Brooklyn, N.Y. — Saturday night in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, MSNBC host and Editor at Large at the Nation, Chris Hayes held an event to promote his new book, “A Colony in a Nation.” The stage was sparse, just two chairs, one for Hayes and one for stand up comedian Phoebe Robinson, his co-host. The crowd was anything but sparse. A half hour before the event a long line stretched from the entrance of The Bell House, a hip Brooklyn venue that opened in 2008.
The Bell House is typical of Gowanus and Brooklyn in general. It’s a large building that was clearly once a warehouse or factory. Someplace where dozens of men, maybe more, toiled towing goods to and from the adjacent canal. After work we can imagine them tired, like characters from On the Waterfront, walking back to their then working class Park Slope to sit on stoops and raise their families.
The New Brooklyn
Today there are jobs to be had in the old ghostly building, but they are fewer and different. Now big burly bouncers guard the door, bartenders with just so facial hair serve craft beer and managers book events like Hayes’s for the young professional caste that has come to define the new Brooklyn. It was a fitting place for Hayes and Robinson to discuss the age of Trump with an ebullient and optimistic crowd.
In many ways the crowd was more telling than the hosts. Hayes and Robinson were entertaining, much the way his MSNBC show is. There were comparisons between Trump and the crimes of Nixon, shock at the fact that the president had been talking about the death penalty for drug dealers. Essentially just everything one would expect. But the attitude and vibe from the standing room only crowd was a bit less expected.
The attendees were mostly youngish, mostly white and seemingly fairly well off. These are people living their best life. But most striking was how cheery they were. A little more than a year ago (somehow its only been that long), when Trump won the election, Brooklyn, the eponymous epicenter of the Clinton campaign felt like a funeral. People walked slowly with faces full of frowns and fear. On Saturday night, that was gone. Replaced by a sense of impending victory that was palpable.
It’s hard to blame them. As noted by Hayes and Robinson throughout the program, the Trump administration seems to be in disarray. There are warning signs of a big blue wave coming. Whispers in the crowd of impending impeachment once the Democrats take back the House of Representatives. At least within the bubble of Brooklyn, a corner has been turned. These folks have their mojo back and are expecting to win again.
The Other America
But sitting there, with my Brooklyn Lager in the huge brick room where men used to work it was impossible not to the think of the other America. The America of factories, foreman and guns. The news of the day had still been Trump’s trade war and tariffs on aluminum and steel. And that seemed fitting. After all, there we all were in a building where once were real jobs, making or moving things other than artisanal cocktails.
In that far off America west of Brooklyn and east of Silicon Valley people don’t want factories and warehouses turned into cute venues where service jobs exist to cater to the young professionals. They want real job type jobs with hard hats, machinery and sore muscles. Can Trump’s protectionism bring those jobs back in West Virginia and central Pennsylvania? Many experts say no. But for dying towns far from the bright lights of Brooklyn, it may well be worth a chance.
Ready For A Fight
Slipping out after the event into the chilly night, having congratulated a gracious Hayes, his signed book in my coat pocket, I felt like I had experienced something new in the age of Trump. Gone was the fear, the feeling of helplessness. Brooklyn is no longer shell-shocked. It thinks its going to win, in fact, it knows it.
Of course, that is not to say that Brooklyn will win. Fifteen months ago Brooklyn also knew it was going to win, right before the impossible happened. But now the game is back on, the troops are energized and raring for the fight. But who are they fighting? Is it Trump? Or is it the other America? I’m not sure they know. But with eyes firmly fixed on November, they see revenge within their reach. It’s a new day in Brooklyn.