MARIANNA, Fla. — A federal prison here in Florida’s rural Panhandle lost much of its roof and fence during Hurricane Michael in October, forcing hundreds of inmates to relocate to a facility in Yazoo City, Miss., more than 400 miles away.Which is sadder -- that there are towns across the nation where the best job opportunity is at the nearest prison, or that people are so desperate to keep that slight privilege that they'll drive for seven hours to work a two-week block of shifts for free?
Since then, corrections officers have had to commute there to work, a seven-hour drive, for two-week stints. As of this week, thanks to the partial federal government shutdown, they will be doing it without pay — no paychecks and no reimbursement for gas, meals and laundry, expenses that can run hundreds of dollars per trip.
This, after all, is one of many towns across the country where private industries are few and the federal government is intimately connected to livelihoods. Wedged near the border with Alabama and Georgia, Marianna’s 7,000 residents depend on the federal medium-security prison to employ nearly 300 people in good-paying jobs with attractive benefits.
But prison workers were facing trouble even before the partial government shutdown. At least two-thirds of the Marianna staff members sustained hurricane damage to their homes, according to prison managers. The local prison officers’ union estimated that 10 percent of its affected members experienced total property losses.It's somehow strangely reassuring to hear that disaster management for this gaping asshole of an administration doesn't just fail Puerto Ricans. Say what you will, but at least they're consistent in their failure.
Charles Jones, 32, a corrections officer and vice president of the union, said he and his wife were expecting their first child next month. “Because of the storm, I’ve already had to defer a payment here and there for my car,” he said. “Those are the basic things that we’re trying to do.”
“Everybody I talk to wants the wall,” James Grover, 72, a car salesman from nearby Blountstown, said over breakfast on Saturday at the Waffle Iron, a diner on Route 90 that opens six days a week even though its facade, destroyed by the hurricane, is temporarily made up of plastic sheeting and plywood.The photo of the diner is all the reason you need to click on that link. I know you're surprised at the notion that Florida doesn't believe in health inspectors for restaurants, but seeing it is another thing. It seems like exactly the sort of place where you would expect to find a car salesman who should have been able to retire by now, sharing his teleological belief in an expensive "solution" to a crisis that doesn't really exist.
The grand finale is where that now-infamous pull quote resides.
A few miles away, another prison employee, Crystal Minton, accompanied her fiancé to a friend’s house to help clear the remnants of a metal roof mangled by the hurricane. Ms. Minton, a 38-year-old secretary, said she had obtained permission from the warden to put off her Mississippi duty until early February because she is a single mother caring for disabled parents. Her fiancé plans to take vacation days to look after Ms. Minton’s 7-year-old twins once she has to go to work.
The shutdown on top of the hurricane has caused Ms. Minton to rethink a lot of things.
“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
Okay then, there ya go. Crystal Minton should be praised for her honesty, whether or not she intended it as such. I don't know how many such affirmations of the obvious people might need to decide for themselves, but there's yet another one, just as stark and blatant as you please.
As the next phase of the perennial campaign gets underway, and the various panel-show get their talking points ready for How Dems Can Win Them Back, and other equally useless suggestions, Ms. Minton actually provides an ideal angle of attack for whichever candidate decides to try to poach the coveted angry-rube sliver. There is definitely a way to reframe that he's not hurting the people he needs to be hurting whinge.
Every one of these Real 'murkins, be they ancient car salesman or plaintive long-haul prison screw, is stuck -- in their low-rent locale, in their mediocre career aspirations, in their sad lives of quiet destitution. Only people who have no other choice drive seven hours to stay in a hotel for two weeks and work at a prison, all out of pocket. These are folks for whom "economic insecurity" is not a direct cause for their vote, only because they are so habituated to economic insecurity, they don't notice it as a proximal cause of anything. It's a visible characteristic, like having brown eyes or being left-handed.
They want out of it, but you could give them a million bucks tax-free and they still wouldn't really know what to do with it. Get debt-free, maybe buy a larger, newer house (but in the same area). Take a couple family trips east of the Rockies: Branson, maybe DC or New York. They live close enough to Disney World to have been there already.
Mainly, though, their worldview would not change even if they were no longer economically insecure. It is not necessarily overt racism so much as lifelong conditioning that their strangely revered broke-down "way of life" of busted-out towns and opioid-addled relatives is "under attack," whatever the hell that means for them.
But it doesn't matter, because they are economically insecure, and they know they always will be, and so the way you snap them out of their dead-eyed cult gaze is to simply point out the obvious -- that all those godless heathen fag libruls, all those coastal elites, have been doing just fine. Maybe not great, because only the wealthy do great anymore, but their hero hasn't hurt the coastal elites, not even a little bit. Even the initial snowflake tears, as tasty as those might have been, have dried and galvanized what is now just as intractable an opposition bloc as the teatards were ten long years ago.
The snowflakes are just pissed now, and a lot of them are young, and they'll never vote Republicon now. Never. And most of them really haven't taken any sort of economic hit, because they don't typically work in industries or geographic areas that Master Dealmaker's idiot shenanigans actually affected. It's the floor monkey at the nail factory that's losing his job; it's the soybean farmer in Iowa watching his harvest rot in a cavernous warehouse; it's the already dilapidated panhandle craphole that just had its best jobs outsourced four hundred miles away in another state, because the disaster money still hasn't shown up to repair their houses and businesses and infrastructure.
They were already getting a raw deal. Right or wrong, they feel like they've gotten a raw deal all their lives. He promised to bring the pain to all those smug, condescending libruls who have the nerve to read books, who think they're so fuckin' smart. Instead he's just brought the pain exclusively to the people who love him the most. And they can't figure it out. It's hilarious. I'm getting a huge fuckin' chubby just thinking about it all over again. It's not just that they can't quit Preznit Monkey Paw. They voted for Ron DeSantis, they voted for Matt Gaetz, just ten weeks ago. They asked for this, and now, like the dumbest of dogs, they stand around scratching their nuts, wondering what the hell happened. It turns out that stoves are hot, and elections have consequences, and there are simply some folks who need to learn those lessons the hard way. Some of them will keep touching the stove, no matter what. As the man said, you can't fix stupid.
Democratic candidates, certainly at the national level, need to just write these numbskulls off. There's nothing you can tell them, and there's no need when there are millions more votes to be had just by motivating a relative handful of non-voters. But certainly local and state pols can make this argument to them, and it could conceivably be utilized by the right national candidate: He promised you he'd make it better for you, and slap them down. How's that been working out?
But again, in the meantime, these stories are like slightly delayed Christmas presents. How can you not love reading about people getting exactly what they voted for? That's democracy right there!