Raising hell with Appodlachia’s Chuck Corra

Chuck Corra of Appodlachia

JD Vance’s book “Hillbilly Elegy” was first published in June 2016. It’d take a few months for it to climb to the top of the bestseller list. But by the time Donald Trump was elected president, it was being championed by blue state liberals all across the country as a way to “understand Trump Country.” Suddenly, people who had never visited Appalachia were using that book as a talking point to explain why Republicans were winning in states like Kentucky and Pennsylvania and West Virginia and Ohio. But also immediately, there was pushback. We’ve talked about it plenty of times on this show. But the policies and the stereotypes put forth in that book just continue to undermine the region and the people who have always been working to make it a better place.

If you want a real look at Appalachia and all of its complexity and depth, you’ll need to look elsewhere to sources like Appodlachia, one of my favorite podcasts and one that’s committed to celebrating the voices of all the folks who make up the region and to raising a little hell in the process. As they say, there’s no elegy needed.

This week, I sat down with Chuck Corra, one of the co-hosts of the series. Chuck grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Virginia. He’s passionate about his home region and curious about understanding it inside and out, the good and the bad. We sat down to talk a little bit about Vance, who is now the Republican nominee for Senate in Ohio, a little bit about Joe Manchin, who continues to block legislation advanced by his own party, including legislation that would expand abortion access, which he blocked just last week. And of course, we talked a whole lot about Appalachia, and where it sits in the American imagination. So let’s go ahead and get started with this week’s episode of The Reckon Interview.

Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for length and clarity.

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John Hammontree: Okay, Chuck Corra, welcome to the Reckon Interview.

Chuck Corra: Hey, John, thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.

John Hammontree: Appodlachia has been out there for three years now. I’m curious about how your identity as an Appalachian has changed since you and Big John started doing this podcast, you know, late 2019.

Chuck Corra: I think it’s changed in the sense that I’ve become more aware of it and more cognizant of it and have a better understanding of what it means to me. I don’t know that it’s necessarily changed, like, fundamentally, but I’ve become more aware of it. And I’ve mentioned this on our show before — growing up, I never really identified myself as an Appalachian, that just wasn’t something that we did where I’m from, or at least me. I don’t know of anybody else from Parkersburg, West Virginia. But I always identified as West Virginian. And when I met more people from across the region, I was like, Oh, so this is like a broader thing, you know. So like, it’s always been sort of an evolving process my whole life. But I think since starting this, it’s really kind of gone into overdrive, and you start to understand, like, what parts of your, you know, fundamental self are tied to your Appalachian identity. And so it’s been an interesting journey. And a really, I think, eye opening one.

John Hammontree: What have you learned about the region? You know, I mean, ya’ll talk to a variety of guests every week. A few weeks ago, you know, you were talking about the way the media portrays Appalachia and hillbilly culture, specifically, the way that news outlets will parachute in, or even local outlets will cover themselves. So what have you learned about West Virginia and broader Appalachia that you didn’t know going into this?

