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On the Complications of the Auto Strike
The Wall Street Journal on the strike:
The auto workers strike is filled with wildcards.
A new union boss. Carmakers navigating a costly transition to EVs. Car dealers and auto-parts suppliers caught in the middle. And it is all happening amid a period of drastic change in how cars are made—and how we buy them.
All true, but there’s more: the autoworkers’ strike is an exemplar of a historic change in American politics or, at least, a moment of peak confusion. The leaders of both political parties—Donald Trump and Joe Biden—will show solidarity in Detroit this week. Usually, it’s the opposite. Even Democrats—especially Presidents—tend to avoid picket lines. For Trump, this is another piece of performance art: his position on the actual issues of the strike is, and will probably remain, unknown, except for his opposition to “Chinese”—that is, electric—cars. His appearance in Detroit is 21st century political showbiz, a moment of solidarity with his core constituency, the white working-class. There is a bullshit, gestural clarity to this. I’m with you, he’s saying, and against the elites, especially when it comes to this electric car nonsense—except maybe I’ m not entirely there when it comes to your actual demands. (But I’m not gonna tell you that.)
This is a radical departure from traditional Republicanism, best expressed by Senator Tim Scott: “I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike. He said, you strike, you’re fired. Simple concept to me,” Scott said. “To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely.”
A basic fissure in the Republican Party, it would seem. And a question: If the GOP is going to side with the working-class culturally on issues like race and immigration, does it also have to support the workers economically? Probably not. The cultural issues reflect the views of a broad swath of the white working-class. The UAW represents a minority; there are far more unorganized workers in auto factories throughout the red-state South (and the farther South—Mexico—where the auto-makers will move the jobs if the UAW “wins” this strike.)
Biden’s appearance is more of a 20th century thing: If Trump supports the workers, half-heartedly, Democrats support the institution of labor, vestigially. If Biden supports the economic aims of the workers, he opposes a more fundamental purpose of the strike—a statement against electric car-manufacturing, which will require fewer workers than gas-guzzlers do. So, a similar question for Dems: If they support the economic goals of the workers, can they continue to support the environmental aims of their party? As Ruy Teixeira writes:
Back in 2019, Nancy Pelosi seemed unenthusiastic about a Green New Deal, referring to it as “the green dream or whatever they call it.” But a funny thing happened between then and now. The Democrats wound up embracing the basic idea and instantiated a scaled-down version of it in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
So Biden is attempting a triple-Salchow with a back flip: he is supporting a strike in opposition to his signature legislation, which will provide huge government subsidies for electric cars.
What does sanity dictate? This is not Zero Sum, more a some-and-some proposition. The autoworkers deserve a raise, given recent inflation; they should not have the ability to stall an electric automotive future. There is a complication, though: Electric cars may be the Democrats’ chosen future, but they may not represent the consumers’ choice. Environmental issues routinely rank near the bottom of public concerns, even if said public gets het up over drastic meteorological events, which may or may not be the result of climate change. (My position: Why chance it? Assume it’s climate change and try to act wisely to mitigate it.) Indeed, there is a basic philosophical question here: In a remarkably complicated economic system, in a time of blinding technological change, can government accurately see the future? Isn’t it possible that new technologies will render electric automobiles, which use obscene quantities of rare minerals like lithium, obsolete?
Of such gambles are politics made, and societies saved or destroyed. But once again we have a situation where Democrats are supporting an idealistic theoretical, and the Republicans are supporting a populist practical…and I suspect the Republicans are getting the best of both worlds in the bargain. Higher wages and gas guzzlers! The American Way.
Senator Robert Menendez
I’ve always thought this guy was questionable. He was one of the few Democrats to oppose the Iran Nuclear Deal, which I thought—and still think—essential. He was also prohibitively skeevy, barely beating the sheriff on previous corruption charges. And now he’s been found with $480,000 or so in cash, stuffed haphazardly into envelopes and closets, plus—paging James Bond—gold bars and other assorted emoluments, the alleged gifts from an Egyptian businessman. As Steve Schmidt writes:
There is another term for what Menendez did. The word is espionage.
The charges are spectacular, the misconduct epic and the excuses banal. According to the senior scumbag from the great state of New Jersey this is all happening to keep Latinos down.
Here’s what he said:
It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.
What a joke.
Innocent until proven guilty, of course. And at least he didn’t call himself LatinX. But one must ask, is this the act of a politically partisan “weaponized” Department of Justice? And if Republicans concede that these charges are valid—and also the disproportionate attention that Justice has devoted to a minor-league scam artist and gun-toter named Hunter Biden—what does say about the charges that have been brought against defendant Donald John Trump?