Former President Trump is attacking electric vehicles and hammering the Biden administration’s EV policies as he seeks to court voters in Michigan, a pivotal state in next year’s general election.
Trump in one Truth Social post last week said that Biden’s policies will make it so that “the Great State of Michigan will not have an auto industry anymore.”
“United Auto Workers, VOTE FOR TRUMP,” he added.
In a second post, Trump warned of a “giant ‘E GLUT,’” and vowed to “stop this Madness,”
“Mexico & Canada LOVE Biden’s idiotic policy. SAVE MICHIGAN and the other Auto States. SAVE THE AMERICAN CONSUMER!!!” he wrote.
His campaign also released a statement last week saying that on Trump’s first day in office, he would pursue a “complete and total repeal of Biden’s catastrophic EV mandate.”
The United Auto Workers have criticized the way automakers are handling the transition to electric vehicles, accusing them of undercutting wages as part of that process.
UAW has yet to endorse Biden, and has called on him to do more to protect worker interests amid the shift to electric vehicles.
GOP strategist and former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party Jason Cabel Roe said that Trump’s anti-electric message is likely to resonate with voters in the state.
“I think it’s great politics,” Roe said of Trump’s attacks on electric vehicles.
“The traditional automakers and their employees have these EV mandates that are being foisted upon them that are not realistic,” he added.
It’s not as if the UAW is aligned with the former GOP president. The United Auto Workers president has also said that a Trump presidency would be a “disaster.” Nevertheless, Trump is seizing on the situation to court the union’s voters. In 2020, about a third of its members voted for Trump according to internal polling, a UAW source told The Hill.
Nearly 125,000 people were working in motor vehicle parts manufacturing in Michigan as of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even more Michigan voters could be moved by the issue, given how the sector reverberates across the state, Roe noted.
“These are kitchen table issues for a lot of people in the auto industry but also the ancillary businesses that rely on a vibrant auto industry,” Roe said.
“When the Big Three suffer in Michigan, that means parts manufacturers, grocery markets, party stores, you name it. Everyone suffers when the Big Three suffer,” he added, referring to General Motors, Stellantis and Ford.
He said that in general he thinks Trump’s comments represent a “strong play toward the general election” and taking voters away from Biden.
Democratic strategist Adrian Hemond told The Hill that if the UAW goes on strike and it is a long one, it could deepen the impact of Trump’s rhetoric.
“It’s definitely a potential vulnerability,” Hemond said.
“Male union members in general are a vulnerability for national Democrats right now,” he added, saying this was because of culture-related issues like guns and religion.
Trump is the runaway front-runner in the GOP primary so far. Recent general election polling in Michigan has shown that Biden and Trump would be in a tight race. Trump won Michigan in 2016, becoming the first GOP presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988 to do so. In 2020, he lost the state to Biden by more than 155,000 votes.
Biden has sought to bolster the national shift toward electric vehicles as part of his broader efforts to combat air pollution and climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April proposed a rule under which two-thirds of new car sales may be electric by 2032. This draft rule would not require a shift to electric vehicles, but would limit pollution coming from an automaker’s fleet, and car manufacturers may choose to make their vehicles electric in order to comply.
Biden’s signature Inflation Reduction Act bill also contained consumer tax credits aimed at bringing down the price of electric vehicles so that more people will want to buy them.
He has also looked to appeal to workers, and has pledged to be “the most pro-union president in American history.”
Balancing protecting workers and the environment can be complicated — as many Americans are employed in industries like fossil fuel development and car manufacturing whose products contribute to climate change and pollution.
The Biden administration has said that it hopes to achieve a “just transition” that makes sure that new jobs are delivered to communities dependent on jobs related to fossil fuels.
Reached for comment on this story, a White House spokesperson directed The Hill to past statements from Biden, including one last month where he called on the automakers and union to “work together to forge a fair agreement.”
“I support a fair transition to a clean energy future. That means ensuring that Big Three auto jobs are good jobs that can support a family,” he said at the time, also calling on the companies to “ensure that when transitions are needed, the transitions are fair and look to retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories and communities at comparable wages.”
Hemond said that Democratic messaging on this issue should focus on being behind workers rather than just focusing on climate.
“If you’re the Democrats trying to make that case, you’re positioning yourselves as keeping the auto companies accountable,” he said.
He added that the party should frame the issue as: “We’re going to make sure that as these automobile manufacturers make the transition to electric vehicles, that your jobs and your wages and your benefits are being protected.”
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