With all eyes and ears turned toward the reality TV stylings of president-elect Donald Trump, it's worth pulling back a bit and tuning into what our other representatives are saying. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio's Democratic senator, who's made a career out of championing workers' rights, says that he's hoping to find common ground with Trump.
"He wants to increase social security payments. I support him on that," Brown said during a news conference on Monday. "He wants to pull out of [the Trans Pacific Partnership]. I support him on that. He wants to build more infrastructure. I support him on that. He wants to throw lobbyists out of Washington — although he's inviting a lot of them in for his transition. But he says he wants to stronger ethics laws. I support him on that."
He'll be looking to keep his goals intact, however, despite Trump winning Ohio's electoral votes in an election that largely took the working class for granted. Earlier this week, Brown also said: "I win elections in this state by talking about workers and talking about trade and talking about overtime and minimum wage and cutting taxes on the middle class, and...asking the wealthy to pay their fair share. I think Democrats didn't emphasize minimum wage, support for overtime rules, better trade rules."
And so today Brown published an op-ed
in the New York Times
that reminded the U.S. — especially its powerful political and media institutions — to maintain this post-election introspection and really follow up on its latest self-diagnosis: The elite of this country are out of touch with the working class, the class that built this place.
Brown's contention is that powerful forces have wrested the dignity from the working class — via policies that favor dramatic wealth inequality and a culture that lampoons wide swaths of this country with terms like "Rust Belt."
The next four years are sure to be a fascinating period of political and social change — for better or worse. One thing's for sure: The workers will be watching.
Ohio families will watch to see if the new president follows the billionaire agenda of the Republican leadership in Washington, which has called for overturning a new rule that increases overtime pay for many workers — an action that would strip thousands of dollars in wages from 130,000 of Ohio’s moderate-income workers. They will measure this president to see if he continues to oppose increasing the minimum wage, which is worth nearly 20 percent less than in 1980. Workers will expect the president to keep his promise of a trade agenda that puts their jobs above corporate profits. And they will scrutinize whether he will throw in with Washington’s moneyed interests at the expense of middle-class and working-class families.
If President Trump takes the likely path that almost all Washington Republicans hope — tax cuts for the rich, an easing up on Wall Street, more voter suppression — Ohio workers will feel betrayed. Again. And they will respond.