Coogan’s Bluff May 6, 2018
Back to the Future — Again
By Jim Coogan
The candidate flew into Westfield, Massachusetts with an eye toward courting disgruntled voters who had seen their jobs and their identity fade as their city’s main industry disappeared in the global economy. The “Whip City” had once thrived as a manufacturing center but now hard times had set in. At a rally in front of one of the long-abandoned buggy whip factories, the candidate promised better things in the future. “China is not our friend.” he shouted to the crowd. “Because of our disastrous trade deals, they’ve been making buggy whips and dumping them in the American market. They’ve put up trade barriers so that you can’t ship your buggy whips over there. They are cheaters. When I’m elected, that is going to change. I can tell you that!” The crowd loved it and shouted “USA!! USA!! Just a day earlier the candidate had been in West Virginia touting his plan to bring back the coal industry. “We’re going to see a lot of miners going back underground around here. Clean coal is the future. You better believe it!”
The campaign had spent a good deal of time in other areas of the country that had suffered the loss of once prominent industries. In South Bend, Indiana, the candidate and his running mate had drawn cheers from a boisterous crowd in front of the shuttered Studebaker factory. “See that building over there,” he pointed. “We’re going to open it up again. And beautiful cars, like the Golden Hawk will be rolling off the assembly line. And each one will have a stamp on it – ‘Made in USA!!!” In Dayton, Ohio, he told what he claimed to be the largest crowd the city had ever seen, that the National Cash Register Company would be soon hiring hundreds of workers. “Remember those cash registers that when you hit a number the same number came up in the window up top? That’s what I’m talking about. Simple, Right? But you didn’t have to have a college degree to use them. This town is going to be a winner again. In fact, you will be winning so much you’re going to be bored with winning.” In Rochester, New York, the theme centered on bringing back Kodak slide projectors. Heads nodded when the candidate declared that “No one in the world made slide projectors like the people of this city. And it’s going to happen again. I guarantee it!!
In Dothan, Alabama, the candidate held a rally outside of an American Legion hall where he pointed to an F-86 fighter jet mounted on a pedestal near the front entrance. “This is the state of our current military. Look at it!! It’s a disgrace. When I’m elected, we are going to rebuild our armed forces – something that previous administrations have neglected.” His speech was greeted with thunderous cheers from veterans who seemed unconcerned that the would-be commander in chief had escaped military service himself during the Vietnam War with a series of questionable deferments.
On the eve of the election the race was too close to call. The future was out there. But what would it be? Would it come down to voters who saw the future as progressive, diverse, and innovative or would victory fall to others who looked forward once again to flying TWA, shopping at Woolworths, and driving around in Nash Ramblers.