News / USA

Voters in Appalachia Struggling to Identify With Presidential Candidates

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Outside the growing city of Charlotte, North Carolina - host to the 2012 Democratic National Convention - a different section of America watches. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh looks at how people who live just a few hours west of the convention, in the region known as Appalachia, view the political conventions, and the state of the race for President.

Rural Roane County Tennessee sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

"It's really the heart of the bible belt," says Gary Johnston of Roane County Tea Party. "A lot of churches."

Though not far from the Democratic National Convention in the neighboring state of North Carolina, retired musician Gary Johnston says the gap in views between those who live here, and those assembled to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term, are wide.

"I believe this country is doomed if this President is elected for four more years," he adds.

Johnston is not happy with President Obama's health care legislation, which requires more Americans to purchase health insurance or face penalties. He is also upset with stimulus programs put in place during the Presidents term in office. He is so passionately opposed to President Obama, that he joined fellow conservative activists to buy a billboard saying "Obama or America - You can't have both."

"It means that you can either have America as you know it, or you can choose to keep this President and America will forever be changed," he says.

“I think some of these things are near treasonous quite frankly,” says teacher Gloria Johnson, a Democrat, passes the billboard on her way into the nearby city of Knoxville, where she faces an uphill battle in her race for a seat in the Republican controlled Tennessee legislature.
“It is tough to be the underdog sometimes,” says Johnson.
In a part of the country where voters have recently elected more Republicans into state office, Johnson is hoping to get a boost from younger Democrats in Knoxville, like students at the University of Tennessee. But she knows that in order to win in November, she needs to win over some Republican voters.
“Most of my family are Republicans, and I don’t think that they feel Mitt Romney is somebody who represents them," says Johnson. "A lot of Tennesseans don’t feel like Mitt Romney represents them.”
Gary Johnston says many people throughout lower income Appalachian communities in East Tennessee don’t identify with the Republican nominee for President because Mitt Romney is wealthy and doesn't know what its like to be unemployed.

“I’ll begrudgingly vote for him, though I think he’s a good man,” said Johnston.
Johnston says he is starting to warm up to both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan after watching television coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa which he said "humanized" the Republican ticket.
Gloria Johnson hopes the same happens for President Obama in Charlotte, where as a delegate from Tennessee, she plans to cast her vote for his nomination for a second term as President.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs