Trump vs. Biden: On the Ground in Macomb County, Michigan

October 30, 2020 Topic: 2020 Election Blog Brand: 2020 Election Tags: Donald TrumpJoe Biden2020 ElectionMichigan

Trump vs. Biden: On the Ground in Macomb County, Michigan

What I saw in 2016: As someone who actually grew up in Macomb Country before moving to the island of Manhattan in New York City for some twenty years, I knew the old school union Democrats and they didn't really move to the right – the Democrats became "liberals" and "progressives" and moved to the left. In the process, they left these blue-collar workers behind.

As with many parts of the country, it would be hard not to know there is an election coming up. There are more election signs on lawns this cycle than Halloween decorations and that is saying a lot. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $8.8 billion on Halloween – including costumes, decorations, candy and greeting cards.

That figure is actually almost on par with how much has been spent on this presidential election. While lawn signs make up a fraction of spending of course they are an important portent for what voters are thinking. This is especially true where this reporter lives – Macomb County, Michigan.

The largely blue-collar suburbs of Detroit are the land of "Reagan Democrats" who helped secure the Wolverine State for Ronald Reagan and then again for George H. W. Bush. However, the county – the third most populous in the state with just under 900,000 residents – had gone for Bill Clinton in 1996 and for Barrack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

It surprisingly flipped back to a red district in 2016, when Donald Trump won 53.5% of the vote compared to just 42% of the vote for Hillary Clinton. It may have been surprising to those in the media on election night and likely to Secretary Clinton – but anyone who was doing a ground game in the run-up to the election would have known Trump would carry the county.

It wasn't a real surprise to this reporter after hearing the same line from my union card-carrying neighbors who said, "I never voted Republican in my life, and I'll never vote Democrat again." A common refrain was that they didn't trust Mrs. Clinton, but they liked what Mr. Trump had to say. More importantly, they said, "What have the Democrats actually done for us?"

As someone who actually grew up in Macomb Country before moving to the island of Manhattan in New York City for some twenty years, I knew the old school union Democrats and they didn't really move to the right – the Democrats became "liberals" and "progressives" and moved to the left. In the process, they left these blue-collar workers behind.

While Joe Biden may speak to those union members today, the problem is that he is flanked by the likes of hardcore progressives. Biden suggesting a move away from oil and gas is a big deal. Michigan's crude oil reserves may account for less than 0.1 percent of the nation's total reserve base and the state products less than 0.2 percent of the U.S. total but the automotive industry is still built around gasoline engines.

That is a form of "trickle-down" economics that Biden may have gotten. A threat to gas and oil is not so indirectly a threat to U.S. auto manufacturing and the auto workers in Macomb County see it.

Signs and Portents

Those portents are there in the lawn signs. While there are a lot of Biden signs throughout Macomb County the fact is most of those are on the lawns of those who cast straight-party votes for the Democrats regardless. What is notable are the amount of Trump signs, flags and banners that have been increasing almost daily.

From what I've heard, many of the Biden supporters are actually voting against Trump this time around and while there have been the usual, "I regret voting for Trump," the general sentiment is that he has done a good job handling the economy and the pandemic.

If there is another omen or augury in this, it is that Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer could face a much harder fight to keep her job in two years time. While she has an approval rating of roughly 54% statewide it is important to note she isn't facing reelection this year. However, once a Republican candidate comes into focus it could be as heated a contest as this one for the White House.

Fortunately, for now, my neighbors have remained neighborly; mowing each others' lawns and bringing in the trash bins for one another. That could change come Wednesday morning – at least if we know who won at that point – with many people elated and others devastated.

But a divided country with nearly half hating who resides in the White House has been a sign of the times for quite a while.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan U.S., October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.