We’ve all heard the rumors of lifelong Democrats who support Trump in 2016. It’s time to meet a few of them.
The Washington Post reports:
WEIRTON, W.Va. — The Ohio Valley is filled with registered Democrats, the kind that hung portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy on their living room walls. It is made of coal and steel towns and union workers, and stretches from the Pittsburgh exurbs across West Virginia’s panhandle into Ohio.
But here in Weirton — where Weirton Steel Company employed 12,000 people and now only 900 — many say they will cast their ballots for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. They talk about him over beers at local taverns and at church socials. For many of those in the unions, he’s the first Republican for whom they’ll vote — even as national unions, including the United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO, have endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“When the steel industry was going good and the coal was good, it was blue,” said George Psaros, 76, a retired Weirton Steel engineer who voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. “Well, the world has changed.”
Now even one of the most reliably Democratic groups — union members — may be turning red, drawn by Trump’s free-trade bashing and resentful of Clinton’s past support for certain international trade agreements.
“I don’t know what Trump would do if he’s elected,” said Mark Glyptis, president of the United Steelworkers Local 2911 and a Trump supporter, who voted for Obama in the past two elections. “But I know what Hillary would do.”
Nationally, union households have increasingly voted for conservative candidates, data show. In 1996, only 30 percent of union households voted for Republican candidates. In 2012, that increased to 40 percent, and political analysts expect that rise this election cycle.
And increasingly, these distressed workers are associating free trade with the Democrats. In Glyptis’s office hangs a poster that says “Free Traders are Traitors.” To many this election season, that means Democrats.
“You have to get a decent-paying job, that’s the first step of anything,” said John Balzano, 78, and the Local 2911 benefits coordinator, who said he is undecided about for whom to vote. He has worked at the mill since age 21. “And it branches out, whether you’re going to be a good family man, whether you’re going to get a divorce, whether you’re going to live in the community, whether you’re going to become a good, community-minded person, the job will dictate that. We don’t have them around here.”
During his election bid, he felt the same anger voters are taking out now on Clinton. They feel spurned by trade deals, he said as he sipped coffee at the union hall.
“We didn’t see a damn thing in return,” he said of the North American Free Trade Agreement. China’s 2000 admission to the World Trade Organization and the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement inundated U.S. markets with cheap foreign metal.
They are absolutely right not to trust Hillary when it comes to the TPP. Here’s why: