22 to 37 percent of their residents live in poverty.
Kentucky’s median household income is $52,238 and 15% of residents live at or below the poverty line. America’s median household income is more than $67,500.
Baker-Jordan, a political leftist, said that “an Appalachian Democrat, I can barely believe what I’m seeing from people who should be on the same side as me.”
And many Democrats have, just as resoundingly, called out the blame game.
Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge put it bluntly: “If your take on the devastation in Eastern Kentucky is to say folks ‘deserve it’ for how they vote, you’re an ***hole.”
Eastern Kentucky author Silas House framed the reaction of a cynical few as part and parcel with negative attitudes toward the region that fail to reckon with its once-central role in the American economy.
“So many on here (Twitter) lecturing me about how my people live off them. No. Appalachia has fueled this country since the beginning. With timber, coal, gas, our children, our lives. We keep getting pushed down and we keep getting back up,” House wrote.
Another nuance often lost on outsiders commenting about the tragedy: Eastern Kentucky is not a political monolith, and was until recently under control of the opposite party.
For a long time, Appalachian Kentucky in the Eastern part of the state was solidly under Democratic control.
Only in the 21st century has a majority of Eastern Kentuckians voted for Republicans at the federal level reliably. The shift took place more slowly on the state level, and much of the local politics of Eastern Kentucky counties is still dominated by Democrats. The Herald-Leader published a report on the shifting political sands of the region in June.
Richard Young, executive director of CivicLex, wrote in a Herald-Leader op-ed that some vitriolic responses to the floods are in part due to the “rot of partisanship” that has infected American politics.
But the best counterexample, he said, is the behavior of Eastern Kentuckians themselves.
“In our own home, we can find hope,” Young wrote. “Despite these trends, the past few days have shown that Kentuckians know the path forward and out. As soon as it became clear that our Eastern Kentucky neighbors needed care, people across the state began organizing supply drop-offs, fundraisers, and mutual aid.”
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