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Issues and policies, Biden, Trump, Democrats, GOP

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Democrats and Republicans offer stark differences in policy positions on key issues facing Michigan. (Shutterstock)
  • Where do candidates stand on everything from abortion to immigration
  • Key issues for Michigan include the switch to electric vehicles, autos and the environment
  • The economy may loom as the biggest issue of all, if polling is believed

Policies among Democrats and Republicans, as well as President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, are starkly different on key issues for the November election.

Here’s a look at where the parties stand on major issues and how they relate to Michigan. Note: The guide will include the views of third-party candidates, including Robert F. Kennedy, closer to the November election.

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The issue: In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade case that made abortions a federally protected right, leaving it up to the states to decide the issue.

Democrats have traditionally framed abortion as a fundamental right to reproductive health, while Republicans typically say it’s an immoral choice to end a life. While polls show most Americans say abortion should be legal in most cases, a majority also favor some limits

How it is important to Michigan:  In 2022, Michigan voters passed a measure to constitutionally guarantee a right to abortion. That prompted an influx of people from neighboring states into Michigan for the procedure.

The number of abortions in Michigan has slowly increased since 2009, rising from 22,357 then to 30,120 in 2022. Numbers aren’t available from 2023, the first full year after the legal change. 

Right to Life of Michigan has sued over the constitutional amendment, and some advocates seek to end Michigan’s parental consent laws. Despite efforts last year to dismantle them, Michigan laws still ban public funding for abortion and require a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure.

At the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a case that would constrict access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, by paring back the time frame in which it can be used — making it accessible only through seven weeks of pregnancy instead of the current 10 weeks. That would force Michiganders after seven weeks of pregnancy to get a more invasive procedural abortion in a clinic.

Biden and Democrats stance: Both at the state level and in the presidential bid, Democrats have long viewed abortion as part of fundamental health care. 

During his early career in the Senate, Biden voted against abortion, but he has been consistent throughout his presidency that abortion should be accessible and legal. After Roe was overturned, he signed an executive order setting up protections for reproductive care and directing his administration to find ways to keep abortion accessible. 

Trump and GOP stance:  Republicans have opposed abortion and, as president, Trump appointed justices to the Supreme Court who helped overturn Roe v. Wade.

Trump has changed his stance on abortion over the years, but during this campaign has consistently said states must decide the issue rather than the federal government.

That frustrated some abortion opponents, who had repeatedly called for a federal ban on abortion. The Republican National Party platform favors a constitutional amendment that would guarantee unborn children rights, opposes public funding of abortion as well as embryonic stem cell research.

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The issue: The auto industry is amid a historic shift from gas-fueled engines to electric vehicles, and the switch is not without troubles or anxieties. Electric vehicles have half as many parts as traditional cars, stoking fears that far fewer workers will be needed.  While car companies made record profits last year, those have come from traditional vehicles, as sales of EVs are growing at a slower pace than anticipated. Michigan-based manufacturers are investing billions in EV plants and are in a race with China and Tesla to dominate the sector. Many other issues add to the uncertainty, including infrastructure, charging readiness and customer support without deep incentives.

How it is important to Michigan:  The automotive and mobility industry contributes $304 billion to Michigan’s economy every year, according to MichAUTO, the auto-centric division of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Autos and mobility also represents about 20% of the state’s workforce.

The state is home to 12 assembly plants —  21% of U.S. auto production took place in Michigan in 2022 — and it is vying to stay competitive with other states by setting aside $2 billion in corporate incentives to lure EV factories.

In all, 19% of Michigan’s workforce — 600,000 people — are employed in manufacturing, the highest rate in the nation. Nearly 150,000 are United Auto Workers members and work for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The union won historic wage increases following a 2023 strike.

Biden and Democrats stance:  The president and Democrats are big proponents of the shift to electric vehicles, which is key to their environmental policies of lowering pollutants from emissions.

The $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 set up a series of clean vehicle tax credits to make EVs more affordable. The electric cars average about $53,000, compared to $48,000 for gas-powered autos. The credits require 40% of batteries to come from free-trade partners of the United States. Democrats also are investing heavily into the nation’s network of charging stations, with the Biden administration setting aside another $623 million this year.

The Biden administration has passed rules requiring most cars be electric or hybrid by 2032, but eased some benchmarks this year at the urging of auto companies.

Trump and Republicans stance: Trump and Republicans contend the federal government is going overboard subsidizing the switch to electric vehicles. Trump is wooing autoworkers by saying the federal government mandates will cost them jobs.

Republicans have criticized EVs for being expensive, unreliable and part of the Democratic goal for electric vehicles to comprise half of new vehicle sales by 2030. 

They also call the subsidies government overreach, while saying that China — home to most of the world’s EV battery makers — could be the biggest winner in the rush toward EV manufacturing and sales.

However, Republican-led states and presidential battlegrounds (including Michigan) are beneficiaries of some of the nearly $200 billion in new EV investment taking place around the country. Also unclear is how a shift in federal policy would affect automakers, which have also committed their own R&D and manufacturing resources toward EVs. 

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Economy and taxes

The issue: The economy is perhaps the top issue in this November’s elections, polls show, and perceptions about it vary widely. President Joe Biden and other Democrats tout historic job growth, record-low unemployment and plans to raise taxes on the wealthy, while former President Donald Trump and Republicans cite elevated inflation, the cost of household goods and worker shortages.

How it is important to Michigan: In Michigan, the state’s jobless rate in March sat at 3.9%, and has averaged 4% for the last two years, among historic lows and now on par with the nation — the state typically has a jobless rate higher than the U.S. rate. Other metrics are positive too: more people are rejoining the workforce and average weekly earnings are rising.

But inflation is a looming issue, hitting 9.1% in 2022 before falling to 3.5% in March. As a result, prices remain for food and many other consumer goods.  

Perhaps of more interest in Michigan is how both parties intend to deal