OPINION: Forgetting Mississippi

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive for a rally, Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

President Donald Trump is not afraid to speak his mind on issues, nor is he sheepish when speaking out against those who disagree.

But where is Mississippi in these hot-button conversations?

It's not for a lack of talking points, I can assure you. We are consistently ranked the poorest, most illiterate, and most obese state in the U.S. - among other socio-economic issues.

I love living in this state, but you are a lost cause if you think this state - and region for that matter - hasn't been consistently ignored and passed over by the Washington elite in our nation's capital.

Mississippians face more daily problems than many in other states, with crumbling infrastructure, an ineffective and pious legislature and racial divides that have yet to heal. Scores of people in small towns speckled across the state don't have
access to quality food or jobs that provide health care. The state is consistently ranked near the top in teen pregnancy rates and every day, children living off a diet of McDonald's and fried gas station food are diagnosed with childhood diabetes.

Our state legislators and congressmen try to pray away these problems, but they aren't going anywhere and continue to get worse. Unemployment numbers just came out and even Starkville and Oktibbeha County saw substantial upticks in the number of people out of work.

But America is going to be great again, right?

So, with that being said, when is Mississippi going to appear in the Twitter feed of the 45th President of the United States?

On Tuesday night, the president held a campaign-style rally in Youngstown, Ohio - a county he lost in his November election bid, but positioned in a swing state that ultimately carried him to the White House. Trump has dedicated more time than any previous president to galvanizing his support base and feeding his ego … but Mississippi doesn't even seem to be on the radar.

The fiery event was complete with blue-collar supporters taking to the podium and protestors being escorted out of the venue. Trump welcomed the latter with a raised chin and bravado as he remarked one protestor was being taken back to "his mommy."

The statement was met with thunderous applause, but couldn't Humphrey Coliseum facilitate the same victory lap celebration?

The Associated Press - which some will easily write off as "fake news" - reported as of July 24, the president has held rallies in many states, favoring the states that helped him pull off the biggest political upset in modern history. While the president has focused much of his attention and travel time on the states he won, it's important to note he has made at least seven appearances in states that he lost - visiting Virginia three times during his presidency. I understand this is politics and Virginia is in his back yard, but again, where is Mississippi? Not on the president's mind, it seems.

The lion's share of Trump's visits have been to northern states, where he probably feels more comfortable. Albeit, he has visited Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky one time each in the months since he was inaugurated, but these states are far superior to Mississippi in terms of it's manufacturing base, public education, etc.

So why hasn't the president paid a visit to the Magnolia State during the first year of his presidency?

Maybe it's the unbearable humidity or it could be a lack of interest. But maybe it's because Trump - like every president before him - is continuing the trend of taking Mississippi for granted. We are good enough to help get a candidate elected,but not good enough to visit or put a focus on once you have secured the White House.

Mississippi is like the old forgotten aunt, bedridden in a nursing home that continues to mail you $20 checks on your birthday. Sure, it's exciting when you benefit, but even that isn't enough to pay a visit out of gratitude.

Barack Obama turned a blind eye to the Magnolia State over his eight years in office and George W. Bush only acknowledged Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina decimated its coast. Even the response to Katrina has been met with questions and criticism from coastal residents and local leaders.

Trump won easily in Mississippi in 2016, with nearly 58 percent of the vote. He outperformed the last two Republican nominees, with Republican Mitt Romney pulling in 55 percent of Mississippi voters in 2012 and Republican John McCain netting 56 percent in 2008.

With this kind of performance in a traditionally conservative state, would it not warrant some kind of celebratory visit?

President Trump made his career off building things, so would it not make for a productive photo-op to see how Yokohama Tire Corp. has transformed the local economy in West Point or to witness firsthand the scientific advances being made in drone research at Mississippi State University here in Starkville?

Maybe a Mississippi visit is planned in the future, but so far, 2017 has given no indication that the commander-inchief will set foot in the Magnolia State.

Instead, Trump is alienating his southern base and turning a cold shoulder to a part of the country that continues to give him blind devotion.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands as a sterling example of this. One of the president's earliest and most influential supporters has now been reduced to the labels of "beleaguered" and "weak," for recusing himself from the Russia probe - a move many on both sides of the aisle deemed "ethical."

Some people I know who previously thought Sessions could walk on water are now doubling down on the Trumpian view of a man who could have held his senate seat for the remainder of his life, winning by wide margins in Alabama.

If Sessions resigned right now and continued to weather name-calling by the president on his way out the door, by the time he made it back to conservative Alabama, he would have already been elected governor. Regardless of the labels Trump can put on him, the core of his base will still be supportive in Alabama, but many on the fringe have turned on the Selma native.

Sessions was one of my home state's two U.S. senators from the time I was in grade school and has done more for the Republican Party than Trump - or many on the left - will give him credit for. But now, he is a half-step away from being the next political casualty in the whirlwind Trump White House.

Will he resign? I can't say. But is the political legacy of Sessions suffering with each new blow tweeted out from the president's Blackberry? You'd better believe it.

The former Alabama senator and current U.S. Attorney General represents the pinnacle of the Deep South's involvement in the Trump administration and may soon be no more - apart from the two Atlanta political machine hangers-on appointed by Trump: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

As a southerner and resident of Mississippi, I want so bad to see the president take a proactive approach with the problems we face down here. The issues are numerous and our state leaders have proven ineffective in addressing them. Point blank, we need help.

Trump can continue to run an unconventional White House, and as a result, is in a unique position to bridge the gap and be involved in mending the Deep South problems of failing infrastructure, poverty, illiteracy and obesity.

But until that day, it seems the president of the United States will follow tradition and simply turn his back on a state that outlived its usefulness after the final votes were tallied last November.

Ryan Phillips is the editor of the Starkville Daily News. The views portrayed in this column are his and do not reflect the views of the Starkville Daily News staff

Category: