I wrote extensively about this particular phenomenon several years ago, in the context of a book review, and near as I can tell, only the specific locations have changed, the predictable useless yahooisms have remained intact. Yes, Obama has only visited the state twice, once to speak at a memorial for a mining disaster (but fuck the MSHA and EPA, amirite peoples?), and later that same year (2010) for
It doesn't seem like anyone wants to break the cold, hard truth to the ruggedly independent Mountaineer State, so let me take a humble stab at it -- you people need to pull your heads out of your fucking asses, m'kay? There's no way to put a cherry on this turd cupcake, folks. When you have a state full of goddamned moochers, who sponge from the system far more than they contribute, who produce a single commodity whose vocational utility is rapidly diminishing (for a variety of reasons -- diversification of energy sources; mechanization of coal extraction; diminishment of "easy" extraction sites), who have disproportionately large populations of medical and welfare benefit recipients, there's not much point in doing meet-and-greets in Cooter's Gulch.
Not to mention the fact that barely one-half of one percent of Americans live in West Virginia, and it becomes quite easy to see why no one wants to bother with it. Great, you produce coal. Awesome. But since many of us can simply run down to Harbor Freight and get of the grid for under a couple grand, and there are other exploitable energy sources as well, it is incumbent upon the self-styled individualists to explain -- in greater detail than some weird fuck-you Ten Commandments monument, mind you -- why precisely the other 99.5% of the world's largest economy is supposed to give more than three-quarters of a fuck about your failure to prepare, anticipate, or adapt to the tectonic change that the entire planet saw coming two decades ago.
It's not my intent to indulge in gratuitous hillbilly-bashing, I swear. I do have compassion for people who have spent their entire working lives performing difficult, extremely dangerous labor, and are either spent from decades underground breathing toxic dust, or have enough to get by but have watched their towns and communities collapse around them. West Virginia has probably had more news stories about its pervasive drug problems than anything else, which is a shame, since anyone who has read up on the state and its abundant natural resources knows that it's a lovely place full of beauty and wonder, comparable to just about any other place in the country. (Yes, even my beloved California.)
But caves and geographic quirks are not enough, unfortunately, to turn a generational economic tide. The state's geographic and cultural insularity, as with many southern (and WV does pride itself on being the "most southern of the northern states, and the most northern of the southern states," among other directional superlatives), has finally caught up with it in that regard.
One branch of my family is a boisterous, insanely fun group of Irish Catholic Texans, so I know firsthand a little somethin'-somethin' about the suhthuhn culcha I routinely deride. Anyhoo, one defining redneck characteristic is the display of the confederate flag in some form, whether an actual flag or merely a bumper sticker. The redneck proudly informs dismayed passersby that his is a symbol of "pride" and "independence," as if it were up to one random simpleton to repurpose a highly objectionable emblem of rape, terror, murder, systematic subjugation. In our family, this fucking thing was regarded as nothing short of an American swastika.
But the reality of such a symbol, when one comes across it --and I did, this very afternoon, here in sunny NorCal -- is that its bearer is someone whom, as my East Texan great-grandmother would have put it, "cain't tell 'em nuthin'." No, indeed -- and that, ladies, fish, and gentlemen, is what you are seeing with your southern states, most of them (Texas and Florida notwithstanding, but even then only by economy of scale) unproductive moochers, culturally regressive, uncomfortable with the fairly major societal changes taking place, and not knowing what to do about any of it.
I wish I knew what to tell them, I wish there were easy answers for them. It would be nice to just be able to tell them to suck it up, take a few Khan Academy classes to get their shit together, and grow superhot peppers. [Ed. Someone has to give those hot-pepper guys a reality show. If people can watch other people open a goddamned storage shed, they can watch heat-seeking trenchermen grow two million Scoville unit peppers.] But just as one cannot serve two masters, one also cannot be utterly dependent on gubmint largesse, and simultaneously expend precious scarce energy and resources railing against said gubmint. That's not politics, it's math.