West Virginia

Appalachian Conservatism

Here in West Virginia, caring for yourself, your family, and your neighbor is a way of life.

No, it isn’t required care by the government – no bureaucrat forces an individual or a company to be generous.  Instead, neighbors know you by name. They’re willing to lend a hand, and aren’t shy about sharing in their good graces.  When a loved one passes away, friends and family will say “let me know how I can help.” This isn’t a light hearted statement – fellow church members, coworkers, and others will take food to family members, donate their time and money, and even help take care of pets and everyday life for those struggling with their loss.

Maybe that’s the thing I miss most when I travel across our great country.  For all the stereotypes and jokes, West Virginians demonstrate more compassion and caring than anyone I’ve ever met.

Traditionally, West Virginia has been dominated by the Democratic party.  The party built a reputation in our state for being the party of the working man – the ones who will fight for those every day workers, those going out to earn their keep.  This explains the popularity of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, who sent millions of dollars over his tenure in Washington back to his home state, ensuring job creation and progress (albeit through pork barrel spending).

Yet for all of the work that the Democratic Party has done trying to build a blue collar reputation in WV, they’re beginning to see their work unravel.  As the national party makes a sharp left turn, conservative voters in the Mountain State are facing a decision.  The once dominant party is beginning to splinter as its members and leadership try to respond to the increased regulations out of Washington. Senator Joe Manchin has already begun advocating for more restrictions on the Second Amendment, not two years after launching a television commercial of him shooting the cap and trade bill (without blaze orange required by most hunters in WV).  Democratic legislators suffered big losses in the 2012 election cycle, mostly associated with West Virginians voting overwhelmingly against President Obama.  In fact, every county in the state went for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.  Jay Rockefeller has decided not to run for his Senate seat in 2014, leaving the seat to Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, who is the popular favorite for the job.

What does this mean for conservatism in West Virginia? Well, certainly the Republican Party stands to benefit.  But more importantly, West Virginians stand to benefit.

The decisions currently being executed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration, such as his recent implementation of Obamacare, stand in direct contrast to the wishes of the people of West Virginia.  Why are our hard earned dollars going to expanding Medicaid?  Certainly, people aren’t happy with the fact that our welfare system is wracked with abuse and fraud.  Legislators who used to conspire with government officials are suddenly being voted out of office by citizens who have finally had enough.  One example is Patrick Morrisey – the state’s first Republican Attorney General in 80 years.

This transformation is just a natural continuation of West Virginia values.  Caring for one another, lifting each other up, and valuing individualism are what make us a great people of faith and respect.

Liberal outsiders have tried dismissing this Appalachian wisdom as stupidity or simple mindedness.  Instead, it represents something much more detrimental to their cause.  In order for socialism to succeed, it has to be an expansion of government that’s never been seen before.  The type of government growth that exploded during the Great Depression and continue throughout the 1960s is what must be required for government to effectively control society.  When gun carrying West Virginians say that they’re tired of government controlling their lives, well, that’s not something that fits neatly into a progressive plan for the future.

The fact of the matter is that West Virginians have always provided for themselves, and have empowered those who want to work.  The key is actually wanting to work; so many have worked and built their lives and their communities, and when drug abusers or lazy cretins get caught manipulating the system, they aren’t appreciated.  What we do appreciate are the things that made our state great.  These include hard work, earning your keep, being faithful to your friends and family, and holding government officials accountable.

Maybe our nation can learn something from Appalachian conservatism.


Aaron Kidd | Marshall University | @akiddwv

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