Sunday read: A city, the GOP and Donald Trump

dayton_skyline
Image from Wikipedia.

In Alec MacGillis’ story about Dayton, Ohio, and its transition to a Trump stronghold, he talks to a local Republican power broker, Don Phillips.

Phillips has voted for his party’s more establishment candidates for years, but this year he’s been foursquare behind the New York real estate and marketing mogul.

“I feel very good about Trump. I’m for Trump 100 percent. I’m a Trump man and a lot of my family are Trump,” he tells MacGillis. “He really knows what he’s doing. He’ll put people around him. He has no obligations to Washington. Washington is broken. I definitely feel Trump is the answer to America.”

This may not dovetail with your beliefs about Trump — or mine. But it’s not uncommon in Dayton, observes MacGillis in this week’s Sunday read.

In 1960, Dayton was one of the 50 most populous cities in America. It was a manufacturing and engineering powerhouse: the second-largest General Motors locale after Michigan, and birthplace of the Wright Brothers’ bicycle and airplane business, Delco (which stood for Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co.) and National Cash Register.

It was a GOP-leaning city, but generally made up of old-fashioned Main Street Republicans: fiscally conservative, internationally skeptical, but more or less socially liberal. It was a Dayton-area congressman, William McCulloch, who helped push civil rights legislation in the ’60s, and another Dayton-area congressman, Charles Whalen, maintained many of those stances into the ’70s.

But, in the meantime, Dayton was falling victim to many of the challenges of the so-called Rust Belt: closed factories, white flight, corporate departures. NCR, that Dayton mainstay, moved its headquarters to Atlanta in 2009. Dayton, 49th in population as of 1960, was 187th in 2010.

Those population shifts and economic declines opened fissures in Dayton politics that reflect those seen nationwide — especially in this year of Donald Trump’s triumph. In MacGillis’ story, “The Great Republican Crack-Up,” he shows how the city core, which has provided an open door to immigrants, has moved left, while the suburbs and exurbs have moved right.

(Disclosure: MacGillis is a friend. He’s also exceptionally talented, winner of last year’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, and you should read as many of his other stories as you can, including his revealing and thoughtful book on Mitch McConnell.)

The latter group, however, has found itself increasingly frustrated with the national GOP, which has talked but, in their view, hasn’t delivered. Donald Trump has taken advantage of this frustration.

Those dismissive of Trump — whether inside or outside the GOP — should listen. Even if the candidate is an imperfect vessel for his supporters’ discontent, there’s no question the discontent is that of many Americans — and it could have huge consequences this fall. Ohio has long been a key swing state, and as of July 16, fivethirtyeight’s poll analysis of Ohio has Hillary Clinton up by less than a percentage point, 44.9% to 44.0% (with Gary Johnson at 9.8% and rising).

Yes, it’s early, but voter anger isn’t going anywhere. MacGillis’ story shows how it settled in one place.

His story is on ProPublica’s and Politico’s sites.

 

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