Chuck Corra: Well, I think the biggest thing is just how diverse in different parts of the region are. And I mean, I know there’s a lot of debate about what is and isn’t Appalachia. But if you’re looking at it from purely an Appalachian Regional Commission map perspective, like the 15 or so some-odd state region, you have like the stereotypes about it being rural, like densely-wooded backwoods hillbillies, imbred, all that stuff. And, you know, most of that is not true or the to the extent that it is it’s also true in every other corner of the country. But you have, like Central and Western Pennsylvania is a completely different world than Northern Alabama, or western North Carolina or the state of West Virginia as a whole. And so you kind of learn, you know, the differences and the similarities between people there between the cultural and economic issues in those different places, but also how they tie together. And I think, you know, I learned a lot about differences, but I’ve also learned a lot about commonalities. I mean, I think a lot of people tend to disregard places like West Virginia in a very similar way that they do places like Alabama and Mississippi, which are you know, by ARC definition, they’re also parts of Appalachia. And I think there’s a lot of solidarity there between people who are from there and arguing that, you know, we’re not all fitting into a stereotypical bucket. And in fact, we’re quite a diverse people with diverse ways of thinking, and backgrounds. And so I think for me, it’s been a real journey of just learning more about the differences in people. Where I grew up in Parkersburg, it was one of the most ethnically homogenous parts of the country. It is extremely white. I think we only had like maybe a handful of non-white kids in my high school. I probably count them on one, maybe two hands. But you know, there’s other parts of the region, even other parts of West Virginia where there’s so much more diversity, both racial, ethnic, socio-economic, cultural diversity that I think doesn’t get talked a lot about in the context of Appalachia. There’s not a lot of nuance to the discussion of the region. It’s mostly based on the stereotypes that are often perpetuated at a larger level. And so I think it’s been a really interesting journey with that. One good example of that yesterday, I was at a book event for Neema Avashia, who wrote, recently published, a book called “Another Appalachia,” subtitle being “[Coming] Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place.” And one of her opening lines, whenever she talks about it is, all the people that come up to her and say, ‘I didn’t know there were any queer or Indian people in West Virginia, let alone both.’ And I think that’s just a perfect encapsulation of both what the stereotypes about Appalachia are, but also what the reality is. And the reality is quite different and quite diverse and unique.

John Hammontree: And it’s interesting that you brought up the way that West Virginia kind of gets thought about in the media, and compared to Alabama, and Mississippi. And I’m curious, you know, which do you think is the more maligned region by national punditry? Would it be Appalachia, you know, the, the core of Appalachia, or would it be the Deep South?

Chuck Corra: Wow, man, that’s tough. I think that the Deep South has undergone a bit more — this is just based on my own anecdotal evidence, not anything objective or substantive — but I think like, the South has probably been more universally maligned, because more people are just familiar with it, like the terminology and the area. Appalachia is still sort of shrouded in mystery in a way. But I think the South, there’s been a greater movement to, I think, provide a counter narrative there, like the work that you all are doing at Reckon is really important, the work that Bitter Southerner is doing, the work that you know, just individual people are doing. I mean, you look at the perception of Georgia, before and after 2020, which, you know, for what it’s worth, like, probably, is very telling of how people kind of view things in very macro terms, but I think the South is often viewed as the butt of all the jokes, though. Like I think when people go to do an accent of someone who’s quote, unquote, dumb, they always reach for a Southern accent. Now, maybe I don’t think there’s a lot of intuitive thought that goes to that, when people do that, I think it’s just the default. But I don’t know that one or the other has necessarily been more maligned. I think the South is just a more commonly used term, and it’s a more commonly used catch all for things, whereas Appalachia is a little bit more specific. And I think the stereotypes and and the way it’s been maligned is a bit more, I guess, siloed into different things like incest, and all those types of things. But I mean, they both have have really undergone their own unique sort of, of PR crisis, for lack of better term. And just to kind of put a button on that there’s so much important work by people in those regions, which obviously overlap, to push back against that. And I think that’s been one of the most important and really beautiful things about the advent of something like the internet, which is allows people to do that and have a platform.

John Hammontree: Yeah, definitely. And I think part of the reason that you and Big John launch this podcast was to kind of push back on a lot of those narratives that were coming out of the 2016 election about the Appalachian working class in the Rust Belt, specifically, you know, coding a lot of it white. And, you know, the rush from people on the coast to kind of view your part of the country through, you know, the lens that was being provided by somebody like JD Vance with “Hillbilly Elegy.” As we’re speaking now, we don’t know the results of the Ohio Senate primaries, but it seems likely that, you know, he’s got Trump’s endorsement, and he will continue to be kind of a go to avatar for what Appalachia is in the minds of a lot of people. You know, tell me about how y’all have been pushing back on that.

