[Marxism] A Blue Collar Town in Decline and in Despair Turns to Trump
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 9 07:26:00 MST 2016
The New York Times, November 9, 2016
A Blue Collar Town in Decline and in Despair Turns to Trump
By TRIP GABRIEL
AMBRIDGE, Pa. -- As Donald J. Trump's surprisingly strong showing played
out on a television above Fred's Divot bar, the men who by day carry
pipes, hang drywall and drive locomotives watched the returns with
"He's killing it --- that's our next president," said John Gaguzis, 50,
who had affixed an "I voted" sticker to the blue uniform shirt he wears
in a bottling plant. "We need a change. We've got to get rid of the
Democrats that support people that don't want to work."
Jerry Kormick, a disabled construction worker engaged in a serious darts
competition, said he had voted for the first time in his life, at age
37. He never believed polls showing Hillary Clinton ahead, he said, not
after visiting friends in rural North Carolina.
This former steel town west of Pittsburgh was for decades a Democratic
stronghold, where Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms are proclaimed
on a memorial in the small town park. But industrial decline and what is
perceived as too-fast cultural change in the country at large has
transformed Ambridge and the rest of Beaver County around it, with the
yards of faded brick homes presenting a river of Trump signs.
Late Tuesday, while Mrs. Clinton held a narrow lead across Pennsylvania
and the race was still very much up in the air, Mr. Trump appeared
headed to a 20-point victory in the county.
Joann and Mark Crano, both retired, switched their registrations to
Republican this year after a lifetime as Democrats, and they reeled off
the names of many other friends and family members who did likewise.
"In 2008, we were wholehearted Hillary supporters," said Ms. Crano, who
was an elected local official for a decade. "We went to every rally."
It was Benghazi that put her over the edge, she said.
For Mr. Crano, a former steelworker who retired after a second career at
the Pittsburgh airport, it was abortion and same-sex marriage. "If
you're a Christian, you can only vote for Trump," he said the day before
the election at K & N restaurant. It is one of the few thriving
businesses still left on Merchant Street, which old-timers -- and there
are now mostly old-timers -- remember as once so crowded you bumped into
people. Now it is largely deserted.
The Cranos were having breakfast beneath a poster of Elvis with several
friends, all fierce Trump backers. They painted a desperate vision of
America if Mrs. Clinton won, predicting a wave of terrorism by unvetted
refugees and a slide into dictatorship.
"I'm going to the bank and taking a bunch of money out and buying a lot
of guns and ammo," said Mr. Crano, a former union leader with a large
white beard. "I'm going to protect mine and my family," he added.
Ambridge, like much of Pennsylvania outside Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,
eagerly enlisted in Trump Nation this year. Its largely
white, less educated population (15 percent have a college degree)
packed a boisterous rally that Mr. Trump held at the local high school.
"I work for my money, and obviously I work for other people, too," said
Sam Bruno, a street sweeper driver, whose yard was festooned with Trump
signs, and predicted a Trump landslide on Monday. "I just hope Mr. Trump
can change our government and stop any terrorism coming into our
country," he said.
The town is named for the American Bridge Company, whose plant on the
Ohio River hammered and shaped the steel for the Empire State Building,
the George Washington Bridge and the gates of the Panama Canal. The town
inspired a Tom Cruise movie, "All the Right Moves," about a high school
football player straining to escape a life in the mills.
But when American Bridge and a wave of other steel plants in Beaver
County shut down in the 1980s, undersold by modern competitors, tens of
thousands lost their jobs. Unemployment in the county hit Depression-era
levels. Ambridge's population of 6,850 is down 40 percent from 1970. The
population is also grayer and poorer.
"We do about 100 funerals a year, but only 20 baptisms a year," said the
Reverend Joseph A. Carr of Good Samaritan Roman Catholic Church.
Clinton supporters were not invisible but were keeping their heads down.
A radio ad by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party that ran on Sunday
during the Pittsburgh Steelers game urged voters to protect gains made
for working people, mentioning Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, but no one
on this year's ballot.
Jack Lefebvre, who seemed to be the only Clinton supporter at Fred's
Divot, kept quiet most of the night as he sat beneath the television and
kept busy on his phone. He showed a Facebook post by his wife, who had
canvassed on Tuesday for Mrs. Clinton.
"All went well until we were walking back to the car and a man who I
would guess was in his late 50s came out of a store and shouted 'Hillary
for prison'," Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre had written. He yelled something
further using "the p word," she wrote.
"I whirled around and looked him in the eye and said, 'You would use
language like that in front of a woman?"'
Voting on Tuesday at the fire department was heavier than poll workers
could ever remember.
Ruth Grassel, who tutors English at a community college, said she had
been praying about the election. She did not like Mrs. Clinton because,
she said, she did not support law enforcement. She recited the Trump
campaign's charges about corruption in the Clinton Foundation.
"This has been a very divisive election," she said. "Whoever wins will
have a very difficult time trying to unite the country. That makes me sad."
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