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An open letter to a Trump supporter



She was in a front-page article, “The Places That Made Trump,” which purported to explain the point of view of Rust Belt voters who abandoned the Democratic Party to elect Trump President. Out of respect, I’m not using her name, although it’s right there in the link; I’ll call her Miss Smith.

Dear Miss Smith,

I want to understand. I really do. Because I just don’t see how a decent person could have voted for Trump—and you seem to be a decent person.

I don’t know anything about you except for what the Journal printed, and that’s scant enough, so I have to make some inferences. In this post, when I quote you directly (as reported by the Journal), I’ll use italics. When I quote from the article (which was written by Bob Davis and John W. Miller), I’ll put it in quotes without italics.

You live in Wilkes-Barre PA, “this Rust Belt city.” You work in a Polish restaurant. You’re 43 years old and I think you’re white. You voted twice for Obama because you thought he would “shake up Washington.” He didn’t (evidently, in your judgment), so you “chose Donald Trump for the same reason.”

“Obama tried to do well, and it didn’t turn out how we thought,” you said, adding, “Trump should do better…by cracking down on illegal immigration and upholding American values like hard work.”

Well, the Journal didn’t tell us much about your economic situation or that of your friends and loved ones, but I’m guessing it’s none too good. We know the Rust Belt is hurting, with the loss of manufacturing jobs; but you didn’t say anything in the article about how you think Trump will help the Rust Belt, so that’s a bit of a mystery.

Let’s take a look instead at your quote that Trump will “crack down on illegal immigration.” I wish you were here now, with me, so we could have a conversation. I’d ask you to explain just how illegal immigration is hurting you in Wilkes-Barre. Are illegal immigrants threatening your job, or your friends’ jobs? I went to the Wilkes-Barre website, and I see the city of 41,200 used to be a big coal-mining center. That is now ending. More recently, the city has become a hub for major employers such as Geisinger Health Systems, Blue Cross Health, eBay and over 60 new business that have opened their doors in recent years.” That’s great. Dinosaur industries like coal—which are disappearing, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that as the entire world moves away from fossil fuels—are being replaced by vigorous, modern and sustainable businesses.

So why are you so bothered by illegal immigration? I mean, seriously? If there are illegal immigrants in Wilkes-Barre, they’re probably Hispanic/Latino, and if they’re anything like the illegal immigrants in California, where I live, they pick our crops, clean our hotel rooms, scrub our toilets, build our houses and do other kinds of manual labor. They’re not hanging out on street corners; most are Catholic, have families, and want to work. Yes, some illegal immigrants commit crimes, but I suspect that a far bigger law enforcement and social problem for Wilkes-Barre is illegal drugs; your State, Pennsylvania, is the eighth-worst in the nation for drug overdoses, and you really can’t blame that on illegal immigrants.

You were quoted also as saying Trump will “uphold American values like hard work.” I don’t know what that means—I’m being sincere here. Are you saying that Hillary Clinton doesn’t believe in the values of hard work? No matter what you think of her, she’s probably one of the hardest-working American politicians in history. Maybe you mean that the Democratic Party doesn’t believe in “hard work.” Why do you think that? To be honest, the Republican Party has been very successful in fostering the notion that Democrats are all about welfare queens (Reagan used that term repeatedly). But this isn’t true. Democrats are just as dedicated to the values of hard work as Republicans. One major difference between the two parties is that Democrats believe in funding worker-retraining and new-skills education in places like Wilkes-Barre that are losing manufacturing jobs. In order to work at eBay or Blue Cross, people need to know about computers, or programming, or human resources or accounting and so forth. Many Rust Belt employees never acquired those skills, for one reason or another; it was easy for them to get jobs on the assembly line, and when the assembly line went to Vietnam or Bangladesh, those workers had nowhere to turn. You don’t hear about new-skills education from Republicans. They don’t want to spend the money on it, either by raising taxes or by making companies do it, and Lord knows, cities like Wilkes-Barre can’t afford to do it on their own. Democrats, on the other hand, have always been about job training (and unions, too), so if you’re really concerned about getting jobs for Wilkes-Barre’s unemployed, you might want to look into the position of your local candidates to see who’s serious about job training.

But wait, you say: Democrats have sent our jobs overseas. Well, yes, that’s true, through our international trade deals—but Democrats didn’t do it alone. Republicans have been just as strong, maybe even stronger, for deals like NAFTA and the TPP. True, Trump says he’s against it—but so was Hillary, and the truth is, the Congress, including Republicans, is overwhelmingly for trade deals, which are desired by the big corporations that fund their campaigns, and who yearn to dip their hands into overseas markets. So the trade deals aren’t going away anytime soon. It’s not fair to blame that on Democrats.

The fact is—and we can regret it but we can’t change it–manufacturing is largely gone in the Rust Belt. Countries like China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, even Brazil pay their workers far less money (and fewer benefits) than America does, and you can’t stop a manufacturer from moving overseas in order to protect profits (and keep the price of their products down, which is good for us consumers). This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem, it’s a matter of simple economics. And again, how is this related to illegal immigration?

A final quote of yours: Concerning Trump’s problems with women and unwanted sexual advances, the Journal said you “dismissed [the allegations against him] as bragging and ‘shoptalk,’” and you don’t “believe the women who accused him of sexual assault.” Well, Trump is facing at least 20 lawsuits for mistreatment of women, and of course, none of us can know if all of them are lying, or all of them are telling the truth, or if some of them are lying and some of them are telling the truth.

