The battle between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump for the worker vote and the popular white electorate will be tough, as shown by their trips to Michigan, the birthplace of the automobile in the United States and the epicenter of a strike movement in the sector.
“Buying a new car would be half my annual salary,” says Curtis Cranford, a 66-year-old worker who shook Biden's hand when he briefly joined a picket of strikers outside a General Motors factory in Washington on Tuesday. Belleville, in the suburbs of Detroit.
He thanks Biden for traveling there, but because of the energy transition that "will cost jobs," and especially because of the Democrats' positions on abortion and immigration, he will "probably vote Republican" in the presidential elections. of the next year.
That means, potentially, for Trump, the big favorite in the Republican Party primaries.
Skipping the debate of the other candidates for the Republican candidacy, the former president visited a small automobile factory near Detroit this Wednesday.
The tycoon has accused Biden several times of imposing an "obligation" to buy electric vehicles, although the Democratic president has not revealed any projects in this regard.
That would be "a murder of your jobs," Trump told his audience.
“I will always be there for you,” the Republican billionaire promised them at the industrial plant that, unlike the one Biden visited the day before, is not affiliated with the UAW union.
This union declared a historic strike for wage improvements against the three large American manufacturers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.
Biden and Trump seek to “seduce the working-class electorate, particularly white,” which will be decisive next year, analyzes Jefferson Cowie, a professor at Vanderbilt University in an interview with NPR public radio.
"Will they be seduced by Trump's usual rhetoric, particularly around race and nationalism? Or will we see a movement more towards (…) Biden's vision that is somewhat close to Roosevelt? It is really the central question,” summarizes the academic.
Biden, who is betting heavily on the support of unions, and who defends his measures in favor of the middle class whenever he can, is the first American president to join a picket of strikers.
Megaphone in hand to harangue them, the 80-year-old Democrat wanted to give a strong boost to his re-election campaign.
Carolyn Nippa, 51, 26 of whom worked for GM, says it was "surreal" to have greeted the president.
– «Fried» –
«I am not for Trump. I say it clearly. "I think he worked for multinationals and millionaires," said this worker who changed plants several times as they closed.
But which one defends the workers more, Trump or Biden?
"It's hard to say," reflects Kristy Zometsky, 44, who works at the same General Motors auto parts factory where her father and uncle worked.
"This strike is not a political issue," he assures.
Their concerns are the same as those of all striking workers: the high cost of living, salaries that do not match despite the sacrifices made in 2009 to support companies in crisis.
It was at that moment, during the great financial crisis that followed the bursting of the subprime credit bubble, that Sarah Polk asked herself: "Who really supports us?"
This 53-year-old designer from downtown Detroit is not an automotive worker. But as an employee of the insurer Blue Cross she is unionized in the UAW, and therefore she is unemployed.
The arrival of Biden as much as that of Trump "is a communication operation," thinks this single mother of three children, who is "always" "a month late" in paying her bills.
Before "I was more of a Democrat." And I would vote for Robert F. Kennedy or Marianne Williamson, two candidates who have practically no chance of appearing on the Democratic ballot in November next year.
But, as to who will have his vote in 2024, he answers: "I don't know."