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Trump is but the latest politician to serenade Youngstown

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

"The story's always the same. Seven-hundred tons of metal a day. Now, sir, you tell me the world's changed. Once I made you rich enough. Rich enough to forget my name."

-- Bruce Springsteen, "Youngstown"

SAN DIEGO -- Youngstown again? As an avid spectator of politics, I've been hearing about that city in the Mahoning Valley of northeast Ohio for decades. Although it's home to just 64,000 people, Youngstown gets more than its share of attention from politicians, media, filmmakers, and even a poetic singer/songwriter from Freehold, New Jersey.

Last week, President Trump returned to Youngstown -- a longtime Democratic stronghold that the billionaire businessman visited more than once during the campaign and where he remains popular with white blue-collar workers. He went there in an attempt to change the subject away from what his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who introduced him to the crowd, dismissed as "the crazy Russia story."

The president also doubled down on a campaign promise to push through a trillion-dollar bill to rebuild the country's infrastructure. If that legislation were ever passed, some of that money would presumably find its way to Youngstown.

On top of that, Trump pivoted and -- as he does so often when speaking to groups of white Americans -- dedicated a sizable chunk of his speech to his favorite chew toy and wedge issue: immigration. He once again pledged to build a "big beautiful wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border that increasingly seems like it either is never going to materialize or, if it does, will be neither big nor beautiful. Vowing to bring back "our sovereignty as a nation," Trump restated his opposition to so-called sanctuary cities and repeated the highly dubious claim that his administration has -- in six months -- "cut illegal immigration on our southern border by record numbers -- 78 percent."

As the crowd chanted "USA" and "build that wall," Trump insisted that his administration was "cracking down hard on the foreign criminal gangs that have brought illegal drugs, violence, horrible bloodshed to peaceful neighborhoods" and, referring to the brutal Salvadoran gang that populates some U.S. cities -- "throwing MS-13 the hell out of here."

For Trump, getting rid of foreign criminals is a top priority.

"One by one, we are finding the illegal gang members, drug dealers, thieves, robbers, criminals and killers," he told the crowd. "And we are sending them the hell back home where they came from. ... We are going to get criminals off our streets. And we are going to make America safe again."

It's no surprise that Trump returned to the familiar theme of demonizing Latino immigrants. The surprise is that he chose to do it in Youngstown of all places -- a city with a minuscule immigrant population, located in a state where the Latino population is just 3.7 percent.

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