I've talked about Elkhart, Indiana and its unemployment issues several times on the blog over the years as President Obama made one of his first visits as President to the city's hard-hit RV manufacturing industry in order to assure the American people that he was going to help the country.
The city went from the prime example of what the Bush economic crash did to middle America with its over 22% unemployment to Tea Party hotbed as Indiana transformed into a blood red state to one of the best economic success stories during the Obama years as unemployment this year dropped to under 4%.
But as we checked in with in back in April we found President Barack Obama was public enemy #1 in Elkhart, and not only were the people of Elkhart not grateful in the least to the Obama administration but that they openly despised him and were rooting for Trump.
The Atlantic's Alana Samuels returned to Elkhart post-election and found that the people here not only think Obama took credit for something he had nothing to do with, but that Donald Trump will absolutely do what Obama didn't.
This city exemplifies the economic recovery the country has experienced since the Great Recession ended. Elkhart’s unemployment rate, which had reached a high of 22 percent in March of 2009, is now at 3.9 percent. Hiring signs dot the doors of the Wal-Mart, the McDonald’s, and the Long John Silver’s. The RV industry makes 65 percent of its vehicles in Elkhart, and the industry is producing a record number of vehicles, which is creating a lot of jobs in this frosty town in northern Indiana.
“America’s economy is not just better than it was eight years ago--it is the strongest, most durable economy in the world,” President Obama said during a visit to Elkhart in June, in which he touted the economic recovery. (Elkhart was also the first place outside Washington he visited as president, in 2009.) “Elkhart would not have come this far--if we hadn’t made a series of smart decisions, my administration, a cooperative Congress--decisions we made together early on.”
But despite the decisions that the Obama administration made that might have helped Elkhart, many people here have a strong dislike of Obama, who presided over an economic recovery in which the unemployment rate fell nationally to 4.6 percent from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. They say it’s not Obama who is responsible for the city or the country’s economic progress, and furthermore, that the economy won’t truly start to improve until President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
“He didn’t help us here, but he took credit for what happened,” Chris Corbin, 47, who works for a dispatch company in Elkhart, told me. Corbin thinks it will be Trump who improves the economy. “It’s going to take two terms, but he’ll fix things,” he said.
To recap: the RV industry is doing better than it ever has. It's doing better than it did under Bush. Unemployment has gone from 22% to under 4%. And that doesn't matter because Obama is black and these racist assholes hate him for it and will never, ever give a black man credit for helping them.
Brandon Stanley owns a bar in Elkhart. He says he’s optimistic that the economy is improving now that Republicans have regained power, but emphasizes that there are still a host of economic problems that haven’t been solved in Elkhart. As for the shrinking unemployment rate in Elkhart, “they changed how they report unemployment numbers,” he told me, so they’re not believable.
The idea that the government falsified unemployment numbers was a popular narrative among Republicans during the Obama administration, and was most notoriously trumpeted by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. Outlets such as Fox News published multiple stories questioning whether the Obama administration has doctored the unemployment rate. “People tend to engage in effortful resistance when information is inconsistent with their prior beliefs,” Nyhan told me.
When people hear, for example, that the unemployment rate has fallen, but they don’t want to believe that because they don’t like who is in office, they may seek out information that challenges or resists these facts. They can often find other, alternative, information on the news sites that most closely fit their political beliefs.
Andi Ermes, 39, offered a number of reasons for disliking Obama. She said Obama didn’t attend the Army-Navy football game, even though other presidents had. Obama has actually attended more Army-Navy games than George H.W. Bush. She said that he had taken too many vacations. He has taken fewer vacation days that George W. Bush. She also said that he refused to wear a flag pin on his lapel. While it is true that Obama did not wear a flag on his lapel at points during the 2007 campaign, it was back on his suit by 2008. Ermes told me the news sources she consumes most are Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and a local conservative radio show hosted by Casey Hendrickson.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ermes sees the biggest signs for hope in the economy in Carrier deal struck by Donald Trump, which will keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. “He’s not even president yet and already he’s helping the economy,” she said.
These assholes will tell themselves anything to believe that their town wasn't saved by the ni-CLANG! and when Trump wrecks the economy once again, they'll blame Obama for it and re-elect Trump just so they can be right.
But remember, Democrats have to win these guys back. We have to look the other way on racism or we'll never win in places like Indiana or Ohio or Kentucky again. Democrats have to compromise and change, not them.
Let me know how that works out. I'm not doing it.