Chuck Corra: Yeah, well, that’s unfortunate. I don’t know how that’s going to end up. I think it’s, I think it’s going to be a tight race regardless, and getting Trump’s endorsement certainly helps definitely doesn’t hurt him. Which is funny because he’s done nothing but trash the guy in private conversations. So it kind of tells you the type of person that JD Vance is, someone who will claw his way to the top no matter what he has to do. But I think first of all, I will premise this with there have been many people before us that were pushing back against JD Vance. You can look at the well documented articles and literature and all those things from so many people from Elizabeth Catte, from Meredith McCarroll, to even people like Crystal Wilkinson, and others who maybe even aren’t directly calling him out but providing a counter narrative in the form of their own stories. And so I do want to give credit to those individuals, and that’s just a small, you know, swath of them. But for us, I think it’s like, we have sort of a more unique platform. I think one of the reasons we started this show is because there weren’t a lot of other podcasts or media like this that was specific to Appalachia that was providing this kind of counter narrative and this sort of progressive voice. And so we—one of the things that we really, I think, latched on to is JD Vance, because at the time that we started, was before he jumped in to the Senate race, obviously was 2019. Most people associated him with “Hillbilly Elegy.” And with that came, you know, a lot of just like, oh, we had a really tough life, these bootstraps, upbringing, and very successful now. Yada, yada, that’s great. And if you read in-between the lines, it’s way more nefarious than that. And so what we’ve really tried to do is explain that and go through his writing to say like, this isn’t just a feel good story. This is a doctrine that he’s putting forward, and a narrative about Appalachia, that’s based on a) his experience, but also his very misguided assumptions about a region. And we’re trying to add more nuance to that and bring a different story to it. And I think him being in this campaign, and, and having a much more national profile, and just seeing the type of person that he is based on all of his statements. And like his xenophobic statements, his racist statements, his clinging on to Donald Trump in order to get elected, sometimes for dear life in order to get elected, I think is very telling of him and is also validation of what we’ve been saying for a long time. We, you know, when we first started, I think we put that episode out, it was like March 2020. So very symbolic there in many ways. But we made it very clear, like this is a just a roadmap for him to run for office. That was absolutely the intention of that book, other than to like, pad his pockets. And I think, you know, it’s playing out in the form that we thought it would. If he wins the primary, it will be very interesting. And he’s going to have an even bigger profile and it’ll be kind of scary, because it’s a very difficult race, and a difficult year for Democrats. So he will have a very good chance of winning it. And so I think to go full circle, what we’ve really tried to do is provide an authentic Appalachian voice saying, Hey, this guy does not speak for us. And now we don’t speak for the entire region. But we want to tell people that JD Vance absolutely doesn’t, even though he’s presenting himself as though he does.

Logo for the podcast Appodlachia.

John Hammontree: Yeah, that’s something that I kind of wrestle with a lot on what we do here at Reckon, because I think that we both kind of have similar goals of providing a more nuanced and all encompassing look at what the South or what Appalachia really is. But then, you know, in 2020, Alabama did elect a retired football coach as its senator. And to some extent, there are people who kind of see themselves in these characters and seek to further embody kind of those, those stereotypical narratives that get serve back to us. I’m curious about how you and Big John think about that phenomenon, that sometimes when the media and the internet are serving you this idea of what it means to be a Southerner or what it means to be an Appalachian that you kind of have to perform that and code that as yourself a little bit.

