John Russo

John Russo is a visiting researcher at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University, co-author of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown, and co-editor with Sherry Linkon of the blog Working-Class Perspectives.

Recent Articles

Ohio: Another Brick in the Red Wall?

Lacking Sherrod Brown’s secret (progressive populist) sauce, Ohio Democrats will likely keep on losing.

The midterm elections showed that the Democrats’ blue wall is being rebuilt brick by brick in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and northern Illinois. A red wall also seems to be going up, and its bricks include West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, southern Illinois, and Missouri. As these new political walls get built, one brick that once seemed to fit neatly with its blue neighbors looks to be turning red: Ohio. Many Democrats seem ready to give up on Ohio. Michael Halle, who coordinated Hillary Clinton’s battleground state strategy before managing Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray’s campaign this year, told The New York Times that “it was time for Democrats to jettison Iowa and Ohio in future campaigns in favor of Arizona and Georgia.” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri now says that that the Clinton campaign should have spent less time and money in Ohio and spent more in Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas...

Is There Hope for a Blue Ripple (not Wave) in Ohio?

Democrats need to do like Sherrod Brown and promote a progressive populism.

On the day after the Ohio primary election, President Trump tweeted about Michael DeWine’s victory in the Republican gubernatorial contest: “Congratulations to Mike DeWine on his big win in the Great State of Ohio. He will be great Governor with a heavy focus on HealthCare and Jobs. His Socialist opponent in November should not do well, a big failure in last job!” With less hyperbole (and fewer capital letters) Politico noted a “lack of enthusiasm” among Ohio Democrats, who selected Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general and then the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as their gubernatorial candidate. Statewide, 147,000 fewer Democratic voted than Republicans, and DeWine received 73,000 more votes than Cordray. DeWine also received more votes than Cordray in 76 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Based on these numbers, Ohio Republicans seem to be doing just fine. But primaries aren’t always good predictors of general...

Jobless Due to Trade? Robots? AI? Why America Needs ‘Just Transitions’

Instead of Band-Aids and nostrums, Democrats need to embrace policies like full employment to win back the support of workers.

Nathan Lambrecht/The Monitor via AP
I am constantly amazed that some journalists, especially economic and business reporters, have a difficult time understanding industrial working-class support for Donald Trump. Failure to understand his appeal is particularly important given that Trump’s evolving trade policy, including withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and renegotiating NAFTA, may contribute to his continued support in manufacturing states. In the 2016 election, Trump argued that past trade policy had not benefited the American people. He described appeals to free trade as a charade masking the devastating effects of deindustrialization, which drew popular support from workers in industrial states where manufacturing jobs had disappeared and local communities were devastated. The politics of resentment ran deep in 2016. Yet the Democratic Party ignored the depth of workers’ anger and assumed that the usual promises and bromides about free trade and economic change...

Have Ohio Democrats Learned Anything About the Working Class?

But for Sherrod Brown, recent state Democratic candidates no longer know how to appeal to them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo
In presidential elections, Ohio has long been a swing state. Its voters supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, then swung right in 2016 to support Donald Trump. On the state level, however, Republicans have dominated for the past two decades. Only partly due to gerrymandering, they have a 12-to-4 advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrats hold only nine of the 33 seats in the Ohio Senate and only a third of the 99 seats in the Ohio House. Republicans have also held the governorship for all but four years since 1990. Progressive U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, now seeking his third term, remains the only Democratic candidate to consistently win statewide elections. Why has the Democratic Party lost so much ground in Ohio? To a large extent, it’s because they have lost the support of white working-class voters. As in other Rust Belt states, a majority of Ohio voters are white people without college degrees. Fully 55 percent of the state’s voters belong to this...

The Pittsburgh Conundrum

Can you have a model city in a left-behind region?

(Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP Images)
This article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Forty years after the decline of the steel industry, Pittsburgh has emerged from the ashes of deindustrialization to become the new Emerald City. Its formidable skyline gleams with homegrown names—PPG, UPMC, and PNC. Touted as the “most livable city” by the likes of The Economist and Forbes , its highly literate and educated workforce has contributed to a robust and diverse local economy known as a center for technology, health care, and bio-science. It is a leader in startup businesses. Uber and Ford’s announcement in 2016 that they would base development of their self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, rather than in Silicon Valley, is a telling example of the power of high-tech image and low costs. Pittsburgh also ranks high in housing affordability. Residents can easily walk or bike to public libraries, museums, and arts and entertainment venues. Some see Pittsburgh...