December 8, 2022

TThere were plenty of single issue voters in Youngstown, Ohio, last weekend when Donald Trump and J.D. Vance rolled into town.

Thousands of former president supporters flocked to the Covely Center as the sun set on a warm summer evening, ignoring the in-state standoff between Ohio and Toledo that kicked off around the same time.

And though Mr. Trump has made one of his scrambled headlines about his trademark, targeting indictments of the “radical left” and the FBI for an ongoing investigation into his keeping of apparently classified documents in Mar-a-Lago, there was one theme on his mind about each Who’s in the room: GM’s 2019 retreat from Lordstown, the massive industrial complex and car factory just a few miles away.

It was no surprise. A working-class city of over 60,000 that has faced decades of population decline thanks to similar shutdowns of manufacturing centers and other heavy industries, Youngstown, as Donald Trump would refer to it, represents the “central casting” for the kind of economic decline that has gripped the American rust belt for generations. .

In interviews with independent Across town on Saturday, the roughly a dozen Trump supporters and protesters who had camped out in front of his appearance debated the issue of the 2019 shutdown — most of whom raised the issue with no excuse at all.

And in what was clearly a bad sign for Congressman Tim Ryan, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, most appeared to be frustrated by the 49-year-old lawmaker who represented Youngstown for nearly a decade.

General Motors’ Lordstown plant was, for a time, the undisputed regional heavyweight in terms of economic opportunity for the working class in Youngstown. At its height, it employed more than 10,000 people – at the time, an astonishing number of 10 people were in the city. By late 2010 that number had shrunk dramatically, but it was still the biggest name in the city, dropping to around 1,400 when it finally closed in 2019. And when it finally closed, the area’s residents were dumbfounded, New York times At a time when the factory was the last real economic driver in the area and the complete collapse of the Youngstown factory was predicted in its wake.

The Lordstown complex is 20 minutes away from the Donald Trump Saturday rally

(AFP via Getty Images)

News of the plant’s impending final shutdown subsided in late November of 2018, less than a month after Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and Ryan was re-elected to another two-year term. Sherrod Brown, the state’s Democratic senator, who had clearly defeated a US Republican who was seeking his Senate seat, was also reelected.

Mr. Ryan responded to the announcement by declaring today a new “Black Monday”, referring to the September 1977 decision by Youngstown Sheet and Tube to close its plant and furlough 5,000 workers in an area widely seen as the beginning of the end of the Youngstown steel industry.

“Thousands of families sacrificed to build General Motors into what it is today. In return, GM turned its back on us when we needed it most,” Ryan said at the time, adding: “Companies like General Motors and [Donald Trump] They are the only beneficiaries of this economy – a rigged economy against workers who play by the rules but still don’t progress.”

But on Saturday, those who gathered in support of Trump in Youngstown blamed both Ryan and Brown for not doing more to keep GM in the region. None of them mentioned the former president’s promise from the White House to save the plant. Lordstown Motors, to which General Motors sold the plant, only plans to produce 500 cars there this year. A new partnership with Foxconn supposedly aims to bolster those numbers, but it has yet to materialize into anything resembling what the plant might have looked like until just a few years ago.

One Trump supporter even claimed in an interview that Mr. Brown had been informed of the impending plant closure months before the election.

“Sherrod Brown knew for nine months he was going to shut down, and he chose to remain silent,” said John Pliva. independent.

Of Mr Ryan’s campaign, he said sarcastically: “We don’t need more help like that.”

He and others have talked about the implications of GM’s withdrawal. The end of well-paid union jobs for even a few thousand city dwellers, as the largest employer, has destroyed businesses in a wide range of sectors.

These people have loans to buy homes. Mr. Pliva said about the company’s former employees. “They had a lot of stuff… a lot of them lost their homes… a lot of men moved out of state.”

Pliva pointed to Market Street and other thriving downtown areas, remarking that “it was like a torpedo exploded.”

“The buildings are still there,” he said, “but they are shells.”

A few streets away, a group of protesters waving placards denouncing the former president as a fascist, dismissed the charge, stating that there was little concrete action Ryan could have taken other than speaking out. But they expressed their dissatisfaction with Democrats, who saw that they had lost an opportunity to speak about the needs of the region.

This was where Chucky Denison, a former worker in Lordstown, displayed a banner and pillow that he would later open inside the Covely Center while Mr Trump spoke to thousands of fans.

“Trump lost 3,000 jobs in Lordstown – and the 2020 election,” she declared in bold red font.

Chucky Dennison raises his flag before attending the Donald Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio

(John Bowden)

Now, affiliated with the Bernie Sanders-allied Our Revolution group, Denison has described his party’s Senate candidate as a missed opportunity to run with a progressive message and offer something to whoever’s left of Lordstown.

“He had the opportunity to be one of the best actors in the country. Instead he chose oil and gas,” Mr. Denison explained, while noting with some disappointment that he still plans to support the congressman over his Republican opponent, J.D. Vance.

Mr. Dennison and others in the conversation described the end of GM in Lordstown as an earthquake that struck everyone in the city. He explained that for every single factory worker, there were more than six members of the community who worked in various industries “supported,” or more accurately, dependent on that worker’s job in the factory.

There might be some logic to Mr. Denison’s description of Mr. Ryan’s missed opportunity. By running a campaign that has included distancing himself from Joe Biden and progressives like Bernie Sanders, the Ohio congressman is currently polling a few percentage points behind his opponent, according to a new Emerson College poll to race with hill.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, which has seen its economic turmoil caused by leaving the industry, Governor John Fetterman has taken the opposite approach and vowed to be a collective player in Congress — he’s polling aggressively ahead of GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz in this Senate race, despite his toughening competition after suffering a stroke earlier this year.

Mr Denison advised that Mr Ryan should focus on fully supporting progressive causes including the Pro Act, a pro-union legislation widely popular on the left which among other provisions would end anti-union “right to work” laws nationwide.

The Democratic Party is mostly the people’s party. Denison argued “the poor, the working class, the old, and the disabled”. “And even though they’re our lifeline, they’re not really fighting.”

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