October 26, 2018

Credit: (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

With the midterms looming, both Democrats and Republicans are sweating out the home stretch in Congressional races across the country. And as in any election, there’s a lot of focus on swing states such as Ohio. In his 2017 book Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town, Brian Alexander returned home to Lancaster, Ohio to write about how the region has changed both politically and economically over the past few decades. He saw many in the industrial Midwest embrace Donald Trump as a candidate during the 2016 election. Recently, Alexander returned to Ohio to look at how politics, jobs and technology are shaping the Midwest on the eve of the 2018 midterms.

Three Takeaways:

  • Automation has changed the nature of blue collar jobs, and workers in Ohio have seen the challenges firsthand. Alexander says that Toledo has become the most roboticized place in the country. Although there have been initiatives that help advance workers’ skills to meet the market’s needs, Alexander says that folks still worry about the future, and that fear doesn’t seem likely to abate anytime soon. 
  • Alexander says that running towards a technological future has, in part, destroyed the social cohesiveness that tight-knit small towns had in the past. Social networking has helped bring people together, but Alexander says that online communities are no replacement for the real life connections that we all crave.
  • It’s been 10 years since the last recession, but many in Ohio and other swing states have only just started to recover from it. Alexander says that the recession has left scars that still run deep and affect many people’s lives and how political candidates address those concerns will impact votes. 

More Reading:

  • Brian Alexander explores how automation helped Trump win the 2016 elections in MIT Tech Review.
  • Automation has hurt factory workers, but according to this article in The Atlantic other sectors of the workforce are increasingly vulnerable.
  • Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have studied how rural America is changing as more young people leave their small hometowns and head to cities.

automation, Sci and Tech, politics, jobs, economy, Brian Alexander

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