Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Long Read: The Desertion By Dayton

ProPublica's Alec MacGillis writes the definitive piece on the Democratic party's epitaph in Ohio, and as I've said here many times, as goes Cincinnati and Dayton, goes the Buckeye State.  The numbers of Obama 2012 voters that flipped to Trump here are staggering.  

Yes, voter suppression worked very well, especially in Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, where combined there were 100,000 fewer votes in 2016 than in 2012. But Clinton also lost 10 of the 17 counties Obama won in 2012, including Montgomery (Dayton) and Ashtabula (Kent State U east of Cleveland).

Overall Hillary Clinton got 510,000 fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012.  Half a million, where total turnout in Ohio was 250,000 less than in 2012.  So no, voter suppression did make a difference, but Clinton would have lost anyway here. And she would have lost badly because she lost voters like Tracie St. Martin.

At one small house, someone finally answered the door. Tracie St. Martin stepped out onto the porch, a 54-year-old woman with a sturdy, thick-muscled build and sun-weathered face, both of them products of her 26 years as a heavy-construction worker. St. Martin greeted the women warmly, and when they told her what they were there for she said, sure, she was considering Trump — even though she usually voted Democratic. And when they got talking, in the disjointed way of canvassers making a quick pitch, about how Trump was going to bring back the good jobs, St. Martin was visibly affected. She interrupted them, wanting to tell them about how she had, not long ago, worked a job that consisted of demolishing a big local GM plant. Her eyes welled up as she told the story and she had trouble continuing.

The canvassers gave her some materials and bade her farewell. But I doubled back a little later and visited with St. Martin in her kitchen, which she was in the midst of tidying up, with daytime TV playing in the background. Space in the kitchen was tight due to the treadmill she recently bought to help her get into better shape, which she hoped might make her less dependent on the painkillers for the severe aches she got from her physically demanding job, pills that had gotten a lot harder to obtain from her doctor amid the clampdown on prescription opioids.

St. Martin apologized, unnecessarily, for her emotions on the porch and expanded on what she had told the women from Buffalo: She was a proud member of Local 18 of the operating engineers’ union, which had been urging its members to support Hillary Clinton. The union provided her health insurance and decent pay levels, and trained her for demanding work, which, just months earlier, had required her to hang off of a Pennsylvania cliff face in her dozer as part of a gas pipeline project.

She came from a staunch Democratic family and had voted for Barack Obama in 2008, before not voting in 2012 because, she said, she was away on one of her long-term jobs. She was a single mother with three grown daughters. She had experienced all manner of sexual discrimination and harassment on very male-heavy worksites over the years.

She was, in other words, as tailor-made a supporter as one could find for Clinton, a self-professed fighter for the average Jane who was running to become the first woman president.

And yet St. Martin was leaning toward Trump.

Her explanation for this was halting but vehement, spoken with pauses and in bursts. She was disappointed in Obama after having voted for him. “I don’t like the Obama persona, his public appearance and demeanor,” she said. “I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker.” She regretted that she did not have a deeper grasp of public affairs. “No one that’s voting knows all the facts,” she said. “It’s a shame. They keep us so fucking busy and poor that we don’t have the time.”

When she addressed Clinton herself, it was in a stream that seemed to refer to, but not explicitly name, several of the charges thrown against Clinton by that point in time, including her handling of the deadly 2012 attack by Islamic militants on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya; the potential conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation; and her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State, mixing national security business with emails to her daughter, Chelsea.

“To have lives be sacrificed because of corporate greed and warmongering, it’s too much for me — and I realize I don’t have all the facts — that there’s just too much sidestepping on her. I don’t trust her. I don’t think that — I know there’s casualties of war in conflict, I’m a big girl, I know that. But I lived my life with no secrets. There’s no shame in the truth. There’s mistakes made. We all grow. She’s a mature woman and she should know that. You don’t email your fucking daughter when you’re a leader. Leaders need to make decisions, they need to be focused. You don’t hide stuff.

“That’s why I like Trump,” she continued. “He’s not perfect. He’s a human being. We all make mistakes. We can all change our mind. We get educated, but once you have the knowledge, you still have to go with your gut.”

Ohio's unemployment rate was 11% in January 2010. By September 2016 it was down to 4.7%.  And yet half a million voters left Clinton, and at least 100,000 went to Trump.  They bought the four years of attacks on Clinton wholesale and literally said that Donald Trump's legal and ethical issues didn't matter to them at all.

As I said yesterday, for Barack Obama to have policies to help people of color was one thing.  For Hillary Clinton to continue those policies cost her the Midwest.  They voted against Romney because he was obviously out of touch.  But they voted against Clinton because they were made to.

But the harder truth is Ohio voted for Trump by a larger margin than Georgia, and about the same as Texas.  It's time to stop considering Ohio as swing, and start thinking of it like Indiana with more people.

It's a red state now and will be for a long time.

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