Will PA Tip The Scales This November? - Paycheck

Will PA Tip The Scales This November?

At a farmers’ market along Route 30, a few miles from the county seat of Bedford and no great distance from the Maryland state line, a visitor sees a Pennsylvania far removed from busy cities and sleepy mill towns—and a reminder that agriculture remains one of the largest industries in Pennsylvania.

         Labor Day has come and gone, so along with comments about the produce and speculation about how large a crowd will be permitted at the next game of the Bedford High School Bison, comments naturally turn to November’s election.

         It can safely be said that this corner of Pennsylvania is Trump country.  Patty, of Mann’s Choice (a town, it should be noted, with a funny story behind its odd name), seemed to speak for much of the crowd when she took a break from counting ears of corn to say of Donald Trump “from day one, they’ve been fighting against him and he’s still done a great job—and people like us are going to re-elect him in this year just to show them.”

         To be sure, this has long been Republican territory:  Bedford County has voted for a Democrat for President only once in the last century, and the Republican majority here never had to compete with any large contingent of unionized coal or manufacturing workers.

         There is, however, a different tone to political conversations in these mountains than one would have heard two decades ago.  Then, even in rock-ribbed Republican territory like this, the most committed partisan was likely to think of the Democrats as the party of mistaken ideas foolishly supported by a third of his neighbors.

         Today, even the more temperate descriptions of Democrats I heard from Republicans here came in the tones usually reserved in other times and places for the soldiers of an invading army.

         “They’ve forgotten all about places like this—the real America that’s not on TV and not in the big cities” said Paul of Bedford, neatly capturing one of the basic realities of 2020.  National Democrats are no longer even considered worthy of consideration by an overwhelming majority of voters in rural Pennsylvania and, indeed, most of rural America, while a lifelong resident of New York City who rose to fame building skyscrapers is cast as the voice of those for whom a silo or an Agway store are parts of everyday life.

         Could Trump’s margins in rural Pennsylvania grow even further and tip the state to him once again, and so the Presidential election?  It is certainly one of 2020’s more intriguing possibilities.

Michael O'Connell

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