Since 1992, the Midwestern state of Michigan had gone for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election with the exception of 2016, when it was among the “blue wall” states that crumbled and helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
Four years later, President Joe Biden successfully rebuilt that blue wall and won Michigan.
Both Trump and Biden are now looking to court voters in the Great Lakes State.
The key could be the blue-collar autoworkers in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.
The election could also impact the type of vehicles Americans could be driving in the next decade.
Trump Goes on the Attack
Last month, former President Donald Trump warned residents in Michigan that the state’s auto industry was at risk, and said he’d essentially pull the plug on the Biden administration’s push toward electric vehicles.
“Biden is a catastrophe for Michigan and his environmental extremism is heartless and disloyal and horrible for the American worker and you’re starting to see it,” Trump said in a keynote address to Oakland County Republicans, adding, “Driven by his ridiculous regulations, electric cars will kill more than half of U.S. auto jobs and decimate the suppliers that they decimated already – decimate the suppliers, and it’s going to decimate your jobs and it’s going to decimate more than anybody else, the state of Michigan.”
Courting Union Workers
According to data from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Great Lakes State was home to more than 175,000 auto manufacturing jobs in 2021 – accounting for 37 percent of the jobs in Michigan.
Trump is now among several presidential candidates seeking the endorsement of Detroit’s powerful United Autoworkers (UAW) union. Even as President Joe Biden has maintained that he is staunchly pro-union – and has received the endorsement from the AFL-CIO, the nation’s single largest labor organization – the UAW declined in May to give the sitting president its endorsement.
The UAW had also criticized the administration’s announcement in June of a $9.2 billion loan to Ford Motor Co. to build three battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee — two red states with anti-union policies.
Could Trump Really Win the Support of the UAW?
Trump has sought to appeal to the UAW, releasing a video this month in which he said, “I hope United Auto Workers is listening to this because I think you better endorse Trump. Because I’m going to grow your business, and they are destroying your business. They are absolutely destroying your business.”
However, the UAW leadership also said in May that “another Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster. But our members need to see an alternative that delivers real results.”
Rep. Dingell Fires Back
On Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) pushed back on Trump’s vow to roll back the Biden administration’s electric vehicle policies.
“Donald Trump is not going to fight for an auto worker,” Dingell said at POLITICO’s New Energy Economy event. “He’s not going to fight for them to get a pay raise. He doesn’t care about their benefits. He doesn’t care if they have health care. He doesn’t care if they”re working in a safe environment.”
She is the widow of John Dingell – her predecessor in the seat, who holds the record as the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history – and she has been a fierce critic of Trump, and also a member of the Blue Collar Caucus that advocates for labor and working-class priorities. Rep. Dingell has suggested that EVs are simply an evolution for the auto industry rather than its end.
“People need to know how we’re trying to help them, what’s available for them,” Dingell added. “We’re creating new jobs of the future.”
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.