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Trump’s first test looms

By Bertram de Souza

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Three days after Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20 as the 45th president of the United States, 1,245 auto workers in the Mahoning Valley will lose their jobs.

It’s a safe bet that some (perhaps most) of the employees of General Motors’ assembly plant in Lordstown voted for Trump, the Republican political novice who took the country by storm when he announced his candidacy in June 2015.

It’s also a safe bet that Trump’s popularity among this region’s blue-collar, non-college educated white workers was the result of his pledge to restore America’s industrial might. During his campaign visits to the Valley, the billionaire real estate developer from New York City talked about forcing American auto makers to bring back the jobs that have been sent abroad, and of resurrecting the steel industry.

His message resonated with Americans who believe that their economic distress is the result of unfair global trade practices and unpatriotic American corporations that send jobs overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

Trump steered clear of any discussion about the technology-based economy demanding participants with brains rather than brawn. It is no accident that a college education is a prerequisite for many entry-level positions.

But such a message from Trump would have gone over like a lead balloon in this region. Therefore, he stuck to his script, and the vote count from Tuesday’s election showed that his strategy paid off.

In predominantly Democratic Trumbull County, he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 6,022 votes – 48,152 to 42,130. (GM’s Lordstown plant is located in Trumbull).

Clinton’s close win

In heavily Democratic Mahoning County, Clinton barely won: 56,188 to 52,808 (3,380 vote difference).

Trump had little trouble in Republican-dominated Columbiana County with a vote of 31,086 to 12,273 for Clinton.

And so on Jan. 23 when the 1,245 autoworkers in the Valley say farewell to their decent-paying jobs with great benefits, the question that will be asked is this: What will President Trump do?

After all, he’s the champion of the white, blue-collar, working man – the billionaire who told the people that he alone knows how to “Make America Great Again” (his campaign slogan).

Why put the onus on Trump to get involved with a private corporation’s business decisions? Because he made it clear during the campaign that he would force American corporate leaders to do his bidding with regard to restoring the jobs that have been shipped out of the country.

On Tuesday night, as the results of the election were coming in, this writer offered an analysis of the presidential race that was to be published in Wednesday’s Vindicator.

However, because the results were not finalized by press time, the analysis did not run in the paper. Nonetheless, it was posted on the newspaper’s website,

Here’s what it says, in part, under the headline, “With Trump victory, America falls for snake-oil salesman”:

“A recent segment of ‘Jeopardy,’ the hit TV game show, had this Final Jeopardy clue: ‘In the late 1800s, Clark Stanley was a notorious seller of this two-word product, which he advertised as a curative liniment.’

“Before the answers from the contestants were revealed by popular host Alex Trebek, a viewer at home shouted out, ‘Snake Oil.’ And then he added this editorial comment: ‘What Donald Trump has been peddling!’

‘Unfortunately, a majority of the American voters were in the market for the elixir that Trump has flogged since June 2015, when he entered the race for president, as a cure-all for this nation’s economic lumbago and other aches and pains.

“On Tuesday, the Republican nominee, a billionaire real estate developer from New York City, scored a stunning victory over the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.”

Now, Trump must deliver. That’s why it’s fair to portray the loss of 1,245 auto jobs – 1,202 hourly workers and 43 salaried employees – as his first test as president. After all, he told the American people that his business acumen and his political inexperience were tailor-made to deal with this nation’s economic and social ills.

Indeed, he used Clinton’s long involvement in government as a weapon against her, contending that as an insider she would be unwilling to take on the power structure in Washington.

So, the outsider will be president in January and if he holds to his campaign promises, he should have no qualms about calling Mary T. Barra, the chief executive officer of General Motors, and letting her know that he expects the company to close plants in Mexico and other countries and bring production to Lordstown and other American plants.

Why should Trump intervene? Because he told the desperate residents of the Mahoning Valley that he would fight for them.

Yes, elections have consequences – and one of the consequences of Donald Trump’s ascendency to the presidency is that the Mahoning Valley will look to him to respond to the 1,245 auto workers whose lives are turned upside down.

Note: When Democratic President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress were formulating a rescue of the auto industry, Trump said that letting GM and Chrysler Corp. go bankrupt would not be such a bad thing. (See column of Oct. 30 on