The morning after Trump won the presidency my first Lyft passenger of the day was a middle-aged woman from a well-to-do northern Chicago suburb going to O’Hare airport.
She got in and heaved a heavy sigh as she stared off into the distance.
It was a long ride and we had time to talk. She was upset about Trump’s win. We went back and forth about the possible reasons and then she told me something that stuck with me.
It turns out she volunteers to go to the dying coal mining towns in West Virginia on missions to provide food and whatever comfort her group can provide in an area where people find themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances. Coal is dying, which is as it should be. But they hold onto hope that it could come back, even if only for a while.
She helps people who are 2nd and 3rd generation or more of coal miner families. It’s all they know. It was the thing that once helped them to build lives and have families in what was a rough existence already.
She told me that when Donald Trump promised to deal with jobs leaving America, they were desperate to believe him because he was filling a void that Washington and the two parties have yet to address meaningfully.
Hillary Clinton made more from one Wall Street speech than entire groups of West Virginia coal mining families make in a year.
And when Trump promised to bring back coal?
“They know he might be bullshitting them. But there’s also a chance he is not,” she told me. “And when the life you thought you would have is disintegrating before your eyes, when you cannot feed and clothe your family, when you have no other job skills, that is a chance you are willing to take. It’s not one of the things they have to hold onto. It was the only thing for many of them in this election.”
This is a very well done piece by the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group, regarding free trade and how it has decimated an entire swath of the American population while Washington –Democrats and Republicans — pushed it on those same people, many of them Trump voters on the lower rungs of society:
In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.
Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)
Many of the national-level Democrats have been distressingly silent or ineffective on the issue, taking the same campaign cash that Republicans have taken from companies which move jobs overseas in countries where those corporations can often skirt environmental and labor laws.
You need only witness Barack Obama’s full-throated support of the TPP to know how tone deaf the Dems have been on these issues.
Yes, many of Trump supporters are not from the lower classes. But enough of them were so as to have likely put Trump over the top in places like Ohio which have been particularly hard hit by jobs moving to poorer, less regulated countries.
Obama has used the now discredited excuses cited in the passage above. But he has also said, as have many free trade defenders, that it is good for national security in that it stabilizes unstable economies in the so-called Third World.
But what good does it do to stabilize other countries when our own is so unstable that much of our own population withers economically and Donald Trump is now President?
It was one of the things on which Bernie Sanders was way ahead of everyone else. Let us hope the Dems (and now the GOP) start to pay attention, as well.
Read the entire piece at the link below. It’s very good.