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Kentucky novelist Silas House says Democrats must acknowledge red-state liberals pushing for change

When Kentucky writer and journalist Silas House travels the country to promote his books, people often take out their anger at Sen. Mitch McConnell on him.

Silas House

“Time and again, I’ve been called out for his presence in the Senate—during Q&As in front of a thousand people and in whispers at the signing table after events. For all of these people, I was the living embodiment of every voter in the state who had betrayed them. I can’t blame them for hating McConnell. Hardly anyone has done more to impede our democracy, and empower Donald Trump, than him,” House writes for The Atlantic. “I am ashamed of McConnell, but I am never ashamed to be a Kentuckian. My state is a complicated, beautiful place with a rich heritage and people who have contributed a huge amount to the American experiment. I will defend the state to all outsiders, even as I complain about its flaws.”

House isn’t the only Kentuckian to face such criticism. “Sometimes it feels as though all citizens of red states are lumped together, as if everyone here, especially those in rural areas, is the same. In early December when McConnell shot down the $908 billion stimulus plan, Twitter lit up with hatred for Kentuckians.” House was troubled not just by the vitriol, but by the way angry tweets painted Kentuckians as hicks, hillbillies, and other derogatory terms.

“These volatile responses trouble me, not only because I don’t like being reduced to a stereotype, but also because that response feeds the GOP rhetoric I hear at home: The liberals just think you’re deplorable, so why not flex your muscle any way you can to spit in their faces?” House writes.

Stereotyping Kentuckians as a backward, Republican monolith is not just unhelpful, but inaccurate, House writes: “Tens of thousands of us here in Kentucky are fighting for progressive causes, even as we are forced to defend ourselves against other liberals in the country who should be supporting us. I’m not organizing a pity party. Instead, I’m issuing a warning: Everyday Democrats need to see beyond the electoral map to acknowledge the folks pushing for liberal ideas even in the reddest of areas. If they don’t, the cultural divide will grow only wider.”

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This article originally appeared in The Rural Blog, a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky. The IRJCI is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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