Editor’s Note: Tim Ryan is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and the US Representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district. The views expressed are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Like many Americans, my family and I have spent our entire lives at the epicenter of de-industrialization. We’ve watched as urban and rural communities have been hollowed out – good paying jobs have gone overseas, too many people have died from opioid addiction and our neighborhoods have crumbled from failing infrastructure.
And all while the rich get richer.
We are fed up. I am fed up. And that is why I am running for president. I’m going to lead a revolution for working people in America. This includes all workers: white, black and brown, men and women, gay and straight, urban and rural. In other words, I want to fight for all the Americans left behind by Trump’s elitist economic agenda that puts the well-being of millionaires, billionaires and corporations above that of hardworking Americans.
We need a president who doesn’t just visit our forgotten communities for rallies, but one who lives in them – one who knows the pain and suffering that comes with being unseen and unheard. And this isn’t a recent problem – the hollowing out of our communities has been happening for the last 40 years. It’s pathetic that a country this powerful and wealthy can’t come together to fix the structural problems – from job losses to tax cuts for the rich – that continue to hurt hard-working Americans.
Why do these communities keep getting forgotten? Because the decades-old, right-wing hate agenda has successfully pitted working families against each other. They have spread fear instead of sympathy for the families seeking refuge and asylum in our country. They tell us that women shouldn’t be allowed freedom of choice when it comes to reproductive rights. They tell us that gay couples will destroy the institution of marriage and the American family. The stories that are told on the right-wing media’s nightly news are not about the promise of America. Instead, their goal is to spread fear.
And President Donald Trump has turned it into an art form. Fear is the foundation of his political agenda. But as Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” So, look out, Trump. Look out, all of you passive, enabling Republicans who have prioritized political power over everything. We are coming for you.
I know the pain working men and women are experiencing. I have lived my whole life just outside Youngstown, Ohio. We watched the steel mills close and 50,000 jobs disappear in the late 1970s. We watched businesses move overseas throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ll never forget my cousin Donnie, who had a good job at a GM supplier, telling me that his last act on the job after he was laid off was to unbolt his machine and ship it to China. Late last year, General Motors announced its plans to shut down four plants in the US along with one in Canada, slashing the company’s total number of salaried and contract jobs by about 15%. The Lordstown, Ohio, plant, which had 1,435 hourly workers at the time of the announcement, ceased production in March. These are my family, my friends, my neighbors. I stood arm-in-arm with them. I cried with them. And I am fighting for them.
I also know their hopes and dreams. I know what they want to provide for themselves and their kids. They don’t ask for a lot, but they want to be able to afford to put a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table; to visit the doctor when they get sick; to retire with dignity; and maybe to take their family on vacation every now and again. That is not too much to ask in a country as rich as the United States.
Many members of my own community voted for Trump. In 2012, President Barack Obama won my home county by 23 points. Just four years later, Trump won by six points, marking a 29-point shift. They believed he could make things better. But I’ve been watching those same voters slip away from Trump. From farmers to factory workers, they are onto his scheme. They know he sold out to the people Roosevelt called “economic royalists” – an elite group who control the wealth and power in this country.
Just the other day, a second-generation autoworker with 20 years on the job who voted for Trump told me, “If you get to the White House, please don’t forget us. Everyone else did, even him.” I promised this man that l would not. I couldn’t if I tried. Because I live and breathe the issues that working families face every day.
What I bring to this revolution of working people are the values, experiences, strategies and innovations that have been forged in the American heartland. In the coming weeks, I will unveil a national industrial policy that will bring our manufacturing sector into the 21st century. My plan will establish a chief manufacturing officer at the cabinet level to lead this sweeping reform and finally give American workers the ability to thrive – not just survive.
While I’m fully supportive of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, my agenda will help create jobs that pay real, living wages at $30, $40, $50 an hour – not just the minimum. We are Americans, and we deserve better.
We have learned the hard way that division makes us weak and allows the rich and powerful to prey upon us. We are not going to shrink from the challenges of globalization and automation. We are not going to cower to the pharmaceutical lobby or the health insurance industry, the agriculture monopolists or the prison industrial complex. Their days are numbered. The scam is up, and I’m asking all Americans to join me today.
Our future is now.