Detroit Today: Unpacking the Republican debate, Trump and Biden’s visit

As both Biden and Trump attempted to win the favor of UAW workers in Michigan this week, Trump’s Republican challengers on the debate stage stepped up their attacks on the former president.

Republican presidential candidates, from left, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Vice President Mike Pence, before the start of the Republican presidential primary debate on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

While the second Republican debate took place Wednesday night in Simi Valley, Calif., former President and Republican front-runner Donald Trump was in Macomb County addressing auto workers at a non-union auto parts supplier amid the UAW strike.

Trump’s visit came just a day after President Joe Biden became the first sitting president in U.S. history to walk a picket line as he joined UAW workers outside General Motor’s Willow Run parts plant in Belleville.

As both Biden and Trump attempt to win the favor of UAW workers in what will be a key state in the 2024 general election, Trump’s Republican challengers on the debate stage stepped up their attacks on the former president.

Brown University political science professor Wendy Schiller and labor reporter Steven Greenhouse joined Detroit Today this morning to dive into the inspiration behind – and repercussions of – both visits.

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Wendy Schiller is a professor and chair of political science, and a professor of International and Public Affairs at Brown University. She says while some might find Trump’s visit to Michigan odd considering his history of misaligning with union leaders, it shows that Trump is willing to take the Democrats on “in their own backyard.”

“Democrats did very well in 2022 in Michigan, and I think Trump is saying ‘I’m going to take the fight wherever I need to go, and talk to whomever I need to talk to,’ and really project that he has a chance not just to win the nomination but to win the general.”

Steven Greenhouse is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation and author of the book “Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor,” as well as the author of a piece in The Atlantic this week titled, “Is Organized Labor Making a Comeback?” Greenhouse says that supporting UAW auto workers was an easier choice for Biden compared to his lack of support for a nationwide rail strike last year that was blocked by Congress.

“Biden very rationally feared that if there’s a big railroad strike it could very seriously hurt the economy,” he said. “The auto strike will hurt the economy but not nearly as much as a full railroad strike,” later adding: “One of the reasons he went to the picket line is he hopes to put pressure on the auto makers to move sooner rather than later to reach a deal.”

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