OpinionPolitics

Jaco: Rural Missouri GOP’s race and class war against St. Louis

Rural and white-flight exurban Missouri GOP lawmakers in Jefferson City couldn’t say “ni**er,” “fa**ot,” “k*ke,” “”sp*c,” “g**k,” “r*ghead” or “ni**er-lover” any more, so they looked for an alternative.

They settled on “St. Louis.”

The pro-Trump super-majority culture warriors in the Missouri General Assembly are scared to death of St. Louis because it, like 21st-century America, doesn’t look like them. So everything they do — everything — is aimed at the degenerates, foreigners, race traitors and welfare queens crawling out of the city’s sewers like so many zombies feasting on the wallets and daughters of white, Christian, hard-working, oppressed rural Missourians.

Missouri native and Vanderbilt professor Johnathan Metzl travelled back to his home state to research part of his groundbreaking 2019 book “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland,” and quantified the hate and fear that drives red-state conservatives. Medicaid might help poor whites, but cutting it hurts Blacks worse. Restricting voting impacts the white elderly and poor, but it also keeps their inner-city enemies from voting. 

Every policy the Missouri Legislature considers has one fundamental litmus test: How much will it hurt urban, blue Missouri? Using culture wars as legislative policy puts Missouri in the mainstream of the 30 states where an extremist GOP has legislative control. The paranoid fantasy of The Great Replacement has taken over, with laws on everything from abortion and guns to voting and Medicaid aimed at punishing opponents of white supremacy.

The statehouse radical Republicans aren’t the result of Trump; Trumpist fascism is the result of them. The Tea Party extremists elected in reaction to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2010 became the parents of the QAnon militia seditionists. 

In Missouri, all you have to do is look at Medicaid expansion to see how revenge has become a substitute for policy.

In 2020, Missouri voters approved expanding Medicaid, an expansion 90 percent funded by the federal government. The expansion would help restore coverage to the 100,000 Missouri children kicked off Medicaid by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration. It would also make it easier to qualify for Medicaid. Right now, a family of four earning more than $5,500 a year makes too much to qualify. The new rules would allow a childless adult to get Medicaid if they make less than $18,000 a year.

The GOP Jeff City super-majority decided to ignore the will of the voters, and it has refused to fund Medicaid expansion. Republican State Rep. Sara Walsh said, “Rural Missouri voted ‘no,’” noting that Medicaid expansion succeeded with voters only because metro St. Louis and Kansas City voted heavily in favor of it.

Only 13.8 percent of urban residents qualify for Medicaid, as opposed to almost 19 percent of rural residents. But the needs of constituents are taking a back seat to anti-urban culture wars. Lake St. Louis state Rep. Justin Hill, also a Republican, noted that his constituents voted for Medicaid expansion, and he said, “I’m proud to stand against the will of the people who were lied to.”

Hill called Medicaid expansion “a great lie from the left.” You might remember Hill from the headlines he made three months ago, when he skipped his own inauguration in Jefferson City to attend Trump’s “stop the steal” treasonfest in Washington on Jan. 6.

This, of course, isn’t the first time the Republican legislature has overturned laws approved by Missouri voters.

In 2011, they gutted voter-approved regulations on “puppy mills” by loosening restrictions on dog breeders. In 2009, voters directed that casino revenues provide extra money for state schools; the state legislature neutered the law by subtracting a dollar in state school funding for every dollar added by casino revenue. In 2003, Missouri voters outlawed the carrying of concealed weapons; GOP lawmakers negated the law, and overrode a veto by then-Gov. Jay Nixon to do it.

In each of these cases, the uber-right wing in Jefferson City saw the initiatives as an attempt by urban Missourians to legislate city values on rural and exurban communities, ignoring the fact that, in each case, they were overturning an election because they didn’t like the result.

Which brings us to voting itself.

The Brennan Center for Justice did the math, and finds Missouri ranks third in the nation in the number of voter suppression bills introduced in the legislature. The Missouri General Assembly, for example, is considering a bill to require a government-issued photo ID to vote, even though the Missouri Supreme Court tossed out a similar law two years ago.

The idea here, as in Georgia, is to keep poor, Black, and immigrant people from voting. It’s just another way to keep the people who elected Tishaura Jones mayor, Kim Gardner circuit attorney, and Cori Bush congresswoman from infecting the real, rural, white, evangelical Missouri with socialist ideas such as medical care, sane gun policy, higher minimum wages and racial justice.

Besides, declaring jihad against St. Louis is so much more polite than saying “ni**er.”

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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