Chuck Corra: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely like, it’s a delicate line to tread because we don’t want to come off as apologists for the problems in the region. And we don’t want to come off as apologists for the people that vote for those people like Tommy Tuberville. But we also want to make clear that there should be more nuance to this discussion. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in very simplistic terms, when you’re describing a place like Alabama. Red state. A lot of people don’t know much about Alabama. But the one thing that I would venture a guess that many people know about Alabama is how it voted in the presidential election. And the stereotypes that are involved with people who are from Alabama. And if you look at Alabama, there are a lot of Republicans, there are a lot of people that probably think like Tommy Tuberville, but there also are a lot of people that don’t and those people get ignored when narratives like that form. And so what we try to do is say like, yes, we acknowledge like, there are problems there absolutely are, there are terrible politicians. There are people that are voting for those politicians. But there are also people that aren’t and there’s also fundamental problems in the region and in these states that can be addressed and we can find common ground on and organize around. And so I think it’s a difficult line to thread. And Tommy Tuberville certainly does no favors to people in Alabama who are trying to push for a better narrative than the typical stereotypes, just as how, you know, Jim Justice doesn’t do the state of West Virginia many favors when he inverts his dog upside down and shares its butthole to everybody in the state legislature and national news, which I’m not making it up, that actually happened. I’m sure a quick, quick googling will — your listeners will find it. But yeah, it’s a tough thing. And I think that we’ve struggled sometimes, because I think sometimes we have come off as apologists — unintentionally — but we have for taking ownership of our own narrative. And so we have to be careful because we can’t just say, ‘Oh, these these are all unfounded criticisms.’ Like, no, they’re not. But there’s also more to it than that. And I think that’s what we’re really trying to push for.

John Hammontree: We’ve talked about Tommy Tuberville, I guess I should also take a moment as an Alabamian to thank you as a West Virginian for Nick Saban, who has done considerably more for Alabama’s economy, I guess, than for West Virginia’s. But he is an interesting example. You know, there’s a lot of people, football coaches, athletes, entertainers that grew up in states like West Virginia and leave. You know, you left and are currently based in Northern Virginia. What’s it like for you as an expat? Do you ever think about going back home? What’s your relationship been like living in Virginia and looking back at West Virginia?

Chuck Corra: Yeah, it’s really been interesting. So as a bit of a background, I’d spent the first 22 years of my life in West Virginia, and I moved to Michigan for law school. And that was the first time I really began to understand like how important West Virginia was to me, because I really, I think, rejected being from there for a long time. And so being in Michigan, and a place where I didn’t know any West Virginians, it was a very unique experience to me. And so after that, I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, which is, I miss it every single day. It’s a wonderful city. And it’s sort of, I think, at the like, on the edge close to Appalachia, depending on how you define it. And that was a different experience entirely. Because it was first time I lived in what I think was traditionally considered a Southern city. Like I had never really considered West Virginia to be Southern, even though I know a lot of people do. It just wasn’t really culturally like, what was preached to me. But Nashville is a very quintessential like, Southern boom town in just a very fascinating city. And so I think that was really formative to me, because you start to learn about what it’s like to live in the South and see the criticisms and the stereotypes about Southern people. And to me, that was really interesting, because I could relate so much to that being from West Virginia and having similar criticisms, similar stereotypes being levied against me. And so now living in Northern Virginia, I miss Appalachia, I think for a variety of different reasons. I don’t think we’ll be moving back there. I’m because I’m married now. And we have, I think we’ll probably move closer to my wife’s family eventually, which isn’t in Appalachia, they’re in Florida. But I think being an expat is a very unique experience, but also not unique, because there’s so many people who have left the region for a number of reasons, good and bad. And it provides its own sort of sect. I think Neema Avashia, we had her on her show, who said like, what other region of the country is there a dedicated group of people that left and have identity around that? I don’t know of any. Honestly, I really don’t. But expat-alachians are a thing. And it’s its own sort of variation of people who I think, love the region, but also had to leave it for a variety of reasons. And it’s kind of hard to reconcile with that. But I think leaving it was really important for me, and I think necessary to understand and really appreciate the value it brought to my life and the— how fundamental it was to the person that I am today.

John Hammontree: You mentioned, you know, growing up, you didn’t necessarily identify as a Southerner or West Virginia being a Southern state. Seeing on wall behind you, you’ve got a poster of John Brown. And so that doess kind of call to mind that West Virginia, you know, it has sort of a weird place in Southern and American history. You know, it broke off from Virginia during the Civil War. Obviously, John Brown was a figure that a lot of white Southerners were terrified by and rallied against. As somebody who lives in Virginia, what do you think that West Virginia’s role has been in terms of shaping the national direction and also the direction of the South?

