From America’s Rust Belt to its New GOP Party

  • Post category:Opinion

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“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Bob Dylan

The Rust Belt

What kind of country has a rust belt? For me it is emblematic of a country in decline. When I was young the rust belt was known as the manufacturing belt and it represented America’s might. Without it we could not have won World War II in the manner that we did. The manufacturing belt stretched from the north east to Indiana and blue-collar workers populated it. These were people who, for the most part, graduated high school, got married, and went to work. They had good paying jobs. Their jobs allowed them to buy homes and raise their families in a manner better than they had growing up. Their families were also union families. Union families voted Democrat. 

I grew up in a union family. At election time, my parents would receive replica ballots completed by the union. They could take them to the ballot box in case they hadn’t read up on some of the finer issues that affected labor. Blue-collar families formed the backbone of the Democrat party. The blue-collar workers’ allegiance to the Democrat party was so strong many states in the manufacturing belt became known as the blue wall. 

From Manufacturing to Rust

The manufacturing belt first began to unravel as union wage demands became excessive, especially in comparison to how people in other parts of the world earned. Their strikes disrupted business and businesses slowly started moving their production overseas. The Democrats undermined their constituency as this movement began to pick up steam. They passed laws demanding even more work rules, environmental laws, and then a myriad of government agencies began issuing their own job killing regulations. The Democrats led the way with that legislation and fought hard for new regulations. They made it expensive to label a product “Made in the U.S.A.”

Offshoring became the newest manufacturing trend in America. The more labor or energy intensive a firm’s production, the faster it fled. Other countries welcomed our factories and helped facilitate the transfer of American power to their own homelands. Within twenty years, the manufacturing belt was gone. Left in its place was the rust belt. The rust belt still serves as a disgraceful symbol of a nation that lost its way.

Political Parties in Transition

As 60,000 factories closed across America, the Democrats continued to encourage their closure through never ending legislation. The GOP, however, clung to its outdated concepts about free market theories that had become all but meaningless to most Americans. The GOP stood steadfast behind free market competition. They claimed we could compete economically with anyone if the government just didn’t interfere. The GOP was against big government. The government had grown so big no one seriously thought it would ever be made small again.

As the government’s disruptive interference in the economy grew worse, the GOP seemed to grow inepter. Perhaps nothing illustrates that point more than GOP’s long and loud stand against Obama Care. Their words were empty promises and the GOP had lost touch with the countries’ voters. The GOP was against social security and other so-called entitlements, but most Americans liked social security mostly because they had paid for and expected it. Many American had come to expect little from the government. Nothing got done that made things better.

Donald Trump Makes His Entrance

When then citizen Donald Trump made his now famous ride down the escalator to announce his candidacy it is important to remember the world laughed. We heard terms like “the summer of Trump” as though it were good entertainment for now, but soon we would get down to the real business of picking a president. Like many Americans, I had been listening to Donald Trump and I prayed the commentators, many of whom I respect, were wrong. The conventional wisdom was the race would be between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, which seemed a reasonable prediction for a while. I had decided that there was so little difference between the two I didn’t care which one got elected. Both came from families of liars. Except for President Ronald Reagan, the Republicans just didn’t keep their promises. 

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What Used to be Politics as Usual

Following in the footsteps of Reagan, who hated taxes, President George H. W. Bush (#41) said “Read my lips, no new taxes.” He then promptly raised taxes once he was elected. If that weren’t bad enough, after the economy stalled during the election cycle, Bush announced his plans were to do nothing. He claimed the economy would take care of itself. Hardly inspirational words.

After suffering through President Bill Clinton’s years, President George W. Bush (#43) promised on whether the US would conduct nation building, he stated, “Absolutely not.” I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I soon found out as he dedicated eight years to foreign wars and to nation building.

Then Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), followed by Sen Mitt Romney (R-UT) preached the same tired GOP laissez-faire economics that lacked credibility. Romney was worse because arguably, with his business and political background, he knew better. Romney, in what is now his second most famous self-righteous and self-destructive act, declined to campaign during the waning days of his campaign because of Hurricane Sandy.

Obama meanwhile, went to work passing out aid grants, which all but assured his reelection. Romney sat pompously on the sidelines not realizing that was where he would remain. His behavior is in stark contrast to the events four years later when Donald Trump held three rallies a day including one in the early morning hours of election day while his son held simultaneous rallies in other locations. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, slept. 

MAGA Difference

Perhaps the most telling difference with President Trump’s campaigning was who was attending his rallies and their sheer size. His rallies were not held in hotel lobbies, diners. or community centers. They were held in large arenas and were full with overflowing crowds. More impressively, the people who came didn’t run hedge funds. They were everyday working people from places the liberals derogatorily refer to as the flyover states.

The rest of the world was playing by different rules and we were falling behind at an alarming rate.

McCain, Romney, and many other Republicans turned on Trump. Trump saw the obsolescence of the rhetoric coming from the party’s Conservative wing as well as their inability to get anything done. The GOP and its Conservative wing had lost sight of the fact there was no such thing as laissez-faire economics. They failed to realize the rest of the world was playing by different rules and we were falling behind at an alarming rate. Our companies thrived while our workers stopped working. “Jobless recoveries” is the term Trump used. Huge numbers of Americans got by with part time jobs, became dependent on the government, or lived on the streets while Conservative zealots clung to the status quo.

America’s GOP Party

Trump took on the media, the Democrats, significant parts of the GOP, the massive Political Action Committees (PACs). The PACs previously supported both parties, but also President Barack Obama and his administration’s spying. Trump not only won, but he also put their foolishness on display. Today only a fool would trust the media or the government. The anti-Trumpers have been vanquished. They have no place in the GOP. Romney, perhaps the last one, is learning that now.

For the first time during the State of the Union address, we heard a Republican president talk about blue-collar jobs, prison reform, an inverted prescription pricing policy that allows people across our borders to buy American made drugs cheaper than Americans do. We saw him speak to African-Americans as equal Americans not as victims who need government care. During his short term in office, President John Kennedy did not match President Trump’s accomplishments. However, one must think he would have been proud to have given the same speech Trump delivered had he achieved as much. Kennedy, of course, was a Democrat. Like the manufacturing belt, the old Democrat and Republican parties no longer exist.

The Transformation of American Politics

Democrats have turned their backs on blue-collar workers, the very people who used to constitute the party. In fact, they mocked uneducated whites and rural whites who they say voted for Trump out of sheer stupidity and ignorance. The Democrats now lump the people who once made up their base in with the “basket of deplorables” and even people who they see as “irredeemable.” The Democrats now support a fantasy world where no one works, everything is free, no one is offended, life is easy, and the government replaces God. In their small world, the only thing preventing their fantasy view is President Donald J. Trump. Beyond removing President Trump from elected office, they have no agenda.

The GOP is now President Trump’s party. He tore it down and rebuilt it. It no longer opposes social security. It recognizes government regulation is more than a talking point and there are real consequences to having government bureaucrats do things like declaring a mud puddle is actually a lake in need of protection. Most significantly the new GOP has done something about it – big time. When I see the changes President Trump has made to the GOP party, I like what I see. One of the best things he has done is taken over the party. I was tired of the Republican party with its numerous factions fighting over self-centered perceptions about ideology which had no meaningful bearing on how our government served its people. Trump’s accomplishments over the last three years were considered impossible when he took office, but he waved a magic wand and accomplished the impossible. The GOP is now America’s political party. Let’s not lose it.

Dr. Jack Daniel, PhD
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