Skip to content
Trump Goes Looking for the Union Label
Go to my account

Trump Goes Looking for the Union Label

The former president has planned a different kind of counterprogramming for the GOP debate.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on September 15, 2023, in Washington, D.C.(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is looking for a better way to skip the Republican debates.

After a strongly meh softball session with Tucker Carlson on Elon Musk’s X to counter-program last month’s GOP debate in Milwaukee, the former president is trying something more dramatic—and riskier—to skip next week’s debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Trump will follow in the footsteps of another California Republican, Richard Nixon, deploying a “blue collar strategy” by scheduling a visit to Detroit designed to show—maybe—solidarity with striking United Auto Workers members as the union expands its strike against the Big Three automakers, particularly General Motors.

As a stunt, this isn’t crazy—even after President Biden stole Trump’s thunder by announcing a visit set for the day before Trump’s. But it still comes with considerable baggage. 

First, Republican voters seem unlikely to be favorably disposed toward the demands of the strikers. Most Republicans in a recent poll said the decline in American union membership was a good thing. It seems unlikely that Republicans in states like South Carolina that have benefited so much from right-to-work laws will get good vibes from Trump wearing the union label.

But Trump is so far ahead in the Republican nominating contest that maybe he figures he can afford alienating some more pro-business members of his party and use his high-profile rejection of the Regan event to his benefit with the general electorate.

While actual union members may be strongly Democratic, voters with union sympathies are very much up for grabs. Showing that he’d rather hang out with “the hard hats” in Detroit than with the swells in Southern California sends a good message to the working-class voters who feel so disaffected from the Democratic Party, particularly on the cultural issues that are Trump’s bread and butter.

But in its own way, Trump’s visit provides help to his likely general election opponent, the struggling incumbent, President Biden. 

Union leaders know that by risking economic upheaval from a strike they are putting Biden, a longtime ally, in a bad spot. Biden’s chances for reelection depend on voters’ views on the economy. A protracted strike, particularly one that is gaining momentum as Washington gets set for a partial government shutdown, would not only hurt the economy in real terms. It would also make already anxious consumers more nervous.

The unions are putting Biden in a jam. He wants to be the “most pro-union president in history,” but he does not want to be held responsible for economic disruption caused by unions with demands that sound pretty rich to most workers—a 40 percent raise, a four-day work week, etc.

Trump’s arrival to the party not only very partially mitigates Biden’s potential culpability, but also makes it more likely that the strike will be resolved sooner rather than later.

The UAW doesn’t want Biden to be defeated by Trump, and the participation of the former president—even if it is mostly a stunt—puts the theoretical political negative consequences of the strike into concrete form.

Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 40.8%
Average disapproval: 53.8%
Net score: -13.0 points 

Change from one week ago: no change                        
Change from one month ago: ↓ 0.8 points

[Average includes: Emerson: 41% approve-47% disapprove; Yahoo News: 42% approve-55% disapprove; Reuters/Ipsos: 42% approve-52% disapprove; Quinnipiac: 39% approve-55% disapprove; CBS News: 40% approve, 60% disapprove]

Polling Roulette


Sports Illustrated: “Molipur, a village of 5,200 in India’s northwestern state of Gujarat, is not the kind of place where sporting dreams are made. … Yet in May 2022, as temperatures soared above 110°, one Molipuri man toiled around the clock on a hangdog farming plot a five-minute walk outside the village. … The man’s name was Shoeb Davda, a 35-year-old beanpole of a bangle merchant and a father of five. … He’d recently returned from a two-month trip to Moscow, where he had become entangled with a group of shadowy but well-financed men. … Were Davda to establish his own live streamed cricket tournament, they suggested, wagers would follow, and he could cleave a slice of the sport’s newfound betting riches for himself. … As the games progressed, the players largely figured out what was unfolding around them. None of them were permitted near the scorer’s hut. … Had they peeked through its tin-snipped viewing hatch, they’d have seen the nerve center of a wildly elaborate scam.” 


