pResident Joe Biden will travel to North Carolina on Tuesday to talk about manufacturing and infrastructure as Democrats look to bolster their standing with blue-collar voters.
The president is kicking off his Investing in America tour, during which “Scranton Joe” is sure to tout his blue-collar background and union love. But even as he promotes a made-in-America message, his party has been hemorrhaging support from voters without college degrees for more than a decade.
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“They call the factories ‘fabs,'” Biden said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on March 14. “It’s going to take 7,000 construction people to build these factories, and they’re going to be paid union wages to do it.”
Biden was talking about an Intel semiconductor facility near Columbus, Ohio, although he mentions unions in most speeches, especially those that touch on manufacturing.
“And on top of that, there are 5,000 jobs running the factories that make the chips,” he said at the DNC event. “You know what the average salary is going to be in these factories? $130,000. And you don’t need a college degree for all of them; you need the training.”
Biden has been heavily promoting unions and manufacturing since taking office, as he counts Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, all of which he flipped from former President Donald Trump.
Today he will visit Durham, home of Duke University, to visit a Wolfspeed Inc. semiconductor plant. According to an official itinerary, Biden will discuss how his agenda has led to the strongest job growth in history, stronger infrastructure and a “made-in-America manufacturing boom” that has strengthened supply chains and national security .
But amid Biden’s happy working-class talk, Republicans are making inroads with America’s blue-collar workers. House Republicans now control most seats in districts with below-median household incomes, including heavily Hispanic areas of Texas and Florida.
Ruy Teixeria, who once predicted that demographic changes would lead to a permanent Democratic majority, has instead documented a shift of working-class voters to the GOP.
Between 2012 and 2020, Democrats saw their support among non-white working-class voters drop by 18 points and among Hispanic voters by 16 points. In contrast, college-educated white voters shifted toward Democrats by 16 points.
Biden was able to stem that tide somewhat, flipping three Rust Belt states that Hillary Clinton had lost, winning Georgia and closing in on North Carolina. He has since promoted manufacturing by keeping many of Trump’s trade tariffs in place while arguing that “MAGA Republicans” will raise taxes on the middle class and cut Social Security and Medicare.
“We’re watching to see if House Republicans will finally come to terms with the American people on their tax welfare for the rich and what cuts they would impose on the middle class,” read a Monday dispatch from the White House spokesman , Andrew Bates. “Unfortunately, Republicans have shown they want to kill thousands of manufacturing jobs and cost millions of Americans their health care coverage, disproportionately in red states.”
Republicans have sharpened their own message, claiming that Democrats are the party of elites focused on abortion and green energy rather than reducing crime, securing the border or taming inflation.
“Joe Biden and the Democratic Party want to destroy thousands of jobs and raise energy prices even further, all while banning new gas stoves, air conditioners and washing machines,” read a Monday newsletter from Republican National Committee spokesman Tommy Pigott. “But don’t you dare ask them to give up their private jets.”
Although Biden is often called the most pro-union president in history, the face of unions is changing. Instead of blue-collar workers, recent union actions have taken place at Starbucks, Google, software company Activision Blizzard and the Washington, DC-based think tank Brookings Institution. Biden has said his 2024 campaign staff will be unionized.
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“The biggest union that Joe Biden will be close to in Durham will be the Duke adjunct faculty union,” said Dan Bowling, who teaches job and employment courses at Duke. “High-tech companies, software, healthcare, Starbucks, private university faculties are starting to unionize. But is it really winning over new voters? I don’t see many Starbucks baristas wearing MAGA hats.”
Bowling argues that Trump was actually a pro-labor president thanks to his plans to move plants to the United States, implement tariffs and boost manufacturing. Biden talks about many of the same things despite his many differences with Trump, something he will likely continue to do as the 2024 presidential contest approaches.