Much gets made of the political importance of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. The “forgotten man” of America, those who drove the country’s manufacturing and energy sectors for decades, only to be left behind by 21st Century innovations and economic priorities. Analysts will discuss how candidates can win over the white working-class communities that make up a large chunk of the voting block in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee.
How can we preserve jobs and economic prosperity in rural communities that rely on industries like coal mining and logging?
Many conservative pundits like to tout the line “politics is downstream from culture”. It’s particularly relevant in places like these. This group of Americans have largely been left behind by institutions like Hollywood, finance, journalism, and big tech. As our communities become more and more stratified along cultural lines, we become more and more polarized politically.
That’s why conservatives should be paying attention to the most recent blow being dealt to these communities with the contraction of Minor League Baseball. Major League Baseball has come under increased pressure in recent years to improve minor league facilities and player salaries; their response is a proposal to eliminate 42 teams and restructure the entire MiLB system to cut costs.
The elimination of these few-dozen teams would eliminate thousands of jobs and rob 42 localities of a source of entertainment and common cause. The ultimate kicker is this: nearly all of the teams being eliminated would be in the aforementioned Rust Belt or Appalachian regions, with another concentration in the rural Western communities running along the Rocky Mountains. A majority of these markets aren’t served by MLB or any of the other three major American sports leagues; they’re mostly in small towns or rural locations that aren’t served by much of the entertainment industry at all. Being able to go watch America’s pastime was one of the only games in town, and that may not be for long.
These teams don’t just provide sentimental value, but financial benefits as well. Once again, these 42 teams add up to thousands of jobs between them. From concession workers to grounds crews to ushers and parking attendants, many workers in financially limited markets will lose a meaningful source of income. That’s not to mention the impact on local governments, who raise significant tax revenue from the economic activity bolstered by these teams. There’s also the immense investments made by local communities to build and renovate stadiums which could now be left without a tenant. In 2005, Charleston, West Virginia spent $25 million to build Appalachian Power Park. Binghamton and the State of New York are spending $2.5 million each to renovate the stadium for the Rumble Ponies. In 2018 the Erie Seawolves received over $12 million in grant money to renovate their ballpark. Jackson, Mississippi has spent $10 million in recent years on the Generals. The Vermont Lakemonsters just finished millions of dollars worth of renovations this past decade. All of these taxpayer investments could end up being in vain.
All of this is ultimately so that billionaire owners of MLB franchises can save some money. It will hurt the American communities that are already hurting the most. Families will lose a bonding activity and working class Americans will lose income. Just like the coal industry, steel plants, and logging camps, another source of economic output is leaving middle America. If the past is any indication, the void that’s left will likely be filled by unemployment and opiates. A few politicians have raised objections, but momentum is not in their favor. Conservatives need to stand up and advocate for the preservation of the American societal fabric, even if it isn’t the most economically efficient outcome. If these battles continue to be lost, our country will continue to be split in two.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.