Politico: “The former president and his team are beefing up their efforts in Iowa, hoping to deliver the type of knock-out punch that would effectively end the Florida governor’s bid and send a message to the other campaigns to get out of the way. … Trump plans to make three more stops in Iowa during the first half of October, and again in the final days of the month. … It’s a remarkable investment of time from a candidate who has, through the summer, left a light footprint on the trail. And it’s being supplemented with an air attack by Trump world. … MAGA Inc., the super PAC supporting Trump, is spending over $700,000 on advertising this week in Iowa … and the Trump campaign has boasted of 27,500 signed caucus pledge cards and 1,500 local volunteers in the state. … DeSantis, for his part, is betting much of his political fortune on Iowa. He has been out-working Trump in the Hawkeye State.”

But backpedals after abortion comments: Washington Post: “Former president Donald Trump is facing sharp blowback from some antiabortion activists and conservative governors, including his top challenger in the Republican presidential primary. … The tensions center on Trump’s recent comments disparaging an abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy and pledging to work with ‘both sides’ on a federal ban. … The former president returned to Iowa on Wednesday, the first GOP nominating state—and one where abortion is a potent issue for many social conservatives expected to participate in January’s caucuses. During remarks in Dubuque, he touted his role in overturning Roe. … ‘His comments left a lot of folks in the life movement confused because he did such a great job in undoing Roe v. Wade,’ said Roger Severino. … He especially angered some antiabortion advocates when he called the six-week ban DeSantis enacted in Florida a ‘terrible thing and a terrible mistake.’” 

Team Trump overhauls delegate rules to hasten renomination: Los Angeles Times: “The former president’s aides have sculpted rules in dozens of states, starting even before his 2020 reelection bid. Their work is ongoing: In addition to California, state Republican parties in Nevada and Michigan have recently overhauled their rules in ways clearly designed to favor Trump. … The success of the Trump campaign’s effort is partly attributable to his aggressive courting of state GOP leaders. … The Trump campaign’s rule changes have focused on ensuring he benefits from how all-important delegates are awarded after each state caucus or primary. … Among the rules changes were switching from proportional delegate allocation, where multiple candidates can win delegates in a state, to winner-take-all. In some states, delegates are also being awarded based on the outcome of party-run caucuses among GOP activists, many of whom remain loyal to Trump, rather than official state primary elections.”

New Hampshire Poll: DeSantis sinks, Haley, Ramaswamy, and Christie rise: CNN: “Overall, Trump is the first choice of 39% of likely GOP primary voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state. … Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who stood out as Trump’s chief rival in the last UNH survey on the New Hampshire race in July, has dropped 13 points since then to 10% support. He’s now running about even against three rising candidates: tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (13%), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (12%) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (11%). South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott is at 6% support in the poll and former Vice President Mike Pence holds 2%. … DeSantis’ decline stems from a sharp drop-off among moderates, from 26% backing him in July to 6% now. He fell a smaller 8 points among conservatives. … The poll suggests a sizable share of voters are open to changing their minds between now and the primary.” 

Gaining in the horserace, Haley pitches her electability: Washington Post: “[The CNN poll] underscored the electability argument that has been central to Haley’s campaign and has helped win over independent and unaffiliated voters like Frank Williams, who said he likes Donald Trump’s policies but fears he can’t win in November 2024. … ‘The primary problem, of course, is, can she win a primary,’ Williams fretted. … That is a glaring question confronting Haley, who has picked up steam since a well-received debate performance last month, drawing big crowds on the trail and making gains in recent polls. … She and her allies argue that she is the challenger Democrats fear the most, and that her stance on issues like abortion and Ukraine will help her win over constituencies like disaffected Republicans and suburban women.”

Scott’s economic plan boosts his fiscally conservative bona fides: Yahoo: “Senator Tim Scott, in the first major policy presentation of his 2024 presidential campaign, said he’d slash non-defense spending, champion a balanced budget amendment and move many federal workers out of the Washington region. … Scott’s “Build, Don’t Borrow Plan” calls, too, for keeping and expanding former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and promoting American manufacturing and energy production. … The proposal also marks an attempt to court business-friendly donors and build support among Iowa farmers—two groups critical to not only financing his campaign, but strengthening his standing in the early caucus state. … The economic blueprint ignores his fellow Republican contenders and instead presents a contrast with the Democratic incumbent, Joe Biden.”

