Postindustrial, Postindustrial America as political battleground, By Carmen Gentile and Kimberly Palmiero, Photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

President Donald Trump speaks at the Shale Insight Conference inside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Photo by Nate Smallwood/Trib Total Media

October 27, 2019

Postindustrial America as political battleground

Region plays a key role in the fight for the White House in 2020

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Story By Carmen Gentile and Kimberly Palmiero
Photos courtesy of Nate Smallwood & Kristina Serafini/Trib Total Media

“Don’t hurt ’em, don’t hurt ’em, please. They don’t know that they’re dealing with very tough people in this room,” Trump said, as the crowd went wild with applause and peals of laughter.  “They don’t know who they’re dealing with. They just don’t understand.”

They’re coming on all sides.

Trump’s appearance in downtown Pittsburgh last week is just the start of more than 12 months of political campaigning, much which will focus on battleground states in Postindustrial America. Candidates are expected to stop in the region—early and often.

The president’s verbal jab mocking protestors might also apply to voters at large, deeply divided heading into the 2020 election and for the first time in history, witnessing a president who is seeking a second term but also the subject of an impeachment inquiry.

Swaths of Postindustrial America are once again the battleground for the White House in which both Trump, and some segments of the national media mischaracterized the region, the former for political gain and the latter due to misunderstanding of its people and problems.

Trump’s speech at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center before oil and gas workers and supporters was staged to serve as a visual reminder of the people he’s courting as he touted jobs in the energy industry: Flanking either side of the podium, theater-like, as “I’m Proud to be an American,” played, were rows of men and women wearing hard hats waiting for the president’s appearance. There, he touted his energy and economic policies.

The candidates as they did before will hone in on those voters who feel left behind, and largely left out opportunities that transformed some towns, but not theirs. They’ll preach job creation and opportunity. Trump seized on that—those who were tired of waiting for prosperity that never came after manufacturing job losses shattered their communities.

Many were in Pennsylvania, a key region in 2020.

“Don’t hurt ’em, don’t hurt ’em, please. They don’t know that they’re dealing with very tough people in this room,” Trump said, as the crowd went wild with applause and peals of laughter.  “They don’t know who they’re dealing with. They just don’t understand.”

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The president carried the Keystone State and Ohio, going against conventional wisdom. Pennsylvania had voted solidly for Democratic presidential candidates since 1992. That flipped for Trump.

But the candidates also campaigned hard there: Hillary Clinton and Trump visited Pennsylvania and Ohio more than any other battleground states following the primaries, according to a U.S. News analysis.

They dropped in on Ohio and Pennsylvania 23 days between June 15 and the election in November. That’s an average of more than four times per month leading up to the election.

Campaigning will get more intense after those primaries are over in June. Right now, there’s 18 Democratic hopefuls, a few other Republicans, and Trump.

We founded Postindustrial in the wake of the 2016 election after reading, listening, and watching almost two years of stories produced by national media outlets out of Postindustrial America that often perpetuated stereotypes: Interviews with angry, unemployed poor people and the ill-informed in diners and bowling alleys.

We intend to highlight the rich and varied voices and the communities that make up Postindustrial America.

Carmen Gentile

Carmen Gentile has worked for The New York Times and CBS News, among others. His book, "Blindsided by the Taliban," documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade while embedded with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.

Postindustrial Kimberly Palmiero

Kimberly Palmiero is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. A former managing editor for Trib Total Media and city editor with Gannett, she provides project management, writing, and editing services for a variety of publications. She also is a senior editor for iGeneration Youth and immediate past president of the nonprofit Press Club of Western Pennsylvania.

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