March 31, 2023

TThere were plenty of single-issue voters here in Youngstown, Ohio last weekend when Donald Trump and J.D. Vance rolled into town.

Thousands of supporters of the former president poured into the Covelli Center as the sun set on a warm summer evening overlooking an interstate matchup between Ohio State and Toledo that began around the same time.

And even as Mr. Trump delivered a trademark rambling address aimed at slamming the “extremist left” and the FBI for the ongoing investigation into the alleged retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, there was one thing just about everyone in the room was talking about: Just a few miles away, the huge General Motors’ 2019 retreat from industrial complex and auto plant Lordstown.

It was hardly a surprise. A working-class city of just over 60,000 that has experienced decades of population decline due to similar closings of manufacturing plants and other heavy industries, Youngstown represents, as Donald Trump would refer to it, the kind of economic decay that “central casting” does. America has been clinging to the rust belt for generations.

In an interview with freedom Around town on Saturday, about a dozen Trump supporters and protesters discussed his presence in the 2019 shutdown — mostly making the topic completely off-putting.

And it was clearly a bad sign for Congressman Tim Ryan, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, the 49-year-old lawmaker who has represented Youngstown’s district for nearly a decade seemed frustrated.

GM’s Lordstown plant was, for a time, the undisputed regional heavyweight in economic opportunity for Youngstown’s working class. In its heyday, it employed more than 10,000 people – at the time, a staggering one in 10 people in the city. By the late 2010s, that number had shrunk considerably but was still the city’s biggest name, dropping to around 1,400 when it finally closed in 2019. When it finally closed, residents of the area were disappointed, say The New York Times The plant at the time was the last real economic driver of the region and in its wake foretold the complete decline of Youngtown.

The Lordstown rally complex is 20 minutes away from Donald Trump’s rally site on Saturday

(AFP via Getty Images)

News of the plant’s impending final shutdown fell in late November 2018, less than a month after Democrats seized control of the House and Mr. Ryan was re-elected to another two-year term. Also re-elected was Sherrod Brown, the state’s Democratic senator, who narrowly defeated the Republican U.S. representative seeking his seat in the upper chamber.

Mr. Ryan responded to the announcement by declaring the day a new “Black Monday,” citing Youngstown Sheet and Tube’s September 1977 decision to close its plant and furlough 5,000 workers in the region in what is widely considered to be the beginning. The end of Youngstown’s steel industry.

“Thousands of families have sacrificed to make GM what it is today. And in return, GM turned their backs on us when we needed them most,” Mr. Ryan said at the time: “Like General Motors and Corp. [Donald Trump] They are the only ones benefiting from this economy – an economy rigged against workers who are playing by the rules but still not getting ahead.”

But those who rallied in support of Mr. Trump in Youngstown on Saturday blamed both Mr. Ryan and Mr. Brown for not working hard enough to keep GM in the region. Neither mentioned the former president’s pledge from the White House to save the tree. Lordstown Motors, to which GM sold the plant, plans to build 500 cars there this year. A new partnership with Foxconn is thought to be set to boost those numbers, but it still hasn’t turned into anything like the plant it was a few years ago.

One of Mr. Trump’s supporters even claimed in an interview that Mr. Brown was notified of the plant’s impending closure months before the election.

“Sherd Brown knew for nine months that this was going to close, and he chose to keep quiet,” said John Pliva. Independence.

Of Mr Ryan’s campaign, he quipped: “We don’t need any more help like that.”

He and others spoke out in the aftermath of GM’s resignation. The end of well-paying union jobs for hundreds of thousands of city residents as the largest employer devastated businesses across a wide range of sectors.

“Those people had mortgages. They had IRAs,” Mr. Pleva said of the company’s former employees. “They had a lot of belongings…many of them lost their homes…many of the men went out of state.”

Mr Pleeva pointed to Market Street and other once-thriving areas of the city centre, commenting that it had “gotten out like a torpedo”.

“The buildings are still there, but they’re shells,” he said.

A few blocks away, a group of protesters waved signs denouncing the former president as a fascist, dismissing that charge, noting that Mr. Ryan had little in the way of real action beyond talk. But they expressed frustration at Democrats who saw them as missing an opportunity to speak to the region’s needs.

That’s where Chuckie Dennison, a former Lordstown staffer, displayed a pillow banner that he would later unveil inside the Covelli Center as Mr. Trump spoke to thousands of fans.

“Trump loses 3,000 Lordstown jobs – and the 2020 election,” it announced in bold red print.

Chuckie Dennison holds up his banner before attending a Donald Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio.

(John Bowden)

Now affiliated with the Bernie Sanders-aligned Our Revolution group, Mr. Dennison described his party’s Senate nominee as a missed opportunity to drive a progressive message and provide something for the left-back in Lordstown.

“He had the opportunity to be one of the best representatives in the country. And instead he chose oil and gas,” Mr. Dennison explained, noting with some disappointment that he still planned to support the congressman against his Republican opponent, JD Vance.

Mr. Dennison and others who joined the conversation described GM’s closing in Lordstown as an earthquake that touched everyone in town. For every plant worker, he explained, there were more than half a dozen members of the community whose employment in various industries “supported,” or more precisely, depended on, that plant worker’s work.

Mr. Dennison’s description of Mr. Ryan’s missed opportunity may have merit. Running a campaign that included distancing himself from progressives like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the Ohio congressman currently trails his opponent by a few percentage points, according to a new Emerson College poll. the mountain.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, which has seen its own economic turmoil as industries leave, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has taken the opposite tack and vowed to be a one-party player in Congress — he’s firmly ahead of GOP nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz in that Senate race, though Democrats earlier this year The competition has been tough after a stroke suffered by

Mr. Dennison suggested that Mr. Ryan should pivot to full-throated support of progressive causes, including PRO Act, a piece of pro-union legislation widely popular on the left that would, among other provisions, end “right-to-work” opposition. Nationwide law.

“The Democratic Party is mostly the party of the people. The poor, the working class, the elderly, the disabled,” argued Mr Dennison. “And even though they’re our lifelines, they’re not really fighting.”

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