apparel Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Late on election day for the next American president, I watched television and read newspaper reports like millions of other Americans in shock at the victory of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton. Virtually all news outlets had predicted a win for Clinton; instead, Trump claimed a dramatic triumph. Why did so many news organizations and pollsters misread the American public?
The answer lies in a fictionalized movie character and a Hollywood movie released around 1980. “Norma Rae” was a story of a real-life textile worker (of a different name) who rallied her fellow textile workers to demand better pay and working conditions at an American textile mill.
The character of Norma Rae won the fight against the factory owners. But, unfortunately for her and so many other textile workers, over time they lost the war. Ironically, at about 1980, the American textile industry came under the onslaught of new competition from overseas. It was the dawn of globalization and the American textile industry, despite its best effort to compete over the ensuing decade or so, became a serious casualty of a changing world.
Indeed, as globalization took hold, thousands of American companies closed. And along with the shuttering of so many businesses, hundreds of thousands of their workers lost their jobs only to be thrown into a rapidly changing country that no longer desired their skills. In time, these workers, along with hundreds of thousands of other laborers from other manufacturing industries, became a neglected mass of people. Numbering in the millions, such workers, and their families became the displaced inhabitants of the “Rust Belt” and abandoned Southern textile towns.