“For millions of Americans spooked by a Black man in the White House,” writes Barack Obama in his new memoir, A Promised Land, “Donald Trump promised an elixir for their racial anxiety.”
Rather than speak for the millions of Americans whom Barack Obama casually defamed, I am going to speak for the 130,000 or so residents of Chautauqua County, New York, a semi-rural “rust belt” county tucked away in the far southwest corner of western New York.
I know the county well. I spend a good chunk of each year there and set my first published novel, 2006: A Chautauqua Rising, therein. (Word to would-be writers: do not use names in book titles that no one can pronounce: sha-TAWK-wa).
In 2008, Mr. Obama, you won Chautauqua County. In that the county is only 2 percent black, it was the white people of Chautauqua who elected you. In that many residents have not seen a black American since the Buffalo Bills moved their training camp, “racial anxiety” is preposterously low on the list of local motivators. You appeared just as black in 2008 as you did in 2012, and you scared no one.
High on the list of real anxieties was the economy. The once prosperous county had been hemorrhaging jobs and people since 1970. In 2008, with the economy collapsing, you promised “hope and change.” People ignored the details and put their trust in you.
In October 2012, after four years of left-leaning economic amateurism, the national unemployment rate stood at 7.9 percent, the worst “recovery” in our history. It was higher still in Chautauqua County.
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