Robert James stood outside the Carrier plant just before the president-elect addressed workers at the refrigeration and heating assembly plant.
“I feel a great swing of emotions that go from disbelief to satisfaction that this is happening in our community. An area like this can go from a stable middle-class area to foreclosures and urban blight in the blink of an eye,” he said.
James would never dream of voting Republican: “For all of my life the Democrats have been the party of the working guy, had my back. But if I am being really honest, and this is tough to admit, but I can’t remember the last time they did anything to improve the dignity and value of my job” — a point that didn’t really crystalize for him until it became personal: Until his job was saved. By a Republican.
James, wearing a United Steelworkers jacket on that brisk afternoon, was in no way saying he’s found political religion in the Republicans. But the 57-year-old, African-American longtime Carrier employee did share the sentiment of many of his fellow co-workers, Democrats who didn’t vote for Trump but felt their party was disconnected from their lives.