A coal miner's boot represents the life and work that once went on inside the St. Nicholas Coal Breaker, which once processed 12,500 tons of coal per day. It closed in 1972. Now, in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town of Manahoy City, more than 17 percent of the population is living below the poverty line. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Trump has made a "safe space" for bigotry. Opposing him shouldn't cause us to engage in a different brand of belittling.
John Russo and Sherry Linkon, Moyers & Company
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September 13, 2016 | When Mitt Romney dismissed the 47 percent of voters who, he predicted, would support Barack Obama “no matter what” as “victims” who depend on government assistance, liberal critics called foul. The quote, caught on video by a bartender at a Florida fundraiser in September 2012, reinforced Romney’s image as an elitist whose interests were firmly aligned with the wealthy. Not surprisingly, Democrats repeatedly used the line against Romney, and while we can’t blame his defeat in that year’s election on that one line, it sure didn’t help, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio.
Last Friday, Hillary Clinton said the following:
You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of these folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket – and I know this because I see friends from all over America here – I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas – as well as, you know, New York and California–but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
John Russo is the former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies and coordinator of the Labor Studies Program at Youngstown State University
and Sherry Linko, a professor of English at Georgetown University and a faculty affiliate of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, edits the blog Working-Class Perspectives and is working on a book about the literature of deindustrialization.
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