A Year in the Ohio River Valley: Hard Times in Trump Country

Source: The Intercept

Jamie Stewart voted for Donald Trump, but she thinks the president is a “jackass.” She doesn’t really love to talk about what he’s doing or why she voted for him.

“They should take his phone away from him,” she says. “He posts stupid shit all the time.”

In a series of interviews that stretched over a year, Stewart was ambivalent when pressed about the president’s accomplishments or any promises he might have kept. “I don’t really pay attention,” she says. “I don’t have time to give a shit.”

Since Trump astonished himself and the world on election night last year, observers have scrambled to figure out people like Stewart, Middle America’s “white working class.” Why did they vote as they did? And were they going to do it again?

“Economic anxiety” quickly became the default explanation — which, as some have since pointed out, doesn’t account for the economic anxiety of nonwhites who didn’t vote for Trump or consistent support for the president among whites across class and income. “This is not a working-class coalition,” The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer wrote in a detailed analysis of the vote. “It is a nationalist one.” Those who argued that the anxiety was more racial than economic called Trump’s election a “whitelash” and a “temper tantrum.” Others saw it as “political nihilism,” “the revenge of the forgotten class.”

A year into his dysfunctional presidency, Trump hasn’t delivered much — certainly not in the corner of West Virginia where Stewart lives. Her relatives and neighbors worked in the state’s coal mines for generations and are struggling to find work.

Stewart works as a customer service manager at Walmart — though not enough hours to receive benefits or health insurance from her employer. She is raising her 10-year-old autistic son, Wyatt, mostly alone.

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