Chuck Corra: I think West Virginia has had a huge role that is often not talked enough about. It’s funny. I live in Northern Virginia. Now I live closer to Harpers Ferry — where John Brown had his raid — than I did in Parkersburg. But I think John Brown’s impact on the direction of this country is so substantial. And I’m not a historian, I say that all the time, we even did an episode on John Brown and I emphasized that heavily. Still got criticism for it, that’s fine. So it happens. But you can’t look at someone like him and say that he was not instrumental in the eventual downfall of slavery, in this institutionalized slavery in this country. And now I don’t, he wasn’t a native West Virginian. But that’s where he lived at the time, I believe, and you know, what he’s known for. And that’s a core part of Western history. I think that the national narrative around West Virginia doesn’t necessarily reflect its history. And one of the biggest, and I think, most profound examples is the history of the labor movement. And West Virginia, one of the biggest events in the US American labor history is The Battle of Blair Mountain, which occurred in I believe, in Matewan, Mingo County, southern West Virginia. It was a huge movement of union miners against the coal mines. And it was a violent, bloody clash. And it really shaped the trajectory of unions in this country for a long time. And we’re seeing right now today, how relevant that is, we’re having kind of a union renaissance right now. And so it would be impossible to ignore the impact that a place like West Virginia has had on that. You look at the, you know, like industry in the state and how it shaped things, maybe possibly for the worst. I mean, DuPont, the plant that gives you Teflon, that is the nonstick surface on all of your cooking products—that was produced in my hometown. So it’s small things like that. And large things like John Brown and like the Battle of Blair Mountain that I think are important and maybe don’t necessarily get talked enough about. John Brown and Blair Mountain being way more important than Teflon, which has also poisoned the water, but that’s another story. What I could say to this, there’s probably something similar like that for every single state in this country. I do a lot of work at my day job, policy work, in Oklahoma. And I was recently talking to a colleague and I knew nothing about Oklahoma. And it’s got a fascinating history in and of itself. And so I think like doing this, doing this podcast, this project has really opened my eyes to just like, learning more about places and about identity and people because you get such a unique story that you you wouldn’t otherwise get. You know, if I were to be on the outside looking into West Virginia, I wouldn’t know anything about it other than they elect a bunch of Republicans except for Joe Manchin. We all hate Joe Manchin and hear a lot about how there’s a bunch of inbred hillbillies there. And when the reality is way more different and more interesting and unique.

John Hammontree: Well, yeah, when people do think of West Virginia right now, you know, I think they maybe overstate West Virginia’s role in shaping the direction of the country at the moment because of Senator Joe Manchin. Senator Joe Manchin has kind of become — I mean, a lot of it is deserved, make no mistake about it — but he has become kind of the go-to doorstop for thinking about why things can’t get passed in the Senate right now. I am curious why. I’m curious about Joe Manchin, his relationship with voters in West Virginia. You know, as somebody on the outside looking in, he votes against a lot of policies that would benefit a lot of West Virginians, and yet he somehow threads the needle every six years and gets reelected. So what do people think about him there? And what’s his relationship with, you know, building a state party in West Virginia and things like that?

