. It can’t be done. Regulations add $7,000 to the cost of a new car alone. Some of this is for safety features. But did you know the US now requires all new cars to have back-up cameras? I’d gladly trade a lot of “features” like that for a dry box with wheels where I can just turn my head around and look behind me. I bet a lot of other people would, too. That leaves used cars, which I find a waste of money. For $5,000 a used car is just going to fall apart in a year or two, or be somewhat unreliable in short order. Thus, it’s all a waste of my money and I don’t want to spend it. That’s my vote-moving issue and choice.

I’d rather spend the extra $20 a month IndyGo is after in taxes (plus fares) on a robust transit network than $250 a month, or likely more, on a car. That’s just good math. And, I think, the one vote-moving issue that most people are likely to warm up to. It’s also the one getting the least play.

No one gives a crap about what millennials want or think. No one owes anything to anyone. But I do like to take care of myself, and so does everyone else.

Don’t discount the value of the conservative notion of helping people get to work AND the ability to reduce overall budget expenditures for ever-widening roads and highways AND the ability to give people a real option to increase their household earnings through efficiency and savings. That’s a perk, not a right. And it’s a perk that most people can be comfortable with and support.

Indiana’s printing presses and the wheels on the bus

Did you know that Indiana state government once had about half a dozen printing departments? Within itself. All with their own staff and presses and supplies. Did I mention there were several of these? Sometimes one would be busy while others were sitting around doing nothing. That went away during the Daniels administration.

I was thinking about that anecdote this weekend as I placed some trash bags in the garage. Because as I was putting those bags into the trash cart, I thought, “I wonder how much the City pays for this? And why do we contract with Republic Services for so much of the city?”

This is how my brain works.

So I went digging around and I can’t say I can tell. Indianapolis’ budget [PDF] is usually around $35 million a year for solid waste collection (that doesn’t include disposal). I’m in one of the districts that gets served by Indianapolis DPW for trash collection, and we pay an extra $6 a month for recycling pickup via Republic Services. I’ve never had a problem with either.

Republic actually provides collection for much of the city. While I can’t figure out how much is paid where, it does lead to the obvious question: should a city ever collects its own trash? Some cursory Googling would suggest it’s rarely cost-efficient, as municipal workers tend to get paid more. And if you squint, you can make the suggestion that the extra pay makes them behave a little safer.

Like Mitch Daniels and Indiana’s monkeying with the print works, the rationale there was, “If we can open the yellow pages and find at least three companies doing the same thing, we should just hire one of them to do that thing.” It saves money and no one much noticed or cared when they went away. Trash collection seems all the same. No ever complains that their trash guy – city or private – is a problem.

Which brings me to the center of this government nougat: why don’t cities ever consider privatizing their bus systems?

There are plenty of private busing companies. Lots of school districts find it useful to hire a contractor for their school buses and drivers, so why not city buses? If schools do it and people are okay with that, and they’re no more or less safe than a publicly-owned bus, why wouldn’t we?

Indianapolis is set to vote in November on the Marion County Transit Plan, which includes a .025 percent increase on income taxes to pay for expanded bus service (FYI: we pay .093 for trash collection). This doesn’t include the Red Line, which is already paid for by federal money. This plan expands the “typical” service on more city streets, longer hours, and higher frequency (the magic sauce of a successful system).

IndyGo being Indianapolis’ bus provider would receive that money and put it to work. IndyGo exists in a weird place alongside narrow company. They’re a municipal corporation, meaning they can receive public money, but largely operate on their own with their own oversight, governance, boards, and leadership. The Indianapolis Airport Authority and the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library are the other two.

The airport does well with this. But they also have things to sell. Gate fees and usage fees for airlines and other companies keeps them flush. The library is much less so, but they can rent out space and presumably sell some tickets for events. And, luckily, you buy a book once and it’s pretty much okay forever.

IndyGo, however, is not in this fortunate position. Fare boxes can collect ticket revenue, but a bus’ fare box collects about enough money to pay for its gas. The bus itself, the driver, maintenance, and other infrastructure is reliant on public money.

I don’t think anyone with a rational bit of sense can look at IndyGo in its current state and say, “They’re inefficient with money.” If anything, they’re inefficient because they lack enough money to buy reasonably. Like when they buy a used bus from another city, usually Columbus, Ohio, and we run them until they’re powered by everyone’s feet sticking out the bottom. Like your dad who always bought $1,000 cars twice a year because it was “cheaper”.

