Appearing in Michigan at a non-union auto parts manufacturer, former President Donald Trump blasted what he called “blood sucking globalists” attempting to “assassinate” the auto industry, and compared Joe Biden to a “wretched old vulture trying to finish off his prey.”
Backed by four American flags, Trump spoke to the factory crowd in a bar-room bluster. He hectored UAW strikers, insisting, “I don’t think you’re picketing for the right thing.” And he argued that the UAW should “endorse Trump” because, “if they don’t all they’re doing is committing suicide.” Instead, Trump made the labor struggle all about his candidacy, imploring workers to “join the ultimate strike against the globalist class” by casting a ballot for him.
Trump devoted a sizable portion of his hour-plus onstage to blasting Biden’s promotion of a transition to electric cars. “The damn things don’t go far enough and they’re too expensive,” Trump alleged of the vehicles, before soon getting confused and insisting these cars are “selling for peanuts.” He bashed the car companies that make them as “either stupid or gutless,” and wildly claimed that electric cars are “much worse” for the environment. Trump even attempted to stoke panic about electric boats asking: “Do you get electrocuted if the boat sinks?”
Trump mixed promotion of the combustion engine with anti-trans hate, vowing that if he’s re-elected, “Gasoline engines will be allowed” and “sex changes for children will be banned.” Repeatedly mangling his words, Trump referred often to child “mutilization.” He also went on wild digressions about his legal woes (“Now I get indicted every three days!”), and his rivals in the Republican primary field, who are debating in California on Wednesday. “They’re all job candidates,” he said, suggesting that none of them are VP worthy.
Trump had created a stir on Sept. 18 when word leaked from his campaign that he’d be skipping the second GOP presidential primary debate in favor or “meeting with striking UAW workers.” The unexpected move won Trump a flurry of positive press coverage. And — at least according to Trump and some skeptical autoworkers — it pushed Joe Biden to make his historic visit to the UAW picket line on Tuesday. (Trump posted to Truth Social this week in pissy fashion: “Crooked Joe Biden had no intention of going to visit the United Autoworkers, until I announced that I would be heading to Michigan to be with them, & help them out.”)
Trump’s speech — touting a doctrine of “patriotic protectionism” — was his attempt to appeal to working class voters in the electorally crucial rust belt, where UAW workers are on strike, seeking large raises and a restoration of past benefits.
But Trump didn’t stump with striking autoworkers, at least not directly. He spoke at Drake Enterprises, an auto parts manufacturer without a union, in Clinton Township, a suburb north of Detroit — at the invitation of the company’s president. It’s not clear if any union members were even in attendance. In true Trump fashion, he struck a populist pose, as if he were a champion of workers, but in reality he allied himself with a chummy fellow capitalist.
Parts manufacturing is a sore spot in the transition to electric vehicles being heralded by Biden’s investments in green technology. Electric cars have far fewer moving parts, meaning suppliers could be hurt by the disruption. “Nearly 100 percent of Drake’s business is producing components that go into vehicles with internal combustion engines,” Trump said, “the very product that Joe Biden and the radical left, Democrats, and fascists — marxists — now want to make illegal.”
Trump’s messaging to striking workers has been all over the map, calling on UAW members to stop paying their dues and to vote their current leadership out of office. “I LOVE, & WILL SAVE, THE AUTOWORKERS,” Trump wrote on Truth Social this week, promising “I’LL MAKE YOU VICTORIOUS & RICH.” But the former president added a familiar hint of menace to his messaging, writing: “If I don’t win the Election, the Autoworkers are ‘toast.’”
Shawn Fain, the UAW union president, has been speaking openly against Trump in recent TV appearances: “I don’t think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for. He serves the billionaire class and that’s what’s wrong with this country.” He added: “I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a nonunion business.”
Heedless of this criticism, Trump pushed for Fain to endorse him on Wednesday night. “Hopefully your leaders at United Auto Workers will endorse Donald Trump,” he said to cheers from the audience at the non-union parts factory.