Scranton, PA - Not What You Think!

In this election, Scranton has come to symbolize blue-collar America, with visits by all four national candidates, parodied on Saturday Night Live, as well as the scene of NBC’s The Office. But the city is in a turnaround after decades of decline.

October 20, 2008, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


"Don't be telling me that I'm part of the Washington elite, because I come from the absolute worst place on Earth: Scranton, Pennsylvania," said Saturday Night Live's Jason Sudeikis, playing Sen. Biden. "It's a hellhole! It is just an awful, awful sad place filled with sad, desperate people with no ambition!"

"But life in Scranton is more nuanced than the cliché of a once-powerful industrial center in decline. The population here is growing for the first time in 60 years, following a decades-long exodus that halved the city to barely 70,000 people. Its architecturally distinctive downtown, long vacant, is undergoing a dramatic renovation. The century-old "Electric City" sign -- dark for decades -- shines again above the town square.

Once influential, Scranton was the 38th most-populous American city in 1900, with its coal and iron proceeds putting it near the top in per-capita income. It erected an array of architecturally magnificent buildings, and introduced the nation's first electric trolley, giving rise to its "Electric City" nickname. While the rest of America prospered after World War II, fast-shrinking Scranton became known as the armpit of Pennsylvania, a designation it has never entirely shaken. Its median household income remains nearly $7,000 below the national average.

As a swing town in a swing state, Scranton could help determine the outcome of the election. The electorate here is more than 90% white, heavily Catholic and traditionally Democratic, although it leans to the right on social issues."

Saturday, October 18, 2008 in The Wall Street Journal

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