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Well, first of all, I think the finger-pointing in general is rightly pointed at Joe Manchin. It also should be pointed at, you know, places like Maine and North Carolina and Montana and Iowa, where there were somewhat winnable Senate races and all those that were lost. And if we had won even one or two of those, we would not be talking about Joe Manchin as much. That’s not to make excuses for him. I’m just pointing that out. West Virginia is... So I think to back up, because I’ve been removed from from deep in West Virginia politics for a little while, although I keep in contact with a lot of people. Both my family that lived there, John, who, of course, my co-host who lives there and ran in that state as a Democrat. It’s important to remember the context too. Joe Manchin won in 2018. Good year for Democrats, but in a state where Trump won by like 40-something points. So the fact thathe had a D next to his name and won was, I think, an impressive feat. I don’t know that any other Democrat could do that. And again, that’s not to make an excuse for him. I think we’re just looking at a political reality there. And I will be clear, I have a lot of criticisms of Joe Manchin, I will take him 100 times out of 100 over Patrick Morrissey, who is his opponent and the current attorney general in West Virginia. Joe Manchin has a weird relationship, I think with voters there because, you know, if you look at his history, he’s been in West Virginia politics, elected office, for, gosh, like 30, maybe 40 years. He was in the state legislature. I believe he was Secretary of State at one point. He was obviously governor for, I think, two terms. And then he’s been in the Senate since Robert Byrd passed away in 2010, or 2011, I think. So he’s been in and central to West Virginia politics for a very long time. And with that comes a retention of a lot of power and building a political party around that. And my understanding is that he has a pretty significant grasp on what is left of the Democratic Party there. As a note for for listeners of this, West Virginia, believe it or not, had a democratic supermajority in the legislature, and a Democratic governor in 2009. If you can imagine the political shift from that. And Tennessee, and Tennessee, because Governor Bredesen was still there. And so we’ve seen a huge shift IN many Southern states in the past decade. Joe Manchin, I think, is a reflection of a certain generation of West Virginia politicians, because West Virginia politicians are always fairly moderate. I mean, you look like you look at Jay Rockefeller, Robert Byrd. They were not like bleeding heart liberals or anything. But Joe Manchin is kind of cut from a different cloth. So I think there’s a little bit of that. I think that there’s a the political makeup of the state may reflect that sentiment a little bit more, although I think his voting has been extremely misplaced, because things that are framed as Democratic or liberal or progressive issues are, in fact, issues that benefit all people in West Virginia, you know, like health care, like Build Back Better. It’s the most recent thing he tanked. And so I think there’s that I also think that there’s a lot of issues with relating to climate that he is probably compromised on because of his relationship with the coal industry in West Virginia and because of his financial ties to the coal industry in West Virginia. He still has a huge stake in Enersystems Partners, I believe, is what it’s called, which is a coal brokerage in West Virginia, even though he says it’s in a blind trust. I believe that was debunked, I’m not sure about that. And so I think that there’s a little bit of that element to it as well. So yeah, and I also, I think, also he just likes being in the limelight. He’s a politician, woven from that cloth, and the guy likes to see himself on TV. And so he’s seen a lot of himself lately, and he’s probably enjoying that. So I think there’s a lot of elements from that now. And I will again, premise this like, I’m not a West Virginia resident currently, and I have not been deeply involved in the party, but from the people that I’ve spoken with, including John, that is my strong understanding. And, and especially the younger generation, his political views and his style is not a reflection of that. But I also don’t know that there is a political base to support an alternative that could get elected statewide. I don’t. I don’t know.

John Hammontree: Yeah, I mean, it does not seem like he has had much success in helping, you know, people down ballot races get elected that people cross over to vote for him as a singular figure, but not necessarily vote for other Democrats. But I’m curious kind of about, you know, Appalachia as a political power center in this country. Ohio, for a long time was kind of the bellwether state in presidential elections. Obviously, everything in the Democratic Party right now runs through or stops at Joe Manchin. You know, Mitch McConnell, who Alabama has some culpability for who was born in Alabama, you know, obviously is in Kentucky now one of the most powerful politicians of a generation. And yet it does not seem like that that power necessarily translate in making the lives better for the majority of the people in their home states. You know, certainly, it makes better, makes it better for some people in those States. But you know, that that has not translated into West Virginia being one of the more powerful and wealthy states in the country.