But when folks walk out and say, “Hey, let’s levy a .025 income tax to pay for such-n-such”, this gets to be a really hard sell for a lot of reasonable people. There are places in Marion County that will pay for this and not see service. Probably ever. No one’s going to drive 4 miles just to take a bus for another 5. And no amount of squinting is ever going to make this valuable to them.

There are people, like me, who won’t see much difference because their current route’s frequency isn’t going up or down in the new plan, and I’m unlikely to ride a bus at 11 pm.

There are also rational people who will say, “Yeah, but for how long?” We pay .025 this year, and the next, but what about in 5? 10? Those costs have to go up sometime. What happens then must either be an increase or a reduction in services. This is true of trash service and lots of things, but it doesn’t seem to come up much. Plus, people are naturally inclined to assume whatever someone says about any public expenditure is likely not true. It’s almost impossible to accurately estimate anything at the scale of an entire city,anyway, but years of stories of really bad government spending has taken its toll.

I’m generally in the corner of privatized services because no one likes a monopoly, and government shouldn’t be allowed to run a monopoly on anything except military and police/justice matters.

And I know lots of great folks working at IndyGo. Like I said, no one can question their ability to make something out of nothing. But what would a private service look like? How come there isn’t a private company that takes on a large city’s bus service? We did it for the Commuter Express busses that served Carmel and Fishers, which was later doomed by low service frequency. Is it because it’s like education, where it inherently has to lose money, but we get a bunch of other things in return that makes that okay?

And if we did privatize it and regulate it like a utility, would that allow for more service through different hours, efficiency, savings, routes, or all of the above? I can imagine the biggest problem may be in loss of significant federal funding sources, which is a problem entirely in and of itself.

Indianapolis likes to lay claim to a bunch of successful public-private partnerships. We do this for school buses, trash collection, water, and electricity. Transportation seems like a reasonable place to look, too.

I ask these questions because I genuinely just don’t know. If anyone can point me to some guidance, please do.

To my urbanist and Sanders supporting friends, a word.

To my urbanist friends supporting Bernie and other government-funded solutions to problems of everyday Americans: I think I can open your eyes to something.

In my earlier post about Trump and Sanders supporters I said that in places like the Ohio Valley, government solutions seldom work because they almost never occur at a useful scale. Not since the Post Office and electricity. And thus the rise of Trump: “Why would I pay for something for someone else when we know we get nothing?”

Let’s shrink this down to a smaller area: Marion County.

Here are some perfectly valid claims, ones that many of you are highly supportive of:

  1. “Can I get some sidewalks near my home? It’s dangerous on the street without them, and at night people can’t go out without risking death.”
  2. “Can we build some trails so my spouse and I can have a place to exercise and lose weight?”
  3. “It’s getting tough to for us and the city to afford to operate a private car, and the city’s unable to maintain the roads well, how about more mass transit?”
  4. “Can we get our now 15-year old road re-surfaced? It floods a lot, too.”
  5. “Can we get more streetlights? Maybe it can help reduce crime?”

To many of my friends, these are all fantastic things that must and should be done. We’ll vote in referendums, we’ll lobby for increased funding, we’ll talk to our political leaders.

I know I have. I’ve been saying every one of those things for about 9 years now. Why such a specific number? Because that’s when I bought my house. In Marion County. 7 miles from Downtown. Just a few miles from Fountain Square and Irvington.

What do I have?

  1. No sidewalks anywhere outside my neighborhood.
  2. No trails nearby except the Pennsy Trail, which is unsafe by any means to get to on a bike from me, and appears to be on a completion time of 67 years. For most of the last 9 years it was a 1.25 mile stretch.
  3. My bus route gets “streamlined” to a 15-minute walk away from my house (it used to be right out the door), and I get to walk along a crap road that’s barely lit with a muddy, hole-ridden, chemical-stained shoulder.
  4. My arterial street hasn’t seen much beyond some quick hot-mix patches over the last 12 or 13 years. Stretches so bad people drive in the turn lanes to avoid the driving lane.
  5. Streetlights burn out and don’t get replaced, or are spaced so far apart I’m better off using my phone’s flashlight function.

What do I get told?

  1. We have a master plan for sidewalks, and we’re building it out 3 years at a time.
  2. We’re working on our master plan for trail connectivity over the next 20 years.
  3. We’re working on a new bus master transit plan with higher frequency and faster service. It’ll be great in 2021!
  4. We’re waiting for funding. It’s on the list.
  5. We’re going to replace every street light with new LED ones and put more in where they’re needed most.


Except not a single one of those things impacts me at all. And I do mean at all.

  1. The sidewalk plan has me in a tier 2 area. So expect something in about 15 years, if ever.
  2. The master plan for trails doesn’t come within 7 miles of me.
  3. The new transit plan leaves my route largely unchanged. Same 15-minute walk, same 60-minute frequency. Just some longer hours at times of night I don’t go anywhere anyway. In fact, the part of my route I care most about (Prospect, along through Fountain Square) will go away and instead carry me along English Ave. I think there’s a Dairy Queen along in there somewhere.
  4. Southeastern Ave. hasn’t been repaved in at least 13 years. In that same time Fall Creek Parkway is paved like the Speedway and Kessler, another Tier-2 road, has been resurfaced 4 times.
  5. We’ll see if Joe Hogsett lives up to his promise for more streetlights, but I’m not holding my breath.

And why am I told all those? This is where my urbanist friends have reasonable suggestions:

  1. We have to build where there’s the most demand!
  2. The trails will be great in high-density neighborhoods!
  3. Transit works best when it’s simple routes through dense places!
  4. We should have fewer roads so we can afford to maintain them!

You can see where this is going, right? You’ve chosen a set of “winners” and a lot of “losers”.

Can you imagine why a person loses faith very, very, quickly in these sorts of things? Government promises something, and doesn’t deliver. Or what it does deliver is lousy. And the reasons why are simply, “There’s just more over here.” More voters, more money, more everything. And here I sit, in a moderately dense area with nothing special. We’re not 38th street and we’re not Wanamaker.

And you want me to say, “Yes, let’s pay just a little more in taxes to cover these things!” Ok…but, do I like, get to use any of them? I’d rather not have to drive 20 minutes to Broad Ripple to use the Monon with my dog. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

This is how rural voters feel about everything. They don’t even get water. After a while, those of us who live in cities start to look really stupid for promising things to people that never come. These folks aren’t stupid. They’re literally working in their best interests because they’ve seen this movie before.

And here I am, 7 miles from the epicenter of our city, in a house I bought in Marion County to fight against suburban flight and I’m rewarded with, well, not much. Fire protection is pretty good.

So when someone comes along like Trump and says, “You know what, let’s just stop all this nonsense”, there’s some there there for a lot of people. This is why I have such a libertarian streak in me, too. It’s why I trudge along in ways no one else would. Not many of my urbanist cyclist friends would bike where I do and in the conditions I do. Not many people would put up with the walking I do. Because all I can do is what I do for everything: will it into existence. My desire to not spend money on a car is far above my desire to stay a little dryer when it rains. I’ll just wear a rain coat.

I still support all those things for Indianapolis. I just wish that after all my jumping up and down someone would at least throw me a bone. I can hear someone now saying, “Well this is good for all of Indianapolis.” Yeah, that’s nice, but it’s also sorta like saying, “What’s good for New York is good for Indianapolis.” No, it almost certainly is not. That’s patronizing and I wish you’d stop.

Why did Sanders lose in Kentuckiana?

Most success in life is fate. It’s a person’s ability to have inherent talent, luck, skills, or some combination of all three. A lot of people have one. A lot of people have none.

I do not believe most people can inherently improve any of those three components. I don’t believe most people can change in dramatic ways. Maybe they change their political party, or join or leave a religion, or lose or gain weight, but they don’t change character. It’s partly genetic and deeply cultural.

“Oh Justin, you’re so pessimistic.” Really? Name one person you went to high school with that’s considerably different today than they were then and they’ve been consistent ever since. I think I’m just being realistic and pragmatic. Once a jerk always a jerk, once a smart guy always a smart guy.

Which is why this election fascinates me so much. Clinton has been playing her primary game for the general election all along. She’ll do fine. I don’t think she’s very interesting to talk about here.

But Sanders and Trump are far more interesting in what they say about voters. Sanders won almost every county in Indiana last night, except for a few. He lost where there are high black populations (Lake and Marion Counties) and he lost all the counties along the Ohio Valley.

