[Marxism] A Blue Collar Town in Decline and in Despair Turns to Trump

Louis Proyect 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

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 
mounting satisfaction.

"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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