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Street Talk

The Politicians All Talk Main Street, But Who Walks It?

I will just say up front this week’s column is an opinion piece and opinions are like you know what and everybody has one. But in expressing my opinion and a few facts, I’ll try and make some predictions about what a Trump presidency means for Main Street. 

Last week I voted for Hillary Clinton. I’ve voted for every Democrat running for president since I started voting. That means Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama, Obama, and last week Clinton. That’s 10 presidential election cycles. I believe I’ve watched every debate also, even the vice presidential ones. Those VP debates are very entertaining by the way. 

I also put a yard sign out every time from 1988 on. My dad told me, back when I first registered, to vote Republican if I made over $100,000 a year, and to vote Democratic if I didn’t. Have yet to make 100 large in a year. And I’ve got nothing against Republicans; in fact I want my banker to be an old-school Republican. Mississippi voted like Mississippi has been voting the last several elections, conservative but not wildly so. But just saying, I’m personally a Democrat.

I think this election was again about the money. Or as James Carville said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Déjá vu all over again.  This time it is not about the economy here, as Water Valley and Yalobusha are doing as good as we’ve done for a long time –  but about the economy around the Great Lakes/Rust Belt (I’ve heard it re-branded as the “Fresh Coast”) and the heavy industrial region of states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Especially the small towns and rural areas of those states. Places that used to make things and don’t seem to matter anymore – or so enough folks there feel now.  Nationwide the economy has come back as in banks and car companies are not failing, fuel is inexpensive, interests rates and inflation are very low, and unemployment pretty low. 

Does everybody have his or her dream job? 

Nope, but there’s work out there. Those formerly prosperous industrial areas feel forgotten. There’s indicators those areas are coming back, but the level of economic frustration runs deep and Trump certainly seems to have motivated the frustrated.

Not so long ago, I had a conversation with a German newspaper reporter who thought Yalobusha County would be overwhelming solid Trump Country, (it wasn’t, 55 percent was for Trump). I made mention that every elected official in this county is a Democrat or an independent. Now some are DINOs, as Democrat in name only and recently one person ran as a Republican unsuccessfully for office even though he is a born again liberal. 

As for Trump, my favorite observation from last week was the guy who said the election was rigged won the presidency with the second most votes. Which has happened before in 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and now. And at this writing a week later after the election, the actual popular vote total is not yet set (that alone is pretty amazing), but it seems clear that Hillary will have well over half a million more citizen votes for her than Donald. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter; he won the Electoral College votes. The last time this happened in 2000, one of the details was Al Gore lost his home state to George W. Bush, who got 51 percent of the Tennessee vote. Always good to know what your home folks, the folks who know best and longest, think about you. Queens and Manhattan, Trump’s birthplace and home boroughs where he has lived and worked for 70 years, voted 80 percent for Hillary. Only one out of five citizens who voted wanted their hometown native son.

How does Trump feel about America’s main streets? If he remembers the small town folks who got him elected, if he remembers his first big Manhattan project was the renovation of a downtown building, if he remembers just those two things, it might be okay for small towns.

A year ago this Thursday Water Valley was part of the National Main Street group speaking at the White House – a group that was addressing the interaction of small town needs and who was assisting who for what reasons. Folks from non-profit, universities, and the federal government. Water Valley’s comment was we really appreciate any and all help, we truly do, but we’re going to fix our place regardless. And we’ll have some fun doing, so please stop on by and enjoy. And you’ll see we’re not so forgotten and frustrated.

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