Archive

ShareThis Page
Today’s Jacksonians | TribLIVE.com
News

Today’s Jacksonians

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:00 a.m

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio

The landscape along the old Lincoln Highway to this “pottery capital” maintains mountain vistas as the Ohio River curls through Columbiana County’s hills and hollows.

A museum is dedicated to the area’s once-robust ceramic plants. The 300 factories of old are down to one that produces popular, colorful Fiestaware.

“We are pretty much devastated,” says Mayor James Swoger of his town’s economy and general condition.

He describes East Liverpool as a Democrat stronghold: “I am a Democrat but largely because I was born a Democrat. It was passed down by my father.”

The two-term mayor doesn’t like what Democrats have done with their majority in Washington. “Plain and simple, we are left out.”

All you need to know about Swoger’s character is that he and his wife Amy pulled money out of their own pockets to keep budget constraints from closing the town swimming pool. Now, he’s the lifeguard and she runs the concession stand.

“It was the right thing to do,” he says matter-of-factly.

Swoger is unhappy with Democrats as a whole and has no problem voting against his party, at least for governor, in November. “I don’t believe I can vote for him,” he says without hesitation when asked about Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a friend of his.

Swoger is a key link in Democrats’ potential chain-reaction collapse — party dissatisfaction with present administrations, locally and nationally, refuting the narrative that it’s just the conservative tea party movement that is unhappy.

Swoger and numerous disgruntled Democrats here are picture-perfect examples of the 21st-century Jacksonian Democrat. Skeptical of Eastern elites and big government, they embrace a populism and distrust of the powerful that are parts of our national DNA.

Named for the “scrabble” who ushered Andrew Jackson into the White House, Jacksonians originally were farmers and small-town merchants in the Appalachians and points west who did not trust Eastern Seaboard merchants, bankers and industrialists or their backers in state capitals and Washington.

“From our beginning until Jackson ran for president in 1824, the founding generation of rich planters and business folks from the coast ran the government,” explains Robert Maranto, a University of Arkansas political scientist.

He points to a sense that those elites too often favored friends and family through such means as a national bank or government patronage. “And that they thought they were better than everyone else.”

Sound familiar?

“The Jacksonian Democrats of today are represented in the more highly frustrated elements of the electorate,” says Jeff Brauer, a Keystone College history professor.

In the past, Jacksonian Democrats could be found among Reagan Democrats and Ross Perot independents. Today, Jacksonian elements are found in the dissatisfaction of blue-collar Democrats and the disenchantment of independents; both believed they voted for change in 2008.

“While it is not a perfect correlation, it is in the tea party movement where the strongest connections to Jacksonian democracy are seen,” Brauer says.

Nothing could be more Jacksonian than the tea party movement’s charge against political and economic elites, Washington and Wall Street insiders.

Along Washington Road in downtown East Liverpool, a handful of antique shops sit in the shadow of the majestic Potters Savings & Loan, now a PNC branch. People wandering in and out of stores are eager to share their thoughts about how Washington has treated them but reluctant to share their names.

Their bottom line: They are far from satisfied with their own political party.

“The Washington Democratic narrative is that the populists are a bunch of hate-filled, ignorant yahoos clinging to their God and guns in tough times,” says Maranto. “That is not accurate, nor is it helpful.”

All along Rust Belt “blue highways,” from Pennsylvania to Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, many Democrats say they are looking for a better approach to smarter, more responsible, accountable government than they have seen from the Obama administration.

The Jim Swogers, who work hard and play by the rules, may not be tea partyers, but their votes will have just as potent an effect — perhaps more so — on Democrats in November.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.