Another election has come and gone, and while I’m writing this without knowing completely the outcome of our own local races, we still need to read the signals coming off our actual state of our nation, as opposed to the hypothetical “divided we fall” narrative we’ve been consuming.

And what’s the deep reality we need to understand? Our combo of economy and legal systems are only working for the middle-class and above.

In the Kentucky gubernatorial race, Jeff Bevin, the incumbent Republican governor, lost a squeaker of an election to the state’s Attorney General Andy Beshear, even after Trump rolled into Lexington and endorsed him. While it’s easy to blame Trump for Bevin’s loss, that’s a superficial analysis.

Looking at the counties that tilted for Beshear, they’re all relatively prosperous urban areas, with high quality-of-life backdrops (Lexington is surrounded by horse farms, for example.) The counties supporting Bevin were uniformly poor. And many in the east part of the state are genuinely benighted. To know the depths of despair in resurrecting your community, visit Hazard County. I know. I grew up close to there.

And while Bevin’s policies were geared toward destroying that selfsame constituency that voted for him, his message was also directed toward preserving their dignity.

During his tenure, he had been a staunch Trump ally in working to gut health care and Medicaid provisions – something that would have impacted poor counties more than others. Yet they still voted for him. The fundamentals are still askew in rural America, and if you look around and see no hope for fixing the economy, you’re either leaving, or dying with dignity.

Closer to home, I got a minor experience in how bad things are in our own rural areas. I had two used cars to sell. One was a nice Toyota Corolla, for $1,500. The folks that showed up for that one all had a job, and some semblance of family support network. What’s wild is because of Facebook ads, one can know this. It sold in 24 hours.

But the second was a Subaru Impreza, with 200K miles, a manual with the original clutch, for $900. My original hope had been to sell it to a mechanic, though it was in good shape. But at 200K miles, who knows what could happen? I thought it would take a couple weeks to sell, if it sold at all. It, too, sold in 24 hours.

But the people sending me messages for this vehicle were a click down in economic status. They all worked, but none had money. Three out of four had an infant. And they were begging me to take payments. To them, my Subaru was an aspirational purchase.

In the end, I managed to sell the car to a mechanic in Rathdrum. But it sobered me up. I thought I really understood the demographics of our outlying areas. Apparently, not so much. These people had no reliable transportation. And it was Doc Lucas, one of our old reps., who had taught me the importance of that for financial well-being of the poor.

What will fix our larger problems in this country are economic well-being floors – a minimum wage that is livable, health care for everyone and maybe a Universal Basic Income. There’s a death toll associated with our current policies that’s unacknowledged for seniors.

But it also manifests itself with young people, and the trauma and uncertainty of their basic existence. And it’s not going to get fixed by them. It has to get fixed by those of us in the middle classes and up. The consequence of not fixing it is a country that cannot navigate out of its morass of human suffering except for drugs. That’s what we’re already seeing.

And, as the razor-thin victory in Kentucky has shown, they’ll drag the rest of us down with them. Time to wake up.

Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.

Another election has come and gone, and while I’m writing this without knowing completely the outcome of our own local races, we still need to read the signals coming off our actual state of our nation, as opposed to the hypothetical “divided we fall” narrative we’ve been consuming.And what’s the deep reality we need to understand? Our combo of economy and legal systems are only working for the middle-class and above.In the Kentucky gubernatorial race, Jeff Bevin, the incumbent Republican governor, lost a squeaker of an election to the state’s Attorney General Andy Beshear, even after Trump rolled into Lexington and endorsed him. While it’s easy to blame Trump for Bevin’s loss, that’s a superficial analysis. Looking at the counties that tilted for Beshear, they’re all relatively prosperous urban areas, with high quality-of-life backdrops (Lexington is surrounded by horse farms, for example.) The counties supporting Bevin were uniformly poor. And many in the east part of the state are genuinely benighted. To know the depths of despair in resurrecting your community, visit Hazard County. I know. I grew up close to there.And while Bevin’s policies were geared toward destroying that selfsame constituency that voted for him, his message was also directed toward preserving their dignity. During his tenure, he had been a staunch Trump ally in working to gut health care and Medicaid provisions – something that would have impacted poor counties more than others. Yet they still voted for him. The fundamentals are still askew in rural America, and if you look around and see no hope for fixing the economy, you’re either leaving, or dying with dignity.Closer to home, I got a minor experience in how bad things are in our own rural areas. I had two used cars to sell. One was a nice Toyota Corolla, for $1,500. The folks that showed up for that one all had a job, and some semblance of family support network. What’s wild is because of Facebook ads, one can know this. It sold in 24 hours.But the second was a Subaru Impreza, with 200K miles, a manual with the original clutch, for $900. My original hope had been to sell it to a mechanic, though it was in good shape. But at 200K miles, who knows what could happen? I thought it would take a couple weeks to sell, if it sold at all. It, too, sold in 24 hours.But the people sending me messages for this vehicle were a click down in economic status. They all worked, but none had money. Three out of four had an infant. And they were begging me to take payments. To them, my Subaru was an aspirational purchase.In the end, I managed to sell the car to a mechanic in Rathdrum. But it sobered me up. I thought I really understood the demographics of our outlying areas. Apparently, not so much. These people had no reliable transportation. And it was Doc Lucas, one of our old reps., who had taught me the importance of that for financial well-being of the poor.What will fix our larger problems in this country are economic well-being floors – a minimum wage that is livable, health care for everyone and maybe a Universal Basic Income. There’s a death toll associated with our current policies that’s unacknowledged for seniors.But it also manifests itself with young people, and the trauma and uncertainty of their basic existence. And it’s not going to get fixed by them. It has to get fixed by those of us in the middle classes and up. The consequence of not fixing it is a country that cannot navigate out of its morass of human suffering except for drugs. That’s what we’re already seeing.And, as the razor-thin victory in Kentucky has shown, they’ll drag the rest of us down with them. Time to wake up.Chuck Pezeshki is a professor in mechanical and materials engineering at Washington State University.

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