Youngstown, Ohio, is a go-to destination for a certain type of political outreach and reporting. Bolstered by its identification as quintessentially blue collar in a Bruce Springsteen song, it’s a city that fills in neatly as a backdrop for any story or rhetoric focused on the Rust Belt or the Midwest or the declining white middle class. As our Jenna Johnson noted, that is an oversimplified picture of what Youngstown looks like these days, but the familiar political shorthand it offers makes it irresistible.
In September, the Guardian stopped by a Republican Party picnic outside of Youngstown, hoping for a bit of that Midwestern, Rust-Belt real-keeping. Reporter Paul Lewis interviewed Kathy Miller, a former town trustee in nearby Boardman who was serving as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in the county — at least, until Lewis’s interview with her was published.
“I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected,” she said. She continued: “If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years? It’s your own fault.” She added that there’s no racism if “people have jobs and go to work and do what they’re supposed to do,” and that if black people are offended by her saying that, it’s “because they’re not going to work.”
“We have three generations of all still having unwed babies, kids that don’t go through high school,” Miller said. “I mean, when do they take responsibility for how they live? I think it’s due time, and I think that’s good that Mr. Trump is pointing that out.”
Miller’s racist comments no more reflected the entirety of Mahoning County than they did the entirety of Trump’s base of support. Nor are her words those of the president’s. But when Trump visited the city again on Tuesday night, he gave a speech that demonstrated that his own positions on racial politics has not evolved from the campaign trail. He referenced black and Hispanic people in the same contexts as he did last year, talking about the former as residents of inner cities and the latter mostly in the context of immigration and the need to purge violent gangs. (Washington Post)