Donald Trump has spent his campaign visiting areas of the country that have been hardest hit by the offshoring of jobs, trade deals and the shuttering of factories, which has given many lifelong working class Democrats a reason to switch sides this election year.
Across the rust belt, in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, traditional blue color workers have faithfully voted Democrat each election season, never having a reason to give a Republican candidate a second look. Until Donald Trump came along with his “Make America Great Again” theme to provide these workers a glimmer of hope in their financial futures.
Trump was the first, and only, candidate to note that the trade deals negotiated by politicians in the past decades have decimated America’s factories and working class. That message is resonating with many voters in the Midwest states, who agree that not only have they seen no benefit in their lives from these deals, but they and their families have been negatively impacted in their careers.
The following article outlines the feedback and reactions from many of these blue collar workers who have taken up the cause to find themselves firmly behind Donald Trump in this election.
Wisconsin Watch reports:
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Trump signs in her backyard. Trump magnets on her refrigerator. Trump buttons on her dining room table. Kathy Miller is the former Mahoning County chairwoman for Donald Trump.
While handing out Trump signs in June at a Republican headquarters just south of Youngstown, Ohio, she was approached by a woman in her late 80s, who said, “I have never voted Republican in my life. Give me the biggest sign you’ve got.”
In economically struggling communities like Mahoning County — where most steel mills have closed — many white, working-class Democrats are voting for Trump, registration records and 2016 presidential primary results show.
“They’re just all fed up,” said Miller, who resigned Thursday after she was featured in a viral Internet video declaring there was “no racism” before President Obama’s administration. “It may be the economy for some, it may be the school systems, it could be health care, it could be immigration, education, it could be anything. They’re just fed up with the direction of our country. Mr. Trump showed up at the right time.”
According to a November 2015 Public Religion Research Institute poll, 72 percent of Americans and 78 percent of white working-class Americans believe the country still is in a recession. A News21 analysis of the General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago also found that in 2002, the percentage of white Americans with hardly any confidence in the executive branch of the federal government was just under 20 percent; by 2014, that number was nearly 50 percent.
“The disenfranchised voter who has lost their job as a result of policies affecting the coal industry and other heavy manufacturing jobs are feeling very frustrated with Washington,” said Rex Repass, founder and CEO of Repass, a national public opinion research and strategic consulting firm. “Even though many are historically Democratic counties, they have become very red and very angry.”
University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Kathy Cramer also found discontent among Wisconsin’s mostly white, rural residents while researching her 2016 book, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.”
In April, Trump lost Wisconsin’s Republican primary to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cramer attributed that to the influence of conservative Milwaukee talk radio hosts, who at the time allied with Wisconsin’s top GOP leaders against Trump. “Counties reached by Milwaukee media went for Cruz,” she said, “the others for Trump.”
Although polls show Trump trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, Cramer said the Republican’s message likely will appeal to many rural Wisconsin voters.
“The thing that stuck out to me about the rural places is a sense that places like their communities are in particular getting a raw deal— that politicians don’t pay attention to their communities, public dollars aren’t allocated to their communities, and the city people making the decisions don’t have a clue about what is important to people in their communities or the struggles that they are facing,” she said.
Added Cramer: “Trump’s message seems to resonate … because he is saying, in effect, ‘You are right— you are getting a raw deal, and some undeserving others are getting way more than they deserve. We need to make drastic changes so that those people stop getting money/respect/attention at your expense.’ ”
Employment drops as jobs sent overseas
In Tennessee, after a clothing factory outsourced jobs and operations to Mexico, a county that voted Democratic in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections went Republican in both 2008 and 2012.
Mahoning County, Ohio, where Youngstown is the county seat, labors under the loss of the steel industry, and more than 6,000 voters have switched from Democrat to Republican this year.
Similarly, frustration over closing steel mills and rising health care costs has swayed nearly 5,400 voters to switch parties in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
And in one Kentucky county where residents frustrated with the demise of the coal industry voted about 31 percent Republican in the 2000 presidential election, they voted more than 72 percent Republican in 2012, even though a majority of its voters remain registered Democrats.