Donald Trump needs white working-class voters. Much of the Republican National Convention (RNC) was aimed at white working-class people who may not have voted in recent elections but are seen as gettable for Trump this November—if he can turn them out. But the white working class isn’t monolithic, either, and there are warning signs for Trump among the younger members of the demographic. There are also some people who’ve seen the effects of Trump the businessman or Trump the politician up close and are ready to speak out against it. And in some cases, their unions are boosting their voices.
“Donald Trump’s claim that he saved Lordstown is a major misrepresentation of what is actually happening here,” said Tiffany Davis, a grade school teacher in the Ohio town. Davis’ husband had to take a job hours away when the GM factory in Lordstown closed. Pointing to the drop in employment at the facility from 4,500 to “a handful,” Davis said: “Our community is not the same and it never will be. The president clearly does not understand what’s happening in Lordstown.”
Davis’ video was shared on Twitter by the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
She’s not the only one. In a video from the Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers Union, Fred Braker tells how the bankruptcies of Trump’s Atlantic City casinos—and Trump’s habit of stiffing the contractors who work on his buildings—hurt workers in that area. The business Braker worked for had around 60 employees, and “we manufactured the 20-foot letters that were up on the top of the Taj Mahal and on Trump Plaza.” That meant not just making the letters but hanging them at the top of the buildings: “It’s hot out, it’s cold out, we work out in the elements. Not just the sign guys but everybody in construction, we worked around the clock … he wanted his name up. We built his signs, because the man loved to see his name, he loved seeing his name on the building.”
Then, of course: “My contractor never got paid, and many many other small contractors never got paid. It was a profitable endeavor for him, just the people who did the work didn’t get paid, that’s all.” Braker had the longest period of unemployment of his entire career because of Trump, and “was reduced to collecting food stamps” while he tried to get side jobs because “I was a proud man. I’m a worker.” Meanwhile, Trump “walked away scot-free, basically, not paying people.”
“My name’s Fred Braker, and I’m voting for Joe Biden, the blue-collar candidate, and I urge all my brothers and sisters to do the same,” the video concludes.
Biden is not going to win among white working-class voters. But he doesn’t have to. Peeling away some of them—as some polls have shown him doing—would be a huge blow to Trump. That’s why Republicans are talking about getting more white working-class people to vote to make up for Trump’s shrinking but still significant advantage among them. Can union members who see Trump for what he is, for what he has directly meant for their jobs, be influential messengers to people who have mostly heard Trump’s own false self-presentation? It can’t hurt, anyway.
This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on August 28, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.