President Donald Trump and former President Joe Biden are already embroiled in a fierce battle for blue-collar votes, setting the stage for next year’s presidential election. Workers in this politically pivotal state, where automobile manufacturing is a way of life, find themselves torn between the two candidates.
Amidst the humming machinery of a General Motors plant in Belleville, Michigan, auto worker Curtis Cranford expressed his concerns, stating, “It would be half my wage to buy a new car.” After shaking hands with President Trump on a picket line, he thanked Biden for visiting but criticized the Democrat’s plan to transition the economy to electric cars, fearing it would cost jobs. Despite his gratitude for Biden’s presence, Cranford is leaning towards voting Republican in 2024 due to his stance on immigration and abortion.
This dilemma among blue-collar voters has put Michigan squarely in the spotlight, attracting both Trump and Biden to the state this week. It marks the first major skirmish in their extended battle for working-class votes ahead of the November 2024 election.
President Biden, on Tuesday, made history as the first sitting president to stand on a picket line, lending his support to the United Auto Workers (UAW) union’s call for higher wages at Detroit’s Big Three automakers. Meanwhile, Trump, currently embroiled in multiple legal proceedings, opted to skip a debate with his Republican rivals in California to visit a non-union car parts factory in Detroit.
According to Jefferson Cowie, a professor at Vanderbilt University, this battle is primarily about winning the hearts and minds of white working-class voters. It hinges on whether they will be swayed by Trump’s nationalist rhetoric or Biden’s emphasis on economic interests, reminiscent of the New Deal era.
Biden, at 80 years old, energetically portrays himself as a champion of workers, brandishing a megaphone and wearing a baseball cap adorned with the UAW logo. His “Bidenomics” vision focuses on reviving America’s industrial rust belt while embracing environmentally friendly electric vehicles.
Conversely, Trump, the populist tycoon, leans on his familiar message of fear and promises of American revival. He asserts that, with Biden, autoworker jobs will eventually shift to China, regardless of hourly wages.
The question on everyone’s mind is: Who will win the votes of these blue-collar workers in 2024? Kristy Zometsky, a GM plant worker, admits it’s a tough call. For her and her fellow workers on the picket line, politics takes a back seat to more pressing concerns, including the cost of living and stagnant salaries. They remember the sacrifices they made during the 2009 automotive crisis and wonder who truly advocates for them.
Amidst the uncertainty, Sarah Polk, a single mother and UAW-affiliated worker on strike, views the visits by Biden and Trump as mere photo opportunities. Her primary concern is being perpetually behind on bills and lacking a car.
She used to identify as a Democrat but now considers herself an independent, with unconventional preferences for presidential candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson, although she acknowledges their slim chances against Biden for the Democratic nomination.
As for the ultimate winner of the 2024 election, Polk remains uncertain, shrugging in response. In this battleground state, where blue-collar votes matter greatly, the outcome remains unpredictable, leaving both campaigns to vie for every heart and mind among Michigan’s working class.