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OPINION: Mississippi, Do You Remember?

Mississippi State Capitol

Mississippi State Capitol

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Avery Rollins

A few days ago I posted a friend’s opinion column in a local newspaper on my social media. The op-ed addressed the fitness of the current occupant of the White House, calling him a liar, con man and a person who thinks he is above the law. On my post, I basically agreed with the writer.

I come from an extended family of about 50 in southwest Mississippi. One of my cousins responded to my posting by saying, “If you remove those miserable liberal glasses, you will see that he’s done some great things.”

My response was, “Well, cousin, I’m going to keep my miserable liberal glasses on and remind my Mississippi cousins how Democratic policies saved our family in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.” So that’s what I’m doing here, though none of my extended family read the Jackson Free Press.

Let me expand on my family’s situation in our history. My grandfather raised five children on an 80-acre farm. My maternal uncle joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (created to provide jobs for unemployed men) in the late 1930s and was required to send back three quarters of his salary to his family. This money saved the farm and enabled my grandfather to successfully raise his children.

Had it not been for this Democratic New Deal program, my mother and her three sisters, along with my grandparents, might have all been homeless. Later, my father, who had a union job with the Illinois Central Railroad, paid for one of those sisters to attend a trade school so she could leave the farm and make a living. He continued to assist his extended family whenever needed.

Unfortunately, in Mississippi, many people, like my extended family, forget that democratic policies have directly benefited them in the past and continue to today. They continue to vote Republican and appear to have little regard for the results of their votes.

Mississippi Republicans have held the governor’s office since 2004, hold a majority of statewide offices and have controlled the state legislature since 2011. They have three of the four House seats and both Senate seats. With almost total political control of the State, Republicans are in the strongest position to improve the lives of Mississippians.

Yet, Mississippi continues to have the highest poverty rate in the nation, the worse rate for infant mortality and ranks close to last in every leading health outcome. We are close to the bottom, 46th, in health insurance coverage. Though our education levels are rising, they are still near the bottom nationwide.

It continues to amaze me that so many Mississippians support the Republican Party agenda and support President Donald Trump in particular. Sixty, 70, 80 years ago, the Democratic Party rescued thousands of Mississippians from poverty—including members of my extended family, most of whom now vote against their personal interests of a higher minimum wage and better health care. I keep asking myself, “Why?”

Perhaps my extended family is typical of the Mississippi white population. They are middle class, some are successful businessmen, and a few have college degrees. Most have lived only in Mississippi. ObamaCare, Medicaid and other government programs have continually rescued my extended family.

Where is their understanding and appreciation for what Democratic policies have given us in the past? Wouldn’t we all benefit from a higher minimum wage and better health care?

Of course, I hope my extended family and other Mississippians will come to realize voting Republican is against their best interests. When will that happen? Maybe when they lose their health care, Social Security and instead have to rely on the benevolence of other family members (us progressives) or “Go Fund Me” pleas to save them.

Avery Rollins is a sixth-generation Mississippian and a retired FBI Agent with 31 years service.


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