How did it happen?
Earlier today, this article from the Washington Post caught my eye:
Byler's column follows the political changes in West Virginia from it being a Democratic stronghold to becoming one of the country’s most conservative Republican states. The article focuses on Democratic Senator Joe Manchin as a politician who is trying “to outrun a realignment.” The turning point, according to Byler was 2014:
But during the Obama administration, the GOP made further inroads. In 2010, Republican David McKinley captured the 1st Congressional District, the northernmost portion of the state that hadn’t seen a Republican congressman since the 1960s. In 2012, Mitt Romney won every county in the state. And in 2014, the GOP ran the table: Shelley Moore Capito became the state’s first Republican senator since the 1950s, Republicans won every House seat, and the GOP flipped both houses of the state legislature.
How are we doing under Republican rule?
Byler’s article reminded me that it was probably time to once again look at the economic state-of-the-state to see how West Virginia has faired economically since the Republicans took over in 2014. I usually do this every summer and use CNBC’s “Top States for Business” for year-to-year comparisons. Unfortunately, that survey will not be published until July 14. I checked some other indicators and here is what I found:
On June 7, Wallethub published its annual
2021’s Best & Worst State Economies
Overall, West Virginia finished 50th out of 51 (Hawaii was last). The state ranked 50th in economic development, 40th in economic health, and last in innovation potential.
Earlier this year, U.S. News ranked states in a number of categories: West Virginia ranked 48th (out of 50) in economic stability and potential, 45th in education, 47th in health care, 50th in infrastructure (attention Senator Joe), and 47th overall.
The best ranking I could find for the state was ALEC’s State Economic Competitiveness Index. The Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been the source for various West Virginia legislation, ranked WV 45th in economic performance and 32nd in economic outlook. (I can’t help thinking that ALEC’s ranking methodology correlates nicely with the content of the bills they write for legislatures.)
Yes, West Virginia become more Republican despite a state economy that shows few signs of improvement. It doesn't matter -- for a lot of West Virginia's voters, the state's economy isn't that important; cultural issues trump it every time.
A footnote -- it was a more narrowly-defined study, but Republican legislators and the “newspapers” who support them can take heart that all those years of drumbeating about lawsuits creating a ‘judicial hellhole” finally paid off – while looking at various state rankings, I found a MD Linx survey of best and worst states to practice medicine in: WV was last but its second best score (behind "cost of living") was #22 in “best malpractice cost.”
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