Despairing Johnstown workers and the election

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Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Embassy, Bern, Switzerland

Anxiety, dread, fear. Almost 70% of Americans said the presidential election is a substantial source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey in October. 

I am writing this a few days before the formal Election Day and you are reading this afterwards.

However, things will likely continue to be wild and crazy for the foreseeable future. Trump is an erratic and unpredictable sociopath who feels he needs to be re-elected because he is facing huge financial debts and has numerous pending legal issues. The massive right-wing propaganda machine will likely be going full tilt, spewing out lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories. Right-wing terrorism will continue.

If Biden becomes president, will there be a return to normality? Or, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sarcastically puts it, how many who opposed Trump will “go back to brunch”? 

Given the pandemic and the economic crisis, that might not be an option.

There will be plenty of Trump supporters around. Journalists have been watching the people of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which voted for Trump by close to a 2-1 margin in 2016. This is a town where the American dream has definitely died. The steel mills are closed and the population is almost two-thirds of what it was in the 1940s.

In 2017, Michael Kruse of Politico visited Johnstown and concluded that the residents didn’t believe Trump would help them but they love him anyway because Trump hates the same people they do: “‘obstructionist’ Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.”

That’s not the full story. After all, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary in Johnstown and all of Cambria County. 

Recently, Hamilton Nolan, labor reporter for In These Times attended a Trump rally in Johnstown. 

He wrote: “At first glance, Trump supporters come in many flavors: The cigar-chomping Benz guys, the outlaw biker types, the middle-aged white woman with her kids, the quiet churchgoer in a pro-life T-shirt standing next to the angry, dumpy man in a ‘Vote No For Joe and The Hoe’ T-shirt. 

“…What unites them around this objectively dumb loudmouth? Donald Trump is a living embodiment of ‘Fuck the System’ for people who have not thought much about how the system actually works. He is the red state version of a comic working blue, the Jeff Dunham of politics. He is rebellious in the same sense that Metallica or pro wrestling is rebellious: not rebellious at all where it counts, but making loud enough noise to give the appearance of it. Whether his fans wake up the next day and go to a bar or a church, they have all had their hit of naughtiness. Trump rallies are a barnstorming religious revival for a deeply cynical age, swooping in from the big city to sucker the locals and leave them all thinking that they won something.”

Trump has a big sign at his rallies saying “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” That is a lie. 

Our Revolution, a progressive group that came out of the 2016 Bernie campaign, organized a speaking tour of laid-off Rust Belt factory workers who challenged Trump’s lies.

A study in October by Global Trade Watch said:

“Donald Trump became president by winning Midwestern states with pledges to end job offshoring. Firms that offshored would be denied U.S. government procurement opportunities, he promised. To keep billions in lucrative government contracts, firms would be forced to bring jobs back to America. Instead, as Trump seeks reelection, 311,427 American jobs have been government-certified as lost to trade during Trump’s presidency, with 202,543 explicitly listed as offshored. And, eight out of the top 10 firms receiving government contracts during the Trump administration have been government-certified as having offshored jobs.”

More specifically:

“At least one of every four taxpayers’ dollars spent by the federal government on procurement contracts during the Trump administration went to the pockets of companies that offshored American jobs during his administration.

“At least $425.6 billion in U.S. tax dollars has gone to firms that have been certified by the U.S. government as having offshored jobs during the Trump administration…

“Half of the top 10 recipients of Trump-era contracts were certified by the U.S. government as offshoring jobs during the Trump administration.”

The big tax bill passed in 2017 by the Republican-controlled Congress incentivized companies to offshore jobs by slashing their tax rates on foreign profits. 

Joe Biden proposed a wide range of quite progressive economic policies and programs that will help the working class majority. However, he has a record of favoring quite a few corporate-friendly policies over the years. He supported NAFTA and other free trade agreements in the past but he has been changing his position. He proposes a “Buy American” program, which would allocate $400 billion for federal purchases of products made in the United States.  

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.