Biden’s auto dilemma
Today, President Joe Biden will join striking autoworkers on the picket line in Michigan.
Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, will be in the Great Lake State tomorrow, but he’s expected to use a speech in Detroit to pit workers against leaders of their union, the United Auto Workers.
In some ways, Biden has the tougher political task. His image as “friend of the working man” stands at odds with the current image of his Democratic Party which, in the words of pundit and activist Paul Begala, “has gone from being the party of the factory floor to the party of the faculty lounge.” Biden’s outspoken support for labor unions – and the historical rarity of a US president joining a picket line – demonstrate his political commitment to win more working-class votes.
There’s an even more direct political calculus here. To win reelection, Biden badly needs Michigan, home to a big share of US autoworkers. The percentage of union members is also high in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump won in 2016 because he won all three of these states. Biden won in 2020 because he won them all back for Democrats.
But… Biden’s policy agenda depends heavily on support for production of electric vehicles in the battle to limit climate change. The UAW has so far refused to endorse Biden’s reelection bid, in part, according to the union’s president, because Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has provided large financial incentives to car companies to make more electric vehicles without including guarantees for better worker pay and conditions.
That’s why this strike, and Biden’s role in it, are important 2024 election stories to watch.