Burgum, Hutchinson appear short of debate polling thresholds: New York Times: “After eking their way into the first Republican presidential debate last month, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, long-shot candidates, appear to be in jeopardy of failing to qualify for the party’s second debate next week. … Lance Trover, a spokesman for the Burgum campaign, contended in an email on Wednesday that Mr. Burgum was still positioned to qualify for the debate. … Emma Vaughn, a spokeswoman for the R.N.C., said in an email on Wednesday that candidates have until 48 hours before the debate to qualify. … Candidates must now register at least 3 percent support in a minimum of two national polls accepted by the R.N.C. The threshold for the first debate was 1 percent.” 


Slow Boring: “I was surprised that a new American Political Science Association report would say that racial polarization is at an all-time high. … On the one hand, the decline in racial polarization in 2020 was relatively small. It’s obviously true that race is a big factor in American politics. … Politics is becoming more issue-oriented (though of course not exclusively so) and less polarized on the basis of race and ethnicity. … [R]acial polarization was higher during Barack Obama’s re-election and has been falling since Donald Trump’s two races. … Trump did meaningfully better with Black and Hispanic voters in 2020 than he did in 2016 or than Romney did in 2012, and Biden compensated for that by doing better with white voters. … Everyone should remember that even though the average behavior of voters varies enormously by ethnicity, there are marginal voters within each group.”


Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton to retire after adjusted Parkinson’s diagnosis—Washington Post

Special election win hands Dems control of Pennsylvania House—NBC News

Dems flip Trump-won New Hampshire State House district—Union Leader

Rep. Matt Gaetz seems set on replacing DeSantis in governor’s mansion—NBC News

Pennsylvania to implement automatic voter registration—New York Times 


“There are sensitive times during a negotiation where you don’t actually get to open your kimono to Punchbowl … as arousing as that would be to me personally.”—Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., lays out the naked truth in an interview with Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News on the House budget negotiations. 


“I feel like this is the best opportunity for a third party candidate in my lifetime. Perot got 18 percent, even with a few stumbles. The enmity both Trump and Biden have gives someone a real chance. However, as of now, I believe No Labels [is on the ballot in] 11 states and the difficulty of having the levers of control in the hands of people who do not want a third party. Can they really get on the ballot in all 50 states? Will their only message be ‘I’m not Trump or Biden and I’ll govern from the middle?’”—Earl King, Colts Neck, New Jersey

No Labels is certainly getting enough traction to draw the increasing ire of Democrats. And you’re right: The non-party party is now up to 11 states and with a promise to hit 20 by the end of this year and all 50 by next November. I think it’s hard to overstate how much the relative success or failure of the effort depends on the qualities of the candidate the group selects. And that’s not so much about which party, biography, or set of policies he or she embraces. An honest-seeming, competent, non-flaky candidate from outside politics could really shake things up. A partisan retread looking for redemption in a third-party run certainly doesn’t seem like that person.

“We were watching the latest Ink Stained Wretches on YouTube last night, and I heard you say that you don’t read the comments. Seems like a good idea, although you do get a fair amount of praise, and some of that is from me. I haven’t watched Fox in years, so I didn’t know who you were until you came to The Dispatch, and how fortunate for them and their subscribers! I commented on the recent Remnant podcast that you and Jonah need to do a podcast together at least once a month, and it got a lot of ‘likes.’ I hope Jonah saw it (I know he reads comments!). The two of you are so entertaining and smart, and a really well matched team. I also wanted to add that I am thinking about the election. I won’t vote for Trump, but I can’t vote for Biden. I know I’m being unrealistic, but right now, all I can do is pray.”—Anne Watman, Monroe, Wisconsin

Prayers are something. And I can assure you that you are not alone in your supplications. Millions of Americans join you in asking for deliverance from these rocky shoals on which we find ourselves stuck. As for the demand for even more Stirewalt, you may be the only one! Thank you, though, for sticking up for me in the comments. I think The Dispatch’s comments sections make a great community for discussion and the sharing of ideas among normal humans. But I appreciate being able to finish a piece and then set it aside rather than ruminating on it. That’s why I love the Mailbag. I get to interact with real readers but without the dislocation of anonymity. When I know who I’m talking to, it’s easier to understand other opinions and points of view.