I have some ideas why he lost in Kentuckiana. Aside from being more conservative in general, these are counties that exist outside the general media market of the rest of the state. Kentucky and Ohio-based stations may not have played as many ads as Indianapolis-based stations.

It was also likely the message. Perhaps this is where I get my generally dismal view of life from since I hail from the Ohio Valley: no one’s going to do anything for me, life is very hard, and then it’s over.

Sanders campaigns on this idea that lots of things will change and improve. Healthcare, food insecurity, wages, and taxation do not fly far here. Why should I pay for health insurance when there’s no place to get good healthcare anyway? Why worry about my diet when there’s no place to get fresh food anyway? Why worry about increasing wages when there aren’t any large employers anyway, and the employers we do have we know they can’t afford to pay us more? Why pay higher taxes for anything when we know it’s never going to benefit us, ever?

“That’s a little hyperbolic”, you say. But you must not spend much time down there. They have less than nothing going for them on a grand scale. They live their lives with the lot they have, doing the best with little, and will always have little. They know this. My grandmother has epitomized that for my entire life: “I don’t have much, but that’s just how it is,” she says.

They don’t want Sanders or the Government to give them anything, because they know even if its promised to them, they’re never going to see it. Government programs might work in cities, but it’s not going to even occur here.

On the flip side, you have Trump supporters. They’re in the same economic and demographic cluster. But they know, too, that the Republican-fueled promises don’t matter either. Transportation and highway funding? Why bother, there’s no highway around us anyway, and the ones that do exist don’t go anywhere. Where’s a person in Crawford County supposed to go? St. Louis is the closest city of significance to the west and might as well be on the moon. Louisville, a relatively small city in comparison is half an hour east, and Cincinnati a couple hours beyond that.

Increase defense? Why bother, no one’s going to invade Clarksville.

Claims to build a wall do hold some weight because people very noticeably see immigrants competing for the same low-skill jobs they want and try to hold. In a sense it’s like saying, “We had 10 jobs and 9 people and now we have 8 jobs and 18 people.”

And this tugs at the root of something a little inconsistent among these voters. They don’t want help in the form of government programs. They don’t want promises, because they know that’s not happening. They don’t want to pay for anything either because there’s no money and any money they do pay goes somewhere else (yes, yes, I’m aware Indiana receives more federal money than it sends in, but geographically we know that most of that money is going to Indianapolis and other demographic centers).

But these voters do want something to change. There’s just one problem: the thing that needs to change is them. And once you make that claim, it quickly becomes “the government’s fault”. My dad used to do this all the time, even blaming Salem’s mayor for “not bringing any factories in.”

A person can’t change their luck. They just kinda have to be around for long enough for something to maybe break in their favor. They can’t change their inherent talent, either. A person who couldn’t sing yesterday probably won’t today or tomorrow. A 50-year-old man who wasn’t strong yesterday isn’t going to be today and doesn’t have the time to get physically strong for that labor job while he also needs to pay the light bill. A person can’t change their skill dramatically, either. There’s few if any educational opportunities to be had, and the ones that exist aren’t helpful.

My dad was unemployed for five years after his factory closed. The Democratic help was job training, unemployment payments, and more financial assistance. He qualified for none except unemployment insurance and didn’t want them anyway. The job training options were for things like a nurse technician or a caregiver. A man who works 35 years loading trucks does not suddenly become a nurse anything.

The Republican argument was to get back up, work harder, study something, be better and more valuable. He didn’t or couldn’t do any of that. He had no cognitive ability, inherent talents, or skills to improve or acquire. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. An illiterate person does not suddenly become literate with any speed or efficiency to be of benefit to them in mid-to-late life with bills to pay.

Guys like my dad had a geographic monopoly on labor, that went away, and now they’ve lost their only edge. And people in this group aren’t going to pick up books or start a Pinterest page (there’s no library or internet service of much use anyway, nor would he know how to use them if they were there).

The problem with these people isn’t the environment. It’s the people. There is almost nothing we as a country can do for people in this situation. Health insurance is probably the biggest, but it won’t change much in the way of life advancement.

This area will fall in line with Trump for the general election.

Not only do these people not want or try to improve themselves, they don’t have the means to even if they wanted to. This is something of a government failure, but it’s also a cultural failure. And it’s not going away until another 1-2 generations move along. If it seems like rural places are stuck in time, it’s because they are and always have been, almost by no choice of their own. We can’t all be winners.