Please check out my latest article on the centrality (and reality) of Ohio in the presidential campaigns on Aslan Media:
“Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio?” asked Bill Clinton during his notable speech at the Democratic National Convention this week. He wanted to ensure that Ohioans heard him loud and clear when he announced the “job score” that came out of the auto industry restructuring enacted by President Obama at the start of his term: “Obama, 250,000. Romney, 0.”
If Ohioans failed to hear this particular appeal, they surely could not have missed the 31 other times their state was mentioned during the three nights of the Democratic National Convention. Even if they were not tuned in to the party conventions of the last two weeks, they will still have been on the receiving end of the unprecedented 400 television ads per day, or 16 per hour, with which both campaigns are flooding the state. And if Ohioans want something more personal, then they can walk out their doors and catch one of the two presidential candidates who visit their state almost every week. During campaign season, Washington has an unabashed love affair with a place usually derisively referred to as flyover country. As in most affairs, the suitor has one goal in mind. Read the rest here!
I wanted to share this recent piece by Sherry Linkon, co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University (see my previous post, “Visiting Youngstown“), entitled “Can Working-Class Women Have It All?” and inspired by the now rather legendary Atlantic piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” When I read Slaughter’s piece a couple of months ago, I was forced to think seriously about my own future and the limitations and challenges I would face as a professional woman if and when I choose to start a family. Slaughter’s piece spoke directly to me, because I am part of the cohort of the highly educated (soon to be) career professionals that her case relates to. Yet as Slaughter herself points out, and as Linkon eloquently expounds in her article, class privilege shapes the nature of this discussion. Linkon writes: “Gender is classed. That’s old news in Working-Class Studies, but it’s a lesson all those pundits talking about women have yet to understand.”
When talking with people in Ohio, including women, I often think of – and am in fact partially motivated by – the distance between public thinkers in Washington, DC, (and their ‘creative class’ brethren in other urban centers), and the reality being lived by average Americans in the rest of the country. I think of Lisa from Grafton, Ohio. Lisa is a nurse and is raising three children on her own, having been divorced from her husband many years ago. Lisa isn’t asking herself if she can get them to soccer practice and then to piano lessons on time, all while ensuring she is personally and professionally satisfied. She loves her kids as much as a woman from any class, but that love is in her concern with avoiding emergencies to stay afloat. As she said to me: “all my kids have always worked since they’ve been young. I taught them how to do that. I live on a budget. And then when emergencies come up, they’re not really emergencies. If the car breaks down, if you’ve got the money there, it’s not really an emergency. If you don’t, it is.” For Lisa, merely asking herself the question “can I have it all?” would be a privilege.
It’s not that national party conventions are entirely irrelevant. Amidst all the pomp and circumstance are significant theatrical displays that reveal forged alliances, potential cabinet picks, and stymied aspirations. But because the party’s nominee is already a given before convening, and no longer decided by debating delegates at the time of the gathering, national party conventions have lost most of their technical and practical usefulness. Other norms, like lobbying on the physical lobby floor of the Capitol Building, have also become rather obsolete in our matured political system. We may have thought that contending for fair voting rights across class and racial lines was also among the remnants of politics past. But on the same day that Mitt Romney was soliciting Americans for their votes, a federal district court had to strike down a Texas law that would impose “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor” and minority voters. That was just the latest development in a nationwide battle over voting rights. *Read the rest of this article here.
Sometimes while I am transcribing interviews, I encounter a statement that hits me with renewed force upon second hearing. I wanted to share one of these exchanges from my conversation with Carl. Carl worked in a refractory plant in Negley, OH, for 38 years before contracting silicosis in his lungs. According to the American Lung Association, silicosis causes fluid buildup and scar tissue in the lungs, cutting down breathing ability. It is common among people who work in construction, mining, sandblasting, etc.
“I’m at work most of the day, and I’m so tired at night that I just go to bed as soon as I’ve eaten supper. I have ideas of what a home ought to be, all right, but the way things are now I just eat and sleep here.” – Jim Barr, steelworker, 1910
A couple of days ago I went to Youngstown, Ohio, for a meeting with John Russo, co-founder and co-director (along with Sherry Lee Linkon) of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University. I discovered Russo and Linkon through their co-authored book Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown. (I have yet to review the book here, though I intend to. Suffice it to say it is one of the most successful academic works in the country.) After the meeting I spent a couple of hours wandering and wondering about the city. Below is a photo gallery with a few shots using my very amateurish iPhone. I’ve included some interesting bits of history along in the photo captions.
For a couple of hours last Saturday, the Tea Party gathered in downtown Cleveland for a rally entitled “Occupy the Truth.” Yes, the Tea Party was operating under the banner of their apparent rivals, the Occupy Movement. That is because the stated purpose of their gathering was to protest the mainstream media’s lack of coverage of a foiled bomb plot by five individuals associated with the Occupy Cleveland movement last spring. One by one, the featured speakers railed against Occupy and the liberal media to a crowd of about 250 (the organizers claimed 1500, the cop I spoke to estimated 250) mostly 50 and 60-year-old white Ohioans. Except for Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and CEO of the Tea Party Patriots, all the speakers were themselves media pundits and producers; most were bloggers. In essence, it was a war against the media by the media.
On Aug. 14, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rolled through Ohio on his “The Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class” Bus Tour. Two weeks earlier, president-and-candidate Barack Obama made his own appeal to Ohio’s “average middle-class family” on his ninth campaign stop in the state. Both campaigns have placed Ohio and the middle class at the core of their messages. Each insists that they will protect and improve the middle class’s well-being, while the other will destroy it for the sake of the super-rich in one case, the welfare-state in the other. As Ohioans find themselves at the center of all this attention (often unfortunately so, being on the receiving end of 400 political ads per day), I set out to find out what it means to be in Ohio’s middle class, from Ohioans themselves. As it happens, the lower end of the spectrum is lower than Obama, Romney, and our national psyche might realize. Read the rest here!