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Donald Trump sang the praises of American autoworkers in a speech in the battleground state of Michigan Wednesday night, creating a stark contrast between the former president and rivals for the Republican nomination who were debating in California.
“I want to begin this evening by saluting these truly great Americans who do not get the credit they deserve,” Trump said.
The tone of Trump’s discussion of autoworkers was very different from what listeners heard from the Republicans at the official GOP debate in the Reagan Library in California.
At the opening of the GOP debate, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) was asked about the strike by the United Auto Workers union seeking better wages and working conditions for its members. He recently praised Ronald Reagan for his decision to fire air traffic controllers in 1981, drawing a parallel with the current UAW strike. One of the debate moderators asked in Scott would fire the striking autoworkers.
“Obviously the president of the United States cannot fire anyone in the private sector,” Scott said.
Rather than leave it at that, Scott took the opportunity to criticize the strikers.
“One of the challenges we have in the current negotiations is that they want four-day, French work weeks but more money. They want more benefits working fewer hours. That is simply not going to stand,” Scott said.
The language deployed oddly echoed the words of President George H.W. Bush who responded to Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait by declaring: “This will not stand.” Eight years later, the character known as The Dude used the phrase in the film “The Big Lebowski.”
“I do mind, the Dude minds,” the Dude said. “This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.”
Trump’s remarks stayed away from criticizing the benefits and wages for which the workers are negotiating.
Trump addressed his remarks to the “welders, assembly line workers, machine operators, forklift drivers, pipefitters, tool and dye makers, mechanics, electricians, technicians, and journeymen.”
“We love being with you,” Trump said. “You love this country. You built this country. And you are the ones that make this country run.”
While some of the other Republican hopefuls at the Reagan library were not as critical of auto workers as Sen. Scott was, none offered the full-throated praise that Trump did. Most limited their support for the workers to oppose subsidies and mandates for electrification of the U.S. auto fleet.
“I put everything on the line to fight for you,” Trump said. “I have risked it all to defend the working class from the corrupt political class that has spent decades sucking the life, wealth, and blood out of this country. That’s why I’m here tonight to lay out a vision for a revival of economic nationalism.”