A columnist for the venerable European publication ‘The Economist’ visited Findlay before the recent Ohio election primary and did a good job highlighting the inconsistent views of a white blue collar electorate who tend to vote against their own best interests.
I’m sure some Findlay promoters would take exception to describing Findlay as “a frayed-at-the-edges town of 41,000 people” but the rest of the article seemed spot on.
A day before the Ohio primary Lexington travelled to Findlay, a frayed-at-the-edges town of 41,000 people which is home to one of Ohio’s larger tyre plants. The smell of cooking rubber hangs over its streets. Twice under Mr Obama, anti-dumping tariffs of up to 88% have been slapped on imported Chinese tyres at the prodding of the United Steelworkers union (USW), to protect jobs at plants including the Cooper Tire & Rubber factory in Findlay. Mr Obama cited the tariffs in his state-of-the-union message in 2012, declaring: “Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tyres.”
Such tariffs are rare, making Findlay’s tyre-builders an unusually well-protected minority. Their plant offers a glimpse of what might happen if a President Trump (or Sanders) fulfils his promise to use tariffs and taxes to keep manufacturing jobs in America. Economically trade barriers are a bad and harmful idea, but what Findlay offers is a case study in the politics of trade.
An evening shift-change saw lines of men leave the Cooper plant, lunch-boxes in hand. Most felt that tariffs on China had helped them: one called them a “game-changer” that had saved jobs and prompted extra shifts. But, strikingly, praise for the president was mostly dwarfed by anger at the state of the country. Some workers said they were Democrats but felt underwhelmed by Mr Obama. Others, Republicans, expressed suspicion verging on contempt for the president. Mr Obama is “the worst fucking piece of shit in this country, he should move to China”, spat a bearded worker in a camouflage hunting jacket who declined to give his name, turning back to add, pre-emptively: “And I’ve got black friends, so it isn’t that.” Another worker, Josh Wilkerson, a Trump supporter, said that anti-China tariffs were good, but he shared his colleague’s belief that, mostly, “Obama is for the people who don’t work.”
The view from the rustbelt
The sum of the viewpoint of some of the Cooper workers is “Obama helped us keep our jobs but he still sucks….”
I understand, and have said myself, that politics shouldn’t just be a one note tune. People should take the whole of a potential leader and decide if one should support them for office.
Some people have false ideas about a candidate. If their view of the whole is so distorted then how can one make an informed choice?
Republicans play into the misinformed electorate by hyping false narratives and by stoking fears of the “other”.
The Economist article pointed out that not all blue collar workers are raving bigots.
In dozens of interviews at the tyre plant, one person backed Mrs Clinton: Rod Nelson, president of the Cooper plant’s union branch, Local 207L of the United Steelworkers, and that was in the “realist” belief that she will be the Democratic nominee. At Lexington’s request, Mr Nelson gathered ten Cooper workers for a group interview. Asked to sum up Mr Obama, the men replied variously that he was a good man, a disappointment, a “great speech-giver”, a victim of Republican obstruction in Congress and a man who had failed to rein in the super-rich and their influence over politics. The president was praised for bailing out the car sector and other industries soon after taking office. He was thanked for tariffs on China, but his support for the TPP caused baffled dismay. Mr Nelson ventured that perhaps the president is using trade as “a diplomatic tool” to win allies.
Workers at a tire plant like Cooper aren’t all stupid or bigots but candidates need to address the issues these people care about like jobs and putting healthy food on the table for the family.
Fear-mongering rants, like building a wall to keep the Muslims out, are just a side show and doesn’t speak to the real issues people care about. I wish the mainstream media here in the US would get on the same page as The Economist.