“I think about our potential choices every day. They give me nightmares. As others at The Dispatch  have indicated, the country is changing. The best person to run is retiring from the Senate at the end of his term. Most of these elected yahoos are in it for an easy salary and have long ago quit serving the country. Originally, members of Congress were farmers or business people that gave of themselves to serve their neighbors and the country. The two years for the House and the six years for the Senate were the term limits because they needed to get home to their occupations. Who ever thought anyone would want to spend more time than that sitting on their ass and collecting welfare checks for being in a bad “soap opera”? The people in Congress today have lost the compass given by our Founders.”—Perry Padgett, St. James City, Florida

How I wish you were right about the yahoos, Mr. Padgett. If they were there to sit on their posteriors and collect their salaries, things would be a lot better. It’s a trope, but we’re often directed back to William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming, written after the end of World War I: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The yahoos are working their asses off, not sitting on them. And I’d challenge your assumption on one other point. Almost all of the members of Congress believe that they’re doing just, right, and patriotic things. One of the problems that beset our politics is the belief that the people with whom we disagree are insincere or, often, actually malicious. American voters are not very cynical about their own beliefs, but extraordinarily cynical about the expressed beliefs of others. As for term limits, though, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The members of Congress need a shot clock to get them interested in prioritizing achievement over reelection. 

“In your response to the question from the gentleman from Saskatchewan, you incorrectly cited Art. II, Sec. 1, cl. 3 of the Constitution for Electoral College rules. Those provisions were superseded by the Twelfth Amendment, which provides similar, but slightly different procedures: ‘The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.’ The original provided for a selection from up to five; Amendment XII, however, restricts the House’s choice to the top three electoral candidates.” —Aaron Clements, Spur, Texas

Quite so, Mr. Clements! Three, not five is the magic number. Thank you for catching my forgetfulness. 

You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the discerning Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


President Joe Biden arrives to hold a press conference in Hanoi on September 10, 2023, on the first day of a visit in Vietnam. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden arrives to hold a press conference in Hanoi on September 10, 2023, on the first day of a visit in Vietnam. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The funniest cutlines are usually the ones that most directly use the photo as the setup and the cutline as the punchline—shot/chaser style. That requires being able to quickly put a gag into a reader’s mind *pop*. And what could work better for that than a popular song. So look at the picture above and then sing along with this week’s winner: 

“You can tell by the way I use my walk. I’m a woman’s man, no time to talk.”—Paul Williams, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Winner, Walk, Trot, Canter Division:

“That’s it, walk with confidence Joey. They don’t know you have to tinkle like Seabiscuit. Man alive, that horse could move. I remember that race … it was 1962.”—Kirk Dunn, Yuma, Arizona

Winner, Dream On Division:

“When I played with Aerosmith, I learned to walk this way. This is no joke.”—Tom Walk, Greensboro, North Carolina

Winner, The Regular Crowd Shuffles In Division:

“I stuck a tip in my pocket for the lounge pianist.  He’s good!”—Linda McKee, DuBois, Pennsylvania

Winner, Astrophel and Stella Division:

“Folks I gotta tell ya it’s a lot easier remembering your flag has one star than 48.”—Dave Carter, Palmer, Alaska

Winner ‘What is the Sound of One Lip Flapping?’ Division:

“I grew up in the Vietnamese temples. No joke. I’d go to a Buddhist ceremony, and then go Taoist in the evening. My Mom used to quote Confucius to me before supper prayers. ‘Joey, wherever you go, go with all your heart.’”—Tripp Whitbeck, Arlington, Virginia

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


Boston: “A Vermont farm has become so popular on social media that it’s now off limits to tourists this fall. The town of Pomfret, located just outside of Woodstock, has approved road closures and parking bans … from Sept. 23 to Oct. 15—prime leaf peeping season. … The area has seen ‘an unprecedented surge in Instagram and TikTok-fueled tourist influencers,’ neighbors wrote in a recent GoFundMe called ‘Save Cloudland Road’ intended to raise money for police detail and increased signage in the area. The GoFundMe has raised about $14,000 toward its $25,000 goal. … ‘Cloudland and surrounding roads become impassable during the fall, and roads and poorly behaved tourists have damaged roads, had accidents, required towing out of ditches, trampled gardens, defecated on private property, parked in fields and driveways, and verbally assaulted residents.’ … County Sheriff Ryan Palmer told NBC 5 News, ‘We’ve had a lot of stories of folks just being very disrespectful. Walking on property that wasn’t theirs. Sitting on porches, swimming in their ponds, those types of things.’”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.