Interview is edited for clarity and transcription is of the shorter, radio edited spot.
FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO (HOST) : It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. Joining us this morning is Thomas Mills he is the founder and publisher of, PoliticsNC.com, a website of commentary and analysis. Recently he wrote an article titled, Mayberry and the Children of the Reagan Revolution. Good Morning Thomas, and thank you for your time this morning.
THOMAS MILLS (GUEST) : Thanks for having me.
FRED : First, could you lay out what this article is about, and what sparked you to write it?
THOMAS : Yea, CBS This Morning did a story about Mt. Airy, North Carolina which is the basis for Mayberry. And in one of the segments, or part of the segment, Ted Koppel interviewed a bunch of people on a trolley and it turns out that most of the people on the trolley, all but two of them believe that the election was stolen, they believe that the insurrection on January 6th, was caused by Black Lives Matter. They’re huge fans of the former President. And you know, I looked at them and said, this is kind of who has been electing Republicans in areas like North Carolina for the last 30-year or so. And it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, and where do they get these views and how do they hold on to them? And that’s really what the article is about. And I think the largest, single cohort, age cohort who votes for Republicans is the people that came of age the time that Ronald Regan got elected.
FRED : Ya, I was speaking to my wife about your article, I brought it to her attention and she brought up themes like the ‘Greatest Generation’ and she brought up to me also that during this time if you had a high school diploma that’s all you needed to have a really good middle class life here in the US and that is no longer the case.
THOMAS : That’s right. And these people. This cohort that I talk about, pretty much these folks that were born between 1955 and and 1975, a lot of them expected to be able to graduate from high school and have a very middle class living and instead what happened was, a lot of them went to work in manufacturing facilities and trade deals like NAFTA sent those overseas but also, the technological revolution all of a sudden created this demand for people that have backgrounds in computers. And here these folks are in their ‘30s and ‘40s, they’ve got kids, they’ve got jobs and they evaporated.
And so they are trying to adjust to this new society and they’re angry. They got left behind. Some of them went to work in construction, and then they turned around and lot of the construction jobs were suddenly being performed by immigrants from Latin America and Mexico, and so they lose those jobs, and the next thing they know they are trying to fit into some job that may not fit very well.
I met one guy who’s 60-years old and he’s driving people from a car dealership to their homes, that’s his job. He’s just driving people from car dealerships to their homes. He’s on his third career, and that’s it. He would have made a lot more at 60-years old in a textile mill where he started his career after 30-years than he would have as a driver.
FRED : Near the end of the article you write, Today, they make up the backbone of the Republican party. In 2020, they comprised about a third of the electorate and gave Trump a five point advantage over Biden. Although, Trump of course lost the election. What do you this says about the future of the Republican party?
THOMAS : The problem for Democrats is that these folks vote. In North Carolina they voted at over 81%, they voted around 85%, whereas the Democratic coalition which is made of younger voters were voting in the mid ‘60s, so they have a 20% turnout advantage. Long term it’s problem bad for them. It takes a long time for people to die. (Laughing) They’re not going away any time soon. In 15 or 20 years, they’ll make up a shrinking share of the electorate but it’s going to be a small shrinking share of the electorate unless some how Democrats can get younger voters to show up in droves. Because they are the key to this. And if you wait for them to die, these folks are going to live another 20 years or more. And the younger folks tend to not tune into voting until their about 40, so you have about 10 or 15 years until they start making a real difference.
FRED : Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com, a website of commentary and analysis. He recently published an article titled, Mayberry and the Children of the Reagan Revolution. Thank you for your time this morning.
THOMAS : I appreciate it.