The Boston Globe reporter visits Luzerne County, Pennsylvania—a Democratic stronghold that voted for Barack Obama in two Presidential elections but went for Donald J. Trump in 2016—to see what sparked such a turnabout and its implications for the future of the country.
Among the flood of books explaining how we got Trump, The Forgotten serves as an unintended companion volume to Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? ... The Forgotten reveals the political impact not so much of poverty as of decline ... This is not a big-thesis book, nor a deep dive into new facts or ideas. But whatever the Russians did or the Koch brothers funded, this searing portrait shines a light on the disheartened voters the Democratic Party forgot.
We’ve heard time and again, as the argument goes, that the mostly white middle-class citizens who supported Trump felt threatened by the nation’s changing ethnic makeup and the globalization of production. Why keep banging the same note? As Bradlee’s insightful work shows, it would behoove Democrats to keep listening ... You can practically hear Bradlee, whose previous books include biographies of Oliver North and Ted Williams, bending over backward to give his interviewees their say. He paraphrases much of their dialogue for readability’s sake, but there are stretches that feel like Studs Terkel-style oral history ... The key to Trump’s election, Bradlee concludes, were the voters who felt aggrieved by their economic marginalization, 'and by a dominant liberal culture that condescends to them and mocks their way of life.' In a book full of hard truths, that one might be the hardest of all.
There have been many books, studies and feature stories on the rise of the alienated white voters ... But letting these voters speak without judgment while also questioning their views about race remains a challenge for reporters. The Forgotten...trots this delicate dance by examining one key swing county in Pennsylvania—a state Trump surprisingly won. Using quick but intricate vignettes ... [Bradlee] allow[s] voters to speak for themselves and explain why Trump’s views on trade and immigration resonated ... With The Forgotten, Bradlee adds to the body of emerging studies about white Trump voters that is sensitive but honest amid a demographically changing, divided nation.