The chimneys of a metallurgical factory rise above the wooded hollow that cradles the small town of Johnstown. It’s Wednesday afternoon and the bells of their Catholic churches are ringing out of tune. Not so long ago this was one of the steel capitals of United StatesBut there is not much left of that but nostalgia and old abandoned warehouses. “He saw the good times / He saw the good times,” sings a folk duet in a main street bar. They don’t talk about Joe Biden, but they could. The Democratic candidate was born 77 years ago in a miner town of this same state of Pennsylvania, to which he has returned to try to recover the white worker what was decisive for Donald Trump conquered the White House four years ago.
“I see the world from Scranton, the place where I was born, and it is not very different from Johnstown,” says Biden from the platform of the train station. “These are people who are not concerned about the Stock Market, they are concerned put food on the table every night“. After many months confined to his home in Delaware As a precaution against the pandemic, with very few trips to give speeches without an audience or dialogue with voters two meters away, the Democrat ends here the most ambitious tour of his campaign to date. A train ride through Ohio and Pennsylvania with six rallies in less than 24 hours, coming a day after he fought the president in the most chaotic debate in history. A debate that has left stomach cramps throughout the country.
“It was a shame. Trump still doesn’t understand what it means to be president. He doesn’t care about people, only what he can get out of them, “says Veronica Wilson, a 64-year-old pensioner who has come to listen to the Democrat.” I need a little hope in these dark times.
This is not an ordinary rally. It is not only held on the station grounds, as opposed to the airport hangars that Trump often uses, but attendees have to stay in their vehicles. Like those drive-ins of the 1980s, they have been dubbed vending machines, a bastard neologism of the pandemic. And only 70 cars have been allowed in. The winners have had to use their political contacts to get a ticket. Trade unionists and relatives of local leaders abound. Almost all with gray hair.
More than illusion for change, you breathe in the environment urgency and concern. The country is on the razor’s edge. “Conversations with neighbors have become difficult. There is less and less tolerance. No one expected Trump to divide the country so much“says trade unionist Kimberly Kraynak. America, she says, is falling apart.” We will not survive another four years. “No one rules out that there may be violence in the elections before the tricks that the president is cooking and his calls for his people to come and watch the polls. A scene as remote as the civil war it is no longer viewed as nonsense.
“Talks with neighbors have become difficult. No one expected Trump to divide the country so much.”
“It is fomenting chaos, but we who have been in the Army are not afraid to take up arms,” replied her husband, Phillip Glover, vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees, affiliated with the main union in the country. At the other corner of the station, a van with Trump flags he passes over and over again with the hundred of Biden’s followers who have not been able to enter the venue. “Trump lied, people died,” the Democrats shout in reference to his management of the pandemic.
This time the blood will not reach the river. Yes it did in August, when some thirty protesters from Black Lives Matter on their way to Washington to participate in a march against racism were shot in the vicinity of Johnstown. There was at least one injured.
To win back industrial states like Pennsylvania, which voted for Trump after having backed Obama twice, Biden has framed his campaign as a pulse between “Scranton against Park Avenue”. He hard work from the mining town where he was born in front of the opulence from New York Avenue where the Trump Tower stands. And as his rival did four years ago, he has promised incentives to stop the relocation of companies or a commitment for the government to spend billions annually to buy US-made industrial products.
“It is fomenting chaos, but we are not afraid to take up arms either”
In his favor he has the unkept promises from Trump to resurrect coal and industry. Polls too right now, but you shouldn’t take it for granted. “Many Democratic households voted for Trump because they believe the party has abandoned them. They are frustrated because economically and socially they have been having a bad time“says Chip Minemyer, editor of ‘The Tribune-Democrat,’ the local newspaper.” In addition, Republicans are being more active on the ground. “For the first time in recent history, there is more conservative voters registered in Johnstown than Democrats.
Worrying signs that have led the party to lift this week in several states the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 on its volunteers for distribute door to door electoral propaganda and try to find new voters. The Republicans never did.