Hey, Joe! The Acela Doesn't Stop in Scranton

Hey, Joe! The Acela Doesn't Stop in Scranton
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
Hey, Joe! The Acela Doesn't Stop in Scranton
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
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Joe, I heard you’re running for president, which means you’re probably never going to stop telling us that you’re from Scranton. It’s a great selling point because Democrats lost blue-collar working-class votes in the last election in places like Pennsylvania, and since you’re from Scranton and a down-to-earth guy who connects with all the other regular Joes out there, you have a good chance to win them back. Plus, union leaders like you.

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but you have to knock this off. You may say you’re from Scranton, perhaps thinking that means you understand what it’s like to work a blue-collar job your whole life. But your actions show that you don’t.

My dad was born in Scranton. He is a retired mechanic from an immigrant family with relatives who were put into detention upon arrival in America. They had to resist being deported back to Poland, worked in coal mines, opened a bakery, and fought in both world wars. If you really remembered what it was like to be from Scranton, then in 2014, when you were in the White House with President Obama, you might have pushed back when your team, including Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, strong-armed the Senate into passing a statute -- unprecedented in the history of federal pension oversight -- that allowed my father’s pension to be cut retroactively after he retired. This happened even though his company (one of the largest in the United States) was breaking revenue and profit records. Some people have wanted to cut workers’ pensions for a long time, but it took a Democrat in the White House to finally get the job done.

You need to face the truth: Donald Trump won the election in 2016 because the Democratic Party abandoned American workers. It wasn’t just because Americans are sexist and racist, or because Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager decided not to campaign in Wisconsin. And, it wasn’t because of Vladimir Putin.

You and Barack Obama lost people like my father after presiding over massive bailout loans to rich Wall Street executives and their banks, the same ones whose recklessness helped my father’s pension fund lose tens of millions of dollars.

After the Democrats lost in 2016, there was a clear path to victory in 2020: (1) focus on the swing states and the few other states that were unexpectedly lost; (2) find out what problems were not being addressed; (3) design policy options to fix the problems; and (4) work hard within the party and in Congress to build back support from voters in those states.

Instead of doing this work and confronting its own political malpractice, the Democratic Party’s leadership chose to slander Americans as too sexist and racist to support Clinton, this despite the fact that she actually won the popular vote. It’s time for Democrats to stop demonizing Americans who voted for President Trump and start learning about the people being left behind by both major political parties.

Understanding things from someone else’s perspective is one of the hardest things to do in the world. The way you talk about being from Scranton and the way you get along with labor leaders should be reassuring, but many of us find it unsettling. Because you’re not really from Scranton in any way that matters to the people who are from there, at least not anymore. Anyone who really knows how unions operate would spend more time with actual workers than with their union bosses. When I met James P. Hoffa, I realized within minutes that he might not be the best advocate for people like my father.

You might win this election. It might be the best thing for America. Whether or not you do, I hope you pause the “I am from Scranton” routine. I also hope you can help my father and the millions of people like him who are staring down devastating end-of-life pension cuts. Please give President Trump a call and see if we can get a deal to help them. You can choose to lead now. This does not have to be a campaign issue. What’s good for the party isn’t always good for Americans.

Michael H. Dardzinski is from Rochester, N.Y. He was a member of President Obama’s National Finance Committee in 2007/08. His father lost nearly one-third of his pension in October 2017.

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