There have been many books, studies and feature stories on the rise of the alienated white voters who came out in large numbers to elect President Donald Trump in 2016. But letting these voters speak without judgment while also questioning their views about race remains a challenge for reporters.
“The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America” by Ben Bradlee Jr. trots this delicate dance by examining one key swing county in Pennsylvania — a state Trump surprisingly won.
Using quick but intricate vignettes, Bradlee allows a hair salon owner, a Vietnam War veteran, a retired detective, a flashy real estate investor, even a white nationalist from Luzerne County talk through their evolution to Trump amid fear, anger, anxiety and hopeless. Almost all are former Democrats who came from union families connected to the shuttered coal mines or now-closed factories.
Bradlee writes that he chose the northeastern Pennsylvania county that sits between Philadelphia and New York City because it was once a reliable Democratic stronghold that twice went for Barack Obama. In 2016, Trump won the county by nearly 20 percentage points.
Trump’s reference to his supporters as the “forgotten people” wasn’t an homage to George I. Sanchez’s 1940 book, “Forgotten People,” about poor Hispanics in New Mexico. It was specifically an allusion to whites living to economically struggling communities — like Luzerne County — that both parties appeared to ignore, Bradlee writes.
The vignettes allow voters to speak for themselves and explain why Trump’s views on trade and immigration resonated. Russell Contreras, AP