As most people know, I’m normally quiet and reserved (wink wink). I rarely raise my voice or become excited. The week before last, all that changed. While serving as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention, I became an unabashed Obama enthusiast. I roared until my throat was raw and applauded until my hands hurt as speaker after speaker, including Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, laid out our party’s vision for the future — a vision so starkly different from that drawn by the Republicans that I was left wondering how any middle class American, especially middle class families in the Mahoning Valley, could even consider voting for Romney-Ryan.
Auto industry rescue
After I returned home, however, I couldn’t help thinking that my assessment may have been skewed because I was caught up in the waves of enthusiasm that washed over the convention floor every night.
I’m proud to say that a lot of that enthusiasm was generated by people from the Valley. People like Karen Eusanio of Warren who highlighted the auto recovery and who works — or should I say still works — at Lordstown because President Obama stepped up and stepped in to rescue the domestic carmakers. People like, Elaine Brye, of Columbiana County, the military mom who welcomed First Lady Michelle Obama to the podium. Our neighbors were given prominent roles at the convention because the Obama campaign recognizes that Ohio is critical to the outcome of the election and because they know the administration’s policies are driving our state’s nation-leading economic recovery.
Turns out I didn’t have anything to worry about. Polls taken after the president’s speech demonstrate conclusively that most Americans get it. While Romney-Ryan received no “bounce” in the polls after their mean-spirited confab, the Obama-Biden team opened its widest lead over the Republicans in the wake of our meeting in Charlotte.
Here’s why. The conventions gave Americans an unobstructed view of the differences between the parties. Voters learned Democrats believe a job is about more than a paycheck, it’s about dignity and the most important family value: being able to provide for your kids.
Nothing makes the differences in economic policy clearer than the two parties’ position on the domestic auto industry. For President Obama, saving the industry wasn’t about cars, it was about the people — including thousands in the Valley — who make them. Romney? He said Detroit should go bankrupt, even though that would have cost millions of people their piece of the American Dream.
The conventions showed Americans the difference between Barack Obama who believes in investing in our country’s infrastructure, in education, in strengthening Medicare, in caring for our veterans, and Romney, who believes it’s perfectly OK to invest in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands.
Mahoning Valley jobs
In Charlotte we heard from a president who believes in strengthening Main Street by creating jobs in the Mahoning Valley and the U.S. — 4.6 million of them over the past two years. From Tampa we heard from a candidate who worships Wall Street and corporations, like the one he led, that outsource as many jobs as possible to China and other low-wage nations because it’s good for their bottom line — even if it means the bottom will fall out of the American economy.
And so this year the conventions gave the American people one thing: a clear choice between distinctively different views of our nation and our future. I’m confident the sharp contrasts in between President Obama and his GOP rival will motivate people across the Valley to roll up their sleeves and work for President Obama’s election because they know that Ohio will decide the election and the Mahoning Valley will play a prominent role in determining who will win Ohio.
David J. Betras is chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.