A tight race in America’s car country

After 1988, no Republican presidential candidate has won Michigan but the State that has 16 electoral college votes is in play this Tuesday. What makes the State an unusual cliffhanger is the fact that 13 percent voters polled as undecided four days ahead of voting, even as Republican nominee Donald Trump is making steady headway, according to a Detroit Free Press poll.

Michigan will be one of the three States in which Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will campaign on Monday, a day ahead of the voting day. It will be also on the list of four States in which Mr. Trump will campaign on Monday.

It is in this city that Henry Ford pioneered standardised manufacturing that was at the core of the economic model that sustained Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal politics. The collapse of the automobile industry was the starkest demonstration of the lingering crisis in American economy and politics. President Barack Obama turned around the automobile industry, and Detroit is limping back. But limping, it still is – and that explains the difficulties of Ms. Clinton who is accused by Mr. Trump of promoting the trade deals that led to the collapse of U.S automobile manufacturing.

In a suburban mixed race neighbourhood, Pastor Michael R Jones has seen the painful decline and the stuttering recovery of his congregation, along with the automobile industry. “Offerings became a trickle, then we began getting distress calls for help,” he recalls the worse days, when he took up a part-time job to survive. There is enough offering in the church to keep him going, but that is only because more people have joined the parish, the pastor said. “People are not in a position to put the same amount in the offering plate as they used to do before 2008,” he said. The community kitchen that he helps manage, brings him face to face with day to day poverty in this once prosperous city. “The face of poverty has changed. You have all races and all types of people who are at the community kitchen, in some cases, even though many do two jobs,” the pastor said. Members of the parish would be evenly divided between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump, he feels.

DeWit McGowan is an African American union activist who works for General Motors, one of the companies that got back on its feet thanks to Mr. Obama’s measures. “The Republicans did not support the package for the industry. But we had faith in the Presidency and the Democrats as a whole. The recovery is real and we can feel it. It is ok to go grocery shop a little a better, buy some more clothes,” Mr. McGowan, who lost his job during the downturn, says. He believes it is wrong to blame Ms. Clinton for the trade deals that undercut the city’s manufacturing base. “She knows the problems with the trade deals and I am confident that she will make changes in those deals,” he says, adding that Mr. Trump will have no takers among the African American community. But the fact that there is a contest in Michigan a day ahead of the polling is a significant indicator.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 8:36:14 PM |

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