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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14 Responses

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  1. docnick
    May 09, 2013 - 06:48 AM

    Socialism has never worked for very long. Europe is the current poster child replacing Russia’s 70 year effort.

    The community values in WV is dying out in the south also.

    I liked your article…Write more….


  2. Fred
    May 07, 2013 - 12:12 PM


    West Virginia had what was essentially the high amount of racist Google seraches in the country. So I’d hope when you say West Virginian’s “care for their neighbor”, that includes non-white neighbors. I’m curious if you think racism is a major issue in West Virginia, or does that study have the wrong conclusions?

    • Eric
      May 08, 2013 - 08:36 AM


      Just remember the klan was and still is the militant wing of the democrat party…

    • Mike D
      May 08, 2013 - 03:37 PM

      Brother, racism is everywhere as are many other kinds of “ISMs” that focus on how we are different instead of how we’re alike.

      Mr. Kidd’s point is sound; We all do better when we think and act in a way that brings our communities together rather than focusing on what makes us different to keep us separated.

      • Fred
        May 08, 2013 - 08:17 PM

        Eric- I have no idea what you are talking about.

        Mike- to me it seems part of the problem is what unites many people in West Virginia IS racism. But I think we can talk about racism in a way that is unifying rather than divisive. What I think is not helpful, is ignoring problems like racism, and pretending everything is great. So I am just suggesting we don’t deny or ignore the bad parts of our societies, but I would agree that we should do it in a way that is positive and unifying rather than polarizing.

    • Eric
      May 09, 2013 - 05:22 AM

      Ok Fred,

      The klan was devised after the Civil War to keep the blacks down and prolong racism by the Democrats. At that time it was the militant faction of the Dems. Byrd of WV, Fulbright, and Gore have very close ties to them. The klan is still a very strong force in the Democrat party in the south…Yhat is what I meant. Read your history. In WV I have a relative who lost a gubernatorial election due to the fact the Democrats did not allow the black vote to be counted. In the days of segregation in WV teachers in the black schools were paid more than in the white schools. That stopped when the Dems got in control.

      Yes, the Dems are the true racist and bigoted party. They prolong the idea so much that their race bating poverty pimps have made millions – sharpton, Jackson sr, , etc

      • Fred
        May 10, 2013 - 11:04 PM

        I am guessing you were frozen in time during the 1960s. The GOP made a very deliberate choice to court the vote of racists using Lee Atwater’s “southern strategy” and the south is now their base, while the Democrats get much of their support from the North- a big switch from 50 years ago! I agree there were many racist elements within the Democrat party, and still are, but it is overwhelmingly found more in the GOP today. That is one reason why huge majorities of black citizens vote Democrat rather than Republican today…

      • Mark
        May 15, 2013 - 09:06 AM


        So, let me get this straight. In the ’60s all the racist Democrats flipped to become Republicans, while Republicans flipped and became big government Democrats? Laughable.

        Do you happen to know what LBJ is reported to tell a couple of Democratic governors prior to his signing of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964? How about “I’ll have the n*****s voting Democrat for the next 200 years.”


        Does that wound racist to you Fred? It was, is and will be the Democrat party that is the party of race politics and racism. Embrace your true heritage. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, fired blacks in Federal Service during his administation. FDR wanted to “spread the Jews thin all over the place.” (citation: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-medoff-roosevelt-holocaust-20130407) Would you like me to go on Fred?

        On the other hand, Strom Thurmond, Republican, was the first Southern Senator to hire a black senior staff member. But that was just a cover for his true racist ways, wasn’t it Fred?

        Embrace you racist Democratic past!

  3. Dennis
    May 07, 2013 - 12:08 PM

    As a 72-year old self employed man who spent 20 years out of WV, you did a great job of describing our situation. Thanks.

  4. Christopher Rushlau
    May 07, 2013 - 11:59 AM

    Maine, the way life should be. An old guy told me the story of a young girl growing up, who was eight before she was nine.
    I agree the newcomer-taking-over thing is bothersome precisely because it assumes the local people don’t know anything, but stupidity has no rights, to paraphrase some ancient Pope.
    I mean, quite frankly, what does any of this have to do with Israel and its sacred right to kill anyone who asks it exactly what a Joe-ish state is, and what that means for non-Joes.
    That issue dwarfs the newcomer issue, because the Israel lobby was there first, even in your town. Go to a local committee meeting of either party, you’ll see it flexing its muscles and people shaking in their boots.

  5. @MBernadetteE
    May 07, 2013 - 10:12 AM

    I’ve over the river (the Ohio) that is, but as a border person, I know the Appalachian spirit you talk about. Love West Virginia. Love this part of Ohio. Love people who just wanna do their work and feed their families and love God and others. 🙂

  6. Jack Penland
    May 07, 2013 - 09:04 AM

    Good Post. I think it’s something that comes with the mountains. As someone who spent most of his life in either the North Carolina or New Mexican mountains, mountain folks, at least those I know, are pretty much the same. I’m sorry to say that these are being replaced by Norteastern Liberals in the Carolinas, and California Liberals in the Rockies. Much of the original take care of your neighbor way of life appears to be disappearing, replaced by people who come from a completely different background. While some have adapted, most merely wish to inflict their way of life on a more rural setting.

    • Mark
      May 07, 2013 - 10:36 AM


      Great explanation of what is going on in the Mountaineer state. I second Jack’s response also. Those that are moving into the state are trying to force their views and opinions onto generations of Mountaineers. My question is why are they moving from the Northeast and other states like California? Is it because of the failed blue-state model in those states?

      Another thing to consider is that the Democrat party of today doesn’t bear much resemblance to the party of FDR, Johnson, hell, even Clinton. The party during the Bush years has seemed to take a very hard left socialst/marxist turn, much to the detriment of the working classes that built the party in the past.

      • Amy
        May 07, 2013 - 11:40 AM

        I think you it it right on Mark. 🙂 It seems people often move somewhere else, because they hate hat things have become, BUT instead of adapting to their new home, they seek to change their new world to fit their old ideals… Which is counter productive, but this is what all immigrants seem to do, whether it is to a new country or a new state, and it sucks for the indigenous populations in areas such as the Rockies. 🙁

        God Bless ~Amy

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