The rally felt like a small-town America tea party rally, its grassroots character reminiscent of the 2010 wave that swept Republicans into control of Congress. Former autoworkers held signs bashing President Obama with his own words.
“Hope” and “change” were punch lines to the Delphi veterans, many of whom say they voted for Obama in 2008.
One pensionless protester who used to deliver intra-company mail held a sign rapping Hollywood actress Betty White for supporting Obama.
Rally-goers brought folding lawn chairs out to the vacant lot where a parked Ford pickup truck served as a makeshift stage.
As Miller hopped down from the truck bed, fellow Delphi retiree Mike McCurdy hopped on it to speak his mind. McCurdy reminded the crowd that he and his peers “used to be” members of the “strong middle class” that built Dayton and other rust belt cities. The Obama administration, he said, took away their pensions and their livelihoods.
“It takes a strong middle class to really build a strong community — and we’d like to get that back,” he said.
“And it just didn’t happen in Dayton, Ohio. It happened in Defiance, Ohio. It happened in Sandusky, Ohio. It happened in Warren, Ohio. It happened in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and Youngstown. We can take pride in what we did to help this community, this state, and I guess you could say ‘We did build it!’”
“Now we have a president and an administration that wants to take credit for the auto bailout and all the jobs at General Motors that were saved, or he claims,” McCurdy continued. “But it’s the same president that disavows any responsibility or any role in what happened to us.”
“Well, Mr. President,” McCurdy said, “you can’t have it both ways.”
Indeed, communities across Ohio are hurting. In Warren, for instance, Democratic mayor William Franklin recently took President Obama to task on how this decision-making process cost his city, by some estimates, more than 1,500 jobs and more than $58 million in annual revenue.
“This is not about politics. Our economy in this area of Ohio has been struggling through one of the worst recessions in history. Jobs have been lost, homes foreclosed, bankruptcies — of both corporate and personal natures — have occurred, and businesses have closed,” the Democratic mayor wrote in an August newspaper op-ed.
“The economic losses associated with the treatment of the Delphi Salaried Retirees has added to the pain in the city of Warren,” Franklin wrote. “The good news is, should the Delphi salaried retirees regain their pensions, the economic impact of that would be felt in the city of Warren almost immediately, and it would continue for years to come.”