But let me ask you this: You did see the 2005 videotape of him bragging about “grabbing women by the pussy,” didn’t you? If you didn’t, here’s a link. So even though we can’t know exactly what happened between Trump and any particular woman, we do have Trump’s word for it, in his own voice, that he “moved on” women and grabbed them by their pussies, without asking for permission—which happens to be against the law, since it’s a form of sexual assault. So is it that hard for you to believe that at least some of the allegations are true? I think you’re a reasonable person; I think in your heart of hearts you acknowledge that Trump has sexually assaulted women on at least one occasion, and probably—listen to the videotape again—numerous times.

Maybe you don’t care. We’ve heard in the media that a lot of people who voted for Trump say they don’t care if he’s a sexual predator. Pardon me, Miss Smith, but I just can’t understand how people can dismiss something like that so casually. Have you ever been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances? I have, and I didn’t like it, nor would I ever want to see a predator in a position of power (I think that’s what people mean when they say Trump lacks temperament. We want our Presidents to be respectful of others, don’t we?). I myself would never, ever touch someone I was attracted to without their permission. I don’t think you would either. It’s just not something a decent person does.

Like I said, Miss Smith, I really do want to understand why you voted for Trump, with everything we know about him. How about we make a deal: if he brings back manufacturing to the Rust Belt, I’ll contribute to his re-election campaign. If he doesn’t—if his promise turns out to be as fake as his “Trump University” and get-rich-quick real estate “Institute”–then you’ll promise to vote Democratic again, as you did twice for Obama. Of course, we won’t know if Trump is just a charlatan for a few years, but I’ll be watching closely, and I know you will be, too.

Thank you.

  1. From The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (November 13, 2016):

    “Cheap [Natural] Gas Tests Trump’s Promise to Revive Coal”


    Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to resurrect the ailing U.S. coal industry and put miners back to work. Delivering on that vow could prove nearly impossible.

    Electric utilities that buy more than 95% of the coal mined in America have already retired hundreds of their coal-burning power plants from Colorado to Connecticut—amounting to about a third of the total capacity—and have plans to mothball even more.

    While in Appalachia earlier this year, Mr. Trump pledged to “bring the coal industry back, 100%” by rolling back environmental regulations. But coal’s biggest problem is that it is no longer the cheapest fossil fuel around. It is being displaced by natural gas.

    American Electric Power Co. of Columbus, Ohio, one of the nation’s biggest utility companies, has sold or retired half its fleet of coal-burning power plants in recent years. No matter who occupies the White House, “it’s not coming back,” said Nick Akins, AEP’s chief executive.

    Even if Mr. Trump makes good on his campaign promise to relax or repeal pending limits on carbon emissions, it won’t be enough to restore coal’s market share. “We’re moving to a cleaner-energy economy and we’re still getting pressure from investors to reduce carbon emissions,” Mr. Akins said. “I don’t see that changing.”

    Investors love gas-burning power plants because they take less time to construct, cost less to operate and convert fuel into electricity with greater efficiency. Gas has just half the carbon emissions of coal and, thanks to the U.S. drilling boom, most of the country is now flush with new supplies.

    Since the 2008 recession, the gas glut has become so acute that prices have plunged by more than 60% while coal has been relatively stable, federal data show.

    . . .

    When a utility builds a power plant, it has to live with that decision for decades. With so much uncertainty about climate policy, power companies say they have no intention of rushing back to coal, though it makes sense to keep it in the mix as a hedge against any gas price increases and because it is easy to stockpile for emergencies.

    . . .

    Coal basins in Appalachia and the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming are hurting. U.S. coal companies have shed 21,000 jobs nationwide since 2008. Employment fell 12% in 2015 to 66,000 employees, with West Virginia and Kentucky the taking the brunt of the cuts.

    [See economist Joseph Schumpeter theory of “creative destruction.”]

  2. I’m an architect and work primarily in retail design. Most people don’t understand that a huge swath of American manufacturing has gone overseas simply because American retailers demand it. Walmart sells 11-12% of everything – everything – purchased in this country. Ten percent may not seem overwhelming, but consider that internet sales in the US do not exceed 8-1/2% of total sales. Walmart, together with Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s and handful of other big box retailers control the manufacturing requirements for literally millions of products. Black and Decker has not manufactured a drill in the US for over a decade. They could, but no retailer would buy them. The Donald can do nothing to change this without sending retail prices skyrocketing. (Note that Costco, in addition to selling decent wine, treat their employees and suppliers substantially better than any other big box stores.)

  3. From The Wall Street Journal “Business & Finance” Section
    (November 17, 2016, Page B3)”

    “What Shape is U.S. Coal In?;
    How the fossil fuel stacks up in facts and figures”

    By David Crook and Tristan Wyatt
    “The Short Answer” Infographic


    “Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump promised to end the ‘war on coal’—what conservatives have described as excessive environmental regulations. Limiting emissions of sulfur, mercury and carbon dioxide makes the air cleaner, but comes at a cost to miners and power plants, imposing a tax on coal. But a bigger factor in coal’s decline has been the boom in the fracking of shale gas, particularly in Appalachia.”

  4. Bob Henry, trump is going to set a record for the most broken promises from a campaign.

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