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Can This Man Rebuild the Dems’ Blue Wall?

Tim Ryan, a brash, blustery, Democratic congressman from Ohio, is probably running for president. Among his supporters: tens of thousands of Trump voters.

Jordan Heller
Nov 27, 2018 · 15 min read
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Art: Mark Weaver

“It’s about getting people into office that represent working-class people, the people who take a shower after work, that have been forgotten largely in our country.”

And while Ryan won’t yet make it official — at least not until after the House speakership is settled (Ryan is ardently opposed to Nancy Pelosi, of course, having challenged the San Francisco Democrat in 2016 for minority leader, and not doing badly at all, losing 134 to 63) — he’s already making his case. He’s only too happy to explain how a Democrat like him from a place like Trumbull County could win back some of the folks in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania who crossed over to the Republican Party in 2016.

Warren, Ohio, in the aftermath of the economic crisis, subprime crisis, and opioid epidemic is like an ancient Maya city covered in mangroves. Though Chernobyl is perhaps the better analogy.

Over the past 20 years, Trumbull County has lost nearly 33,000 jobs; during that same period of time, the median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen here by $10,000. Thirty years ago, the GM plant in Lordstown, a 6.2 million-square-foot complex, employed more than 15,000 workers. This week, GM announced it will shutter the Lordstown plant next March, axing its remaining 1,500 workers, driving up Trumbull County’s unemployment rate, which is already almost 2.5 percent higher than the national average.

“What does this cost?” says Ryan after an overdose victim is revived in front of him. “You got three cops here. You got the paramedics. You used Narcan. Takin’ him to the fuckin’ hospital… Somebody’s payin’ for it.”

The breaths are slow, long, and labored, like a suffocating man who’s been given an oxygen mask. The lips return to red, and the gray skin returns to peach as Ryan, mesmerized, hangs his arms over the driver’s-side door.

“I mean, all politics is local. No shit!” Ryan beams, beer spilling. “You can quote me on that, and if you stay here longer and I have a couple more beers, it’s gonna get worse.”

A week later, Ryan will turn his expletive-laden soliloquy in Weber’s police cruiser into a bill that would provide federal grants for communities like Warren to address blight. But there’s no chance it will even get a vote in this congress, he says. Next year, after the Democratic majority comes to pass, he’ll reintroduce his Clean Up Our Neighborhoods Act of 2018 and double down on the push.

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