A view of the world from Ohio
Crime may be at historical lows, but Trump’s law and order appeal is based on reality for rural areas
Tragedy in West Virginia. Twenty-seven overdoses in four hours – one death. The overdoses occurred in the same area, within a couple miles of each other.
All of the overdoses happened within a mile and a half radius, which leads officials to believe they are from the same batch of heroin. The overdose victims ranged from 20 years old to 50, according to Merry.
This story is familiar in Dayton and its exurbs and the rural areas surrounding it. The drug was likely bought by all 27 victims from the same dealer, and laced with fentanyl, a narcotic more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is what killed musician and star Prince. Where I work, a metro newspaper and major local news affiliate, this is news we report every weekend.
When dealers are running low on heroin (which is in epidemical demand), they cut heroin with fentanyl, and dealers seldom let customers know the product has been cut and could be fatal. Overdoses occur regularly, many causing death. Police departments, such as the Dayton Police Department in Ohio, have officers carrying NARCAN, a drug used to revive and save heroin ODs. This is standard equipment for officers, like a flashlight, handcuffs or a sidearm.
This is recent news to most, but this surge is far from a recent happening. Over a decade ago, law enforcement and hospitals in rural areas began seeing a switch from meth to heroin. Meth imported from Mexico was cheaper than meth produced by local dealers. At the same time new legislation made it more difficult to acquire opioids and other prescription pain medication. Heroin acts in the bloodstream like morphine. For those addicted to pain medication (many through bad practice by their own doctors), it was a natural switch that politicians and law enforcement didn’t anticipate. Now the United States is in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in at least 20 years, maybe ever.
Mike Burkholder of The Evening Leader and Wapakoneta Daily News wrote extensively about this problem nine years ago, but like many small town reports, it fell on deaf ears to others outside rural areas. It’s news to Washington DC, but almost everything from rural America is.
When Donald Trump speaks of law and order, he isn’t only speaking about immigration, inner city violence, he’s hitting a chord with rural working class and poor whites who have watched crime skyrocket due to the exploding epidemic in small towns. One exburb of Dayton had 80 heroin ODs through three months. They’ve occurred locally in Walmart and McDonalds bathrooms, in a Walgreens, and it’s eaten into the middle and upper middle class families.
Trump will probably not be president. But this problem will remain if Hillary Clinton doesn’t push aside the normal fight among progressive identity groups and take on the white working class and poor as the most serious part of her agenda. The Obama administration this week announced $17 million in funding to fight the heroin epidemic – it’s not nearly enough. It wouldn’t be nearly enough in Ohio. Promising more would outrage other groups that make up the Democratic voting base (poor and working class whites tend to vote Republican), who use academic language and old arguments about white privilege, which automatically fall apart when discussing the heroin epidemic. When a study was released early this year saying the mortality rate is only rising worldwide among one group of people – working class and poor American whites – progressive journalists were standing in line to either discount the findings as a whole or to twist them to fit their own gender or race politics, the same aggrandizement contest that has become a breeding ground on Twitter, and was the focus of garbage sites such as Gawker.
Hillary Clinton has long needed her Sister Souljah moment. To explain, Sister Souljah was a female rapper in the early 90s. She appeared at an MTV event with then candidate Bill Clinton, who loudly denounced her lyrics as violent against police and something he didn’t support. Hillary needs to make an honest reach to the rural white and working class, and do so in a loud fashion. Until this bloc is brought back into play for both parties, the vast disintegration of the political center will never get fixed. The GOP will continue to be at the beck and call of the Breitbart faction and the danger that runs from extremism continues.
Trump is probably losing the election – I say probably, because nothing is a certainty. But his candidacy hasn’t caused divisions and rank and furor in the country – it has revealed issues that have been long standing to those outside the corridor. Until the Democrats put aside the pecking order of their coalition, and start to work to truly unify the country, these problems will only get worse, and extremist fringes will continue to have a large voice.
The Democratic convention was a great start, with Ronald Reagan invoked (given the changes in the GOP, I’m sure the former Democrat and President would not have minded), and there are Republicans who would be more comfortable working with Democrats from the center than their own party on he right (John Kasich is the example). But invoking it, preaching optimism and unity, and focusing the country as one is one thing on the stump, and another thing in government.
This will be Hillary Clinton’s toughest challenge if she’s president.