At his debate sideshow in Michigan, Trump blasts Biden for joining UAW picket line

During his speech Wednesday night, the former president and Republican frontrunner attacked electric cars and presented himself as the defender of the ‘working class’

Donald Trump habla contra Biden
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a 2024 presidential campaign rally in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S. September 20, 2023.SCOTT MORGAN (REUTERS)
Miguel Jiménez

Donald Trump at his purest. Demagogic, foul-mouthed, a climate denier and a liar, the former president held a rally in Clinton Township (Michigan) to counter-program the second debate between the Republican candidates for the primaries for the presidential elections of 2024. He used his speech to lash out at his likely rival in that election, President Joe Biden, for joining a picket of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union the day before in that same state, one of the key swing states for next year.

Trump has had a few lapses lately (such as saying Biden was on his way to causing World War II), but he devoted much of his speech to trying to ridicule Biden, portraying him as mentally incompetent. “You notice he spoke for a few seconds, and he had absolutely no idea what he was saying. He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know what he was saying. ‘Where am I? Oh, you’re in Michigan,’” he parodied, despite the fact that the president’s speech on Tuesday was clear with a direct message.

Trump also attacked policies supporting electric vehicles (EV). Among the concerns of the autoworkers is that many of the new EV plants have non-union workers with lower wages than the current ones in the sector. They fear a wage devaluation, which is why job security is among their demands. Trump took advantage of this and lashed out against electric cars: “They don’t go far enough, and they are too expensive.”

“Hundreds of thousands of American jobs, your jobs, will be gone forever because crooked Joe Biden is selling out, but I don’t think it’s him. I don’t think he actually knows what the hell he’s doing. I don’t blame him. But he’s surrounded with radical left Marxist and crazy people, fascists, bad people. He’s selling you out to China. He’s selling you out to the environmental extremists on the radical left. People have no idea how bad this is going to be also for the environment. You know, those batteries — when they get rid of them [...] lots of bad things happen [...] Digging it out of the ground to make those batteries can be very bad for the environment,” he said in his speech.

The Biden administration has managed to attract heavy investment from battery plants and electric cars with tax incentives that have caused concern in Europe, but has left vehicles with Chinese components out of the subsidies. Even so, Trump’s thesis is that Joe Biden’s administration is going to destroy the U.S. auto industry and hand it over to China. The future of the automotive industry with Biden, he has said, will be “Made in China” and with him, “Made in USA”. White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said just the opposite the day before: that Biden is fighting to ensure that the cars of the future are made in the United States by American workers unionized in good paying jobs, rather than made in China.

During Biden’s nearly three years in office, industrial employment has grown strongly, compared to a decline under Trump’s tenure. Despite the corporate and high income tax cuts passed during his presidency, Trump presented himself in Michigan as the “defender of the working class.”

Trump knows that to win the elections, he needs to attract votes from the working class that supported him in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Back then, he presented himself then as a nationalist in search of the support of those disenchanted with globalization and seduced them with his populist discourse, which he is now repeating. He stole from the Democrats the traditional support of a good part of the industrial workers of the U.S. Rust Belt, where heavy industry is concentrated. He beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, among other states where blue-collar workers have an important weight, and thanks to that, he won the presidency. Biden regained in 2020 the three states that, along with Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, may again be decisive next year.

Two weeks ago, the former president planned to counter-program the Republican candidates’ debate with a rally in Michigan. Then, Biden beat him to it, at the invitation of Shawn Fain, president of the UAW union. When Trump’s plans came to light, Fain posted a hostile message against the former president: “Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers. We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding of what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”

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