Chuck Corra: Yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. And I think there’s a lot of unique issues intertwine to that with each of those people. But I think at its core is there’s a lust for power and there is captivation by that, and I think it can skew people’s perception of how to best represent a state. I think with Joe Manchin, there is a long standing history of him and the coal industry. And the coal industry is holding the state back, because there’s so much bridled potential, I guess that’s how you would say it in West Virginia that’s being held back by large coal interests. And so there’s now a failure to embrace renewable energy and other in other industries, because coal is is a dying industry right now. I think one of the only profitable forms of coal is metallurgical coal used to make steel products. And so you have things like that, that are holding these places back. I’m sure that there’s some equivalent to that with Mitch McConnell and with I guess, Richard Shelby might be a good example. Maybe in Alabama? I don’t know. I don’t know much about him. But I do think that, you know, there’s only so much that a senator, for example, could do, there’s a whole lot that a governor, and that a state legislature could do. And I think that that is oftentimes where some disconnect is, state legislatures have, they do a tremendous amount of lawmaking in a very short period of time every year. And it has a massive effect on states. And I think that’s where a lot of, of our issues quite frankly, come from, because you look at places like Alabama, West Virginia, a lot of other Appalachian states, there’s typically like a one party control of these legislators, I think there’s only maybe two, maybe three states in the country that have a split party control of the legislature. I think like Alaska, Minnesota, and then Nebraska is like a single chamber. But and a lot of these are super majorities. Tennessee is a good example of that. West Virginia believes a good example of that Alabama, probably as well, where you have one party control, and they have certain interests that they that are aren’t aligned with the well being of the general population. And that’s where a lot of their problems stem. I mean, look today at Florida, for example, where they revoked certain tax status or selling from the Walt Disney Corporation, which I am no fan of corporate welfare. But from my understanding of it, it’s going to end up effectively levying a huge tax on Central Florida residents, all because of a culture war issue about a bill that Disney disagreed with. And that’s the kind of thing that like, so dangerous about these local politicians.

John Hammontree: Yeah, definitely. Because there’s a good philosophical argument to be had about whether a company like Disney should get special tax status. But the reality is that they’ve had it since 1967. And if you undo it, because of, you know, petty culture war issue, then all of a sudden, there are a lot of downstream ramifications that every regular voter is going to have to deal with. And last I saw it was going to be like a $2,200 individual tax burden for everybody in Central Florida. And that’s a lot of money.

Chuck Corra: That’s a ton of money. And let’s parse that down even further, who does that hurt the most? It hurts people who are at the lower end of the tax bracket the most the people who are struggling economically the most.

John Hammontree: Yeah, and, and it’s not like Disney is going to up and leave Florida, you don’t undo billions of dollars worth of infrastructure investment. But, you know, they are the, I think the largest single employer or single site employer in the region and bring in a lot of tourism dollars. And, yeah, you know, I don’t think either of us are a corporate apologist, but it’s just you go into these things, and just do it kind of half assed, because you’re upset that they’re calling you out on a bad bill, a bill that they didn’t initially call them out in the first place. Yeah, it gets very messy. I do think you’re right about the split legislatures, West Virginia is also unique in that there’s not many states that have split Senate representation. Alabama was one of them for about three years. And in that three year period, I thought it was interesting, because we would see a lot more corporate investment in Alabama than we were seeing prior to that. And part of that, I think, is because when you are fortunate enough to have somebody advocating for you on both sides of the aisle, and you’re more likely to get something no matter who’s in charge. And so I think that, you know, West Virginia should be in a position to be reaping all the benefits of Joe Manchin right now, but it doesn’t necessarily, I guess, a new national park, but it doesn’t seem like there’s always much stuff happening there. Once Shelby’s gone. I think Alabama’s well is going to run dry for a while.

Chuck Corra: He has been around a long time and is brought I would assume a good bit of good chunk of money into the state.

John Hammontree: Yeah, I think when they brought back pork barrel spending, he’s definitely in top three. So Alabama, he manages to make sure Alabama gets money for certain projects. Those again, that doesn’t always benefit, you know, people living in the Black Belt, or people living in Birmingham or Montgomery, but he does bring in money to the state in some ways. You know, y’all been doing this for three years now. Who are some of the most interesting people that you’ve had the chance to speak to and what are some of the things that get you excited about, you know, the future of of Appalachia or make you anxious about the future of Appalachia?

