This one has been building up inside of me for some time now and today is the day I decided to finally write about it. Those who follow my reading and writing know that I have spent much of the last two years trying to figure out why Rust Belt and Appalachian blue collar workers voted for Trump in 2016. I grew up and was educated in the Rust Belt were I lived (working non-industrial jobs) well into my forties. The names in today’s title represent the friends I had in the four major ethnic groups of my native Western New York. While my reading about Appalachia never answered all my questions; I feel the motivation wasn’t that different than it was in the Rust Belt. Let’s explore my theory and how it is working out for those I left behind in Buffalo and similar cities.
The blue collar workers of both regions feel they have been forgotten by both political parties and they got the short end of the stick through no fault of their own. To a large degree I reluctantly have to agree with them. Partly due to policy but much more to a changing economic environment the factory, mill and mining jobs that provided their fathers and grandfathers with a good paycheck no longer exist.
These guys (and they are mainly guys and of my generation or just a bit younger) were told, graduate from high school, perhaps do a hitch in the service, keep your nose clean and you’ll have a job that you can support a family on until retirement time. It didn’t work out that way. Good blue collar jobs disappeared and in their place were no benefit, low paying jobs. The standard of living fell, my peers felt like trash (I’m using a polite word) and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
For those even a bit younger the word was to go to college and possibly grad school; a good job was at the end of that rainbow. For way too many the only thing at the end of the rainbow was huge student loan debt, a job way below their qualifications and moving back in with mom and dad who were having their own economic hardships.
Trump came along and told them he would bring manufacturing and mining jobs back. He lied! Two years after the 2016 election their economic situation and outlook is much the same and in many cases worse. The factories, mills and mines haven’t reopened and they show no sign of doing so. A few fat cats at the top are doing better courtesy of the Trump Tower Tax Cut and regulations either not being enforced or rescinded which make it even easier for the members of the Lucky Sperm Cell Club to exploit Stanley, Tony, Willie and Mike. My buddies aren’t members of the Lucky Sperm Cell Club; their fathers showered after work. They and their grown kids may well have jobs but they found out the hard way that all jobs are not equal; not even close.
Trump lied to you and while I know that deep down you are too smart to have believed him you figured what did you have to lose? To put it in the vernacular your situation sucked and you didn’t see it improving with what you perceived as the status quo. You were screaming out for help and felt nobody was hearing you. You took a chance on a longshot and like most longshots it didn’t get you to the winner’s circle. Your vote was some combination of sending a message and a Hail Mary pass. Well just like the vast majority of the times your beloved Buffalo Bills throw a Hail Mary in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter your pass feel to the ground incomplete and you lost.
Trump wasn’t your fault, you had few other options. You were lied to and exploited. You have every right to be pissed off and it is time that you became both vocal and active about it. In some cases you punished him in 2018, but 2020 presents an opportunity to do it right in his face. You don’t have any money to donate but you have never been afraid of a little hard work. Volunteer for anti-Trump candidates as the 2020 field begins to formulate and by all means vote. Election Day is the only day guys like us and your kids are truly equal to those who have lied to you. By and large the Democrats are far from perfect but they will, almost without exception, give the blue collar workers a better shake.
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