(CTN News) – On September 27 in California, former President Donald Trump will not participate in a debate. A person familiar with his intentions said that instead, Obama would travel to Detroit that day to show support for striking union autoworkers as they demand improved contract terms from the Big Three automakers.
Trump’s planned visit to Detroit is the latest move in his campaign to position himself as the UAW’s preferred candidate in 2020, in contrast to President Biden, the incumbent Democrat who received their backing.
The majority of union families voted for Biden, and that helped him win key swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which Trump had previously won.
The UAW has always supported Democratic candidates, but they have not backed Biden’s reelection bid. New union president Shawn Fain has indicated the group is waiting to endorse Trump until it sees more action from the president.
As an added bonus, Trump’s trip creates an intriguing political triangle between the union and two heads of state.
Biden backed the United Auto Workers union last week when it went on strike, saying that automakers should do more to share the record profits they’ve achieved in recent years with the UAW.
Biden commended the exceptional expertise and sacrifices of UAW employees for the recent record profits at automakers. I do not believe that those record profits have been equitably distributed to the employees.
As the UAW continues to put pressure on Biden, it is highly doubtful that the union will endorse Trump, especially since Fain has repeatedly declared that a Trump administration would be “a disaster.”
Fain did not hold back in his response to Trump’s impending visit.
“Everything we have as a union is going into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain declared.
The problem is that “we can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires who have no understanding of what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expect them to solve the problems of the working class,” he stated.
Still, many union autoworkers are voters, and in swing areas like Michigan, Trump popping up for selfies and hand shakes could be just tempting enough to some members of a distressed workforce, even without a splashy endorsement from the top brass.
It comes as no surprise that Trump has avoided participating in debates. Instead of participating in the first GOP debate in Milwaukee, Trump gave an interview to social media site X in which he was joined by former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson.
His team has made the argument that he does not have to appear with the other Republican contenders because he is already the frontrunner. In reality, Trump claimed he would not take centre stage at the first debate because he did not want to draw focus away from his own campaign.
A few of them are between the numbers one and two. And I’m debating whether I should sit for an hour or two. I don’t care what it is; should I have to put up with harassment from people who have no business running for president? Is it okay if I do that? Trump asked Carlson in a rhetorical manner.
“I just felt it would be more appropriate not to do the debate,” he said.
The UAW strike, however, has given him a chance to not just counter-program, but to do it in a way that positions him as a man of the people and offers a fresh perspective to the media.
The UAW has not yet expressed a desire for outside assistance during contract talks. After Biden made a declaration of support, Fain attacked the vice president’s position that discussions had failed.
Trump’s Unlikely Union Endorsement
With this high-profile strike in Detroit, Biden’s repeated claims that he is the “most pro-union president in history” will be brought into question.
Even while many union members I spoke with before the strike reluctant to reveal their voting intentions, there was a common theme: they want the politicians they support to have their backs.
That’s probably why Trump wants to visit Detroit. He intends to convince the United Automobile Workers (UAW) that he represents their best interest by meeting with autoworkers and holding an energising rally in the style of Donald Trump.
Trump’s emphasis on Detroit is also not coincidental. The headquarters of GM, Ford, and Stellantis North America are located here. However, in 2020, the state voted against Trump. Michigan was one of Trump’s shocking 2016 victories, but Biden flipped it back to blue after Trump narrowly won the state.
The state of Michigan is among those Trump has targeted as part of his strategy to focus on the general election rather than the primary. Appealing to the labour union in a state with a large population of blue collar workers (many of whom voted for Trump in 2016) could be enough to flip the state.
Trump learnt this lesson the hard way in his two prior general elections. Even small improvements can make a big difference in a place like Michigan, where there are tens of thousands of union autoworkers.
However, Detroit is still a very blue city politically, and the UAW is still primarily a Democratic Party organisation. Furthermore, with a Democrat in Governor Gretchen Whitmer and a tiny Democratic majority in the state legislature, Michigan isn’t as much of a swing state as neighbouring Wisconsin or nearby Pennsylvania.