Chuck Corra: Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, it’s hard to choose the most interesting people. I think everybody that we’ve had on our show in a different way has been very interesting. I think it’s been cool to talk to politicians that have been in the mainstream of fighting important fights like Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who’s currently running for Senate, like Sherrod Brown, who’s a current Democratic senator from Ohio. Those have been very interesting. But I’ve also, we’ve had a lot of people in Appalachian literature and never really talked to before, hadn’t read their works and really fell in love with like Crystal Wilkinson, who’s the current Kentucky Poet Laureate. I think it’s hard to pick one. But I think what really it has told me is like, there’s so much unique talent and fascinating individuals in Appalachia that I think when you have these stereotypes, when you have these broad generalizations about the region, it undermines those people. And our hope is to open people’s eyes a little bit more to show them that there’s more to the region than what they may think. So I think that’s been a big part of that. And it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed doing, I think, for going forward. I’m really excited to get more deeply involved in the midterm elections by bringing in more politicians from the local to hopefully the federal level on our show. We’re currently booking some people as we speak, and being able to get their take not not only on just the current politics, but on how things are going to impact Appalachia, because that’s obviously what we really care about. And so that’s what I’m really looking forward to. And I think I can say this now, because this is going to come out when this is already effective. But my co host Big John will be transitioning off the show, but bringing on a new person, Kelly Pruitt, who we’re very, very excited about is going to be joining me, she has she’s a very seasoned veteran in political campaigns in Appalachia and beyond. In fact, she’s currently helping run a campaign in Texas and a border district for congressional race right now. So we’re very excited to have her on. So I think she’s going to bring a whole new, like, element, a whole new level of insight, that that we really, I think wanted and need, and it will be really exciting to have her on. So I’m very much looking forward to that. Because I think it’s gonna just really amplify our show up even more.

John Hammontree: Is she from West Virginia also? Or where does she, where she from?

Chuck Corra: She’s from western North Carolina, and although she’s working in campaign in Texas, currently lives in West Virginia.

John Hammontree: And is Big John running for office again, is that why he’s transitioning off?

Chuck Corra: Not that I know of. He has a new job that he likes very much and wants to focus his energy on that. He’s a public defender and his hometown. So very good career move for him.

John Hammontree: I’m excited to hear about your upcoming plans. And we’ll have to have her on the show as well at some point and get to know her a little bit better. Yeah, thank you for what you’re doing, Chuck. And it’s always great to hear more people from Appalachia.

Chuck Corra: Yeah, thank you, John, I really appreciate you having me on. And I love the work that you’re doing at Reckon. And I love that you’re giving such a great voice and a great resource for people of Alabama and throughout the country. I think that more people need to know about it. And more people need to just realize that there are people like you, like myself, like others who are doing this work and who are really trying to, I think, set a better narrative and a you know, just tell a different story than what’s being told. And I have a lot of sympathies for Alabama, because I feel like they’re very similar to West Virginia in many ways as far as like how they’re perceived nationally. And so I always have a soft spot for good ole Alabama and I will say that too, because I used to live in Tennessee and I would get a lot of a lot of criticism from Tennessee and certain Vols fans when I would defend Nick Saban because he was a native West Virginia.

John Hammontree: We are big fans of West Virginia down here because of Nick Saban. Yeah. Well, thank you. And we’ll talk to you again real soon.

Chuck Corra: All right. Thanks, John.

John Hammontree: And that’s our show, folks. Thank you to Chuck Corra, for joining us this week. If you enjoyed this episode, please go subscribe to Appalachia and support their work.

John Hammontree

John Hammontree | jhammontree@reckonmedia.com

John Hammontree is a co-founder of Reckon. He currently serves as Executive Producer of Reckon Radio, host of the Reckon Interview podcast, and author of The Conversation, a weekly newsletter that digs into ideas, perspectives and people that you're not likely to find in other media.

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