A struggling economy has given Trump-supporting Michiganders “buyers remorse” in an area he desperately needs to win re-election.
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich—Mayor Michael Taylor has what he calls “buyer’s remorse” about his 2016 vote for President Donald Trump.
Taylor, a lifelong Republican, has been critical of President Trump and told CNBC he will, for the first time in his life, vote for a Democrat for president with a ballot cast for former vice president Joe Biden.
Despite disagreeing with many of the policy positions of Trump’s 2016 opponent, Taylor said he realizes especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic that she was more fit for the job than Trump was. And its votes like his that make Macomb County such a battleground.
Macomb is a pivot county, an area that voted for Barack Obama twice but shifted red with a vote for Trump in 2016. These counties are especially hard for Trump to hold onto in 2020 given Biden’s connection to the Obama administration. Of Michigan’s dozen such counties, Macomb also shares another piece making it a hotbed of political activity this year: it’s suburban.
Conventional political wisdom holds that urban voters are more likely to support liberal candidates while rural voters are more likely to cast ballots for conservatives. The suburbs, however, are far more mixed.
In nearby Oakland County, also made largely of Detroit’s suburbia, Jennifer Cepnick told NPR that her household was split in 2016—she voted for Clinton and her husband for Trump. That won’t be true in 2020, however. Her husband is voting for Biden.
For both Cepnick’s husband and Taylor, Donald Trump has lost his appeal in terms of both character and leadership. These blemishes are in clearer focus when the suburban economy, one of the last areas Trump maintains popular support, isn’t doing nearly as well as he would like Macomb and Oakland residents to believe.
Trump has tried to hold on to suburban voters by making fear of what becomes of the American dream under a Biden administration, but that doesn’t appear to resonate as strongly as he hopes, since the dream is ailing under his administration already.
“I think if this were 1950, his message would be perfect,” said Karyn Lacy, a sociologist at the University of Michigan. “The problem is it’s not 1950.”
Even before the pandemic, Michigan’s economic recovery from 2008 had begun to stall, in no small part due to the trade policies of the Trump administration. Tariffs against foreign steel and aluminum have damaged the Michigan manufacturing industry and retaliatory tariffs from those counties against agriculture hurt Michigan farmers.
Those wounds were felt in the suburbs. Third Way reports that prior to the pandemic, job growth in Michigan suburbs under Trump had slowed to less than half what it was, on average, in Obama’s second term.
And when considering the pandemic, Trump’s economy averaged more than 2,000 job losses in suburban Michigan per month, reported Third Way. There’s no way of knowing what recovery from the pandemic looks like for suburban pocketbooks, either, said Oakland University professor Jonathan Silberman.
“Economic forecasting is a hazardous occupation. The only way to do it is to use the past and the past is not always a great guide to the future,” Silberman told the Macomb Daily, “What happens to the economy going forward relies primarily on how the pandemic goes and how people react to it.”