Penn­syl­va­nia’s Rust Belt ex­pect­ing re­sults af­ter de­liv­er­ing Trump win

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

BETH­LE­HEM, PA. | Joe Wil­shire never voted in a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, never thought it made a dif­fer­ence, un­til he cast his bal­lot for Don­ald Trump and helped de­liver a blow to “the bu­reau­cracy” that he says has been run­ning the U.S. into the ground.

One of the so-called in­vis­i­ble Amer­i­cans whom Mr. Trump con­nected with in the Rust Belt, the 36-year-old par­cel de­liv­ery­man said he felt em­pow­ered by his role in swing­ing Penn­syl­va­nia and the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Now he ex­pects noth­ing less from Mr. Trump than great­ness.

“I feel like my vote meant ev­ery­thing in the world,” Mr. Wil­shire said as he handed off a pack­age at a neigh­bor­hood bar. “I feel like our voice has been heard. You can’t go around shout­ing ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’ to si­lence us and think we won’t come out to vote.”

Af­ter putting Penn­syl­va­nia in the Repub­li­can col­umn for the first time in nearly three decades, work­ing-class vot­ers here said they are ex­cited about the fu­ture. But they also said they don’t have blind al­le­giance to Mr. Trump; they have high ex­pec­ta­tions — in­clud­ing driv­ing out Wash­ing­ton cor­rup­tion and ush­er­ing in an eco­nomic boom.

“He’s got a lot of work to do — and without cor­rup­tion,” said stay-at-home mother Donna Ref­fle, 48, a Demo­crat who voted for Mr. Trump. “He’s got to turn around health care.”

She said she also wanted to see home val­ues rise.

Beth­le­hem and sur­round­ing Northamp­ton County were key to Mr. Trump’s up­set vic­tory over Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton. The county in Penn­syl­va­nia’s Le­high Val­ley sided with Pres­i­dent Obama in 2012 by 4 per­cent­age points and 6,000 votes. Mr. Trump took the county by 5 points and just over 6,000 votes.

Big swings in the vote in places such as Northamp­ton County were partly a re­sult of Mr. Trump’s abil­ity to tap into the frus­tra­tion felt by work­ing-class Amer­i­cans. De­spite the prom­ise of eco­nomic ex­pan­sion from a suc­ces­sion of pres­i­dents from both par­ties, they have strug­gled with stag­nant wages and dwin­dling job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Those an­gry blue-col­lar vot­ers pro­pelled Mr. Trump’s win in long­time Demo­cratic strongholds such as Penn­syl­va­nia, Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin.

Christo­pher Borick, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Muh­len­berg Col­lege in Al­len­town, Penn­syl­va­nia, said work­ing­class white vot­ers found a cham­pion in Mr. Trump, but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make them Repub­li­cans.

“If you look down-bal­lot in Penn­syl­va­nia, a lot of these folks [who] voted for of­fices like at­tor­ney gen­eral, trea­surer, state of­fices, voted Demo­crat,” he said. “A lot of these in­di­vid­u­als still have Demo­cratic lean­ings. There are more than a few Trump Democrats and prob­a­bly still call them­selves Democrats.”

Still, blue-col­lar vot­ers took a gam­ble that a celebrity New York bil­lion­aire would be mark a real de­par­ture from typ­i­cal politi­cians. Now they are ea­ger for their bet to pay off.

“I want to see him make im­prove­ments over what his pre­de­ces­sor has done,” said Al Galdo, a 47-year-old reg­is­tered nurse who voted for Mr. Trump. “I need to see im­prove­ment done for all Amer­i­cans.”

Mr. Galdo said he switched pro­fes­sions from Home De­pot man­ager to the health care in­dus­try as the econ­omy be­gan to fal­ter in 2008. But he said he longs for a re­turn of man­u­fac­tur­ing to the old steel town where he lives and across the Rust Belt, an is­sue that was front and cen­ter on Mr. Trump’s eco­nomic agenda.

“There’s no in­dus­try left in this coun­try,” said Mr. Galdo. “The kids in school are taught like they’re get­ting jobs at Beth­le­hem Steel, and that’s been shut down since Bill Clin­ton was pres­i­dent.”

The re­gion strug­gled for more than 20 years to re­cover from the clos­ing of Beth­le­hem Steel but has ex­pe­ri­enced a re­vival in re­cent years with a con­ver­sion of the mill into a SteelS­tacks arts cam­pus and a Sands Casino Re­sort.

“Who knows what four years will bring?” said Mr. Galdo. “Let’s see what this guy will do.”

Tyler Kern, 22, a reg­is­tered Demo­crat who was work­ing on a mov­ing truck dur­ing his win­ter break from col­lege, said his vote for Mr. Trump was more of a vote against Mrs. Clin­ton, against the con­stant pres­sure to be po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, and against what he viewed as a cor­rupt Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Trump’s Cabi­net picks, how­ever, have dis­ap­pointed Mr. Kern. He said too many of the nom­i­nees are part of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and are hos­tile to the en­vi­ron­ment.

“I’d at least like him to de­liver on jobs,” he said.


TRUE COL­ORS: Lisa Rossi of Youngstown, Penn­syl­va­nia, was not shy about show­ing her sup­port for Don­ald Trump on Elec­tion Day. Work­ing-class vot­ers in the Rust Belt say they are ex­cited about the fu­ture but don’t have a blind al­le­giance to Mr. Trump.


Don­ald Trump got the at­ten­tion of vot­ers in Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, who were frus­trated over bro­ken prom­ises of eco­nomic ex­pan­sion. The long­time Demo­cratic strong­hold helped pro­pel the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee to vic­tory on Nov. 8.

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