While I’m not entirely sure of who (the infamous “they”) Michael Jackson referenced in his 1996 song, “They Don’t Care About Us,” I can imagine his frustration was aimed at those who contributed to him feeling like an outsider.
Lately, the 2016 U.S. political campaign (not even just the presidential race) has me feeling similar to the legendary Jackson. As a proud Pennsylvania native, swing-state voter, and suburban resident, “Don’t you black or white me.”
* Disclaimer: This post may or may not have been written with Jackson on repeat. *
I’ll start with the presidential race, primarily because that’s the easiest example.
Take a look at the above map showing the 2012 presidential election results for the towns of Pennsylvania. At first glance, it looks like Pennsylvania would be overwhelmingly Republican (red). Obviously, in the 2016 election, this is not the case. Why?
Those small, blue areas, the Democratic votes, are concentrated in large urban areas, namely Erie, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, among others.
So what does this mean?
For me, it means I understand the Trump voter. I understand there is a large gap in opportunity between a rural and urban area. I understand voters of different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas can’t possibly be expected to vote for the same candidate, yet alone even along the same political ideology. I understand there are blatant white spaces on the above map that displays a “no data” political leaning. Tell me: Are you okay with that? Because I’m not.
I don’t like the fact that most times, when my hometown makes the national news (which is, decidedly, not often) it is for the degradation of a once-thriving steel town or the heroin epidemic. Simply, I don’t like this because I personally know at least several hometown heroes who helped mold me into the person I am today. While we may be classified into these nightly news stories, that is not our identity.
That being said, there is a major push for Pennsylvania residents (especially those in rural, white, dominantly lower-to-middle class areas) to choose Clinton or Trump. Frankly, I don’t want Hershey, PA to be remembered for filling the Giant Center arena with over 10,500 Trump supporters. I want Hershey, PA to be remembered for host to the much-dreaded cross country PIAA state championship course (hills and a sewer plant–ask me about that one later). Oh yeah, and Milton Hershey’s chocolate and his vision for youth education.
And that’s just the presidential election.
Don’t get me started on the Katie McGinty, Pat Toomey election. And the disgrace that was attorney general Kathleen Kane’s term. As a future law student (and, possibly, attorney general someday), I don’t have a ton of great political role models in Pennsylvania.
My point: Why can’t suburban/rural Pennsylvania, and other swing-states, have the same opportunities as the urban areas?
Example: Why can’t these historically poorer areas have access to big-name concerts, championship games, and even TED Talks to get the discussion flowing? Clearly, there are political discussions and political rallies happening in these parts of the swing-states. Let’s bring some more discussion–any type of discussion–to these areas. How do we do that?
Well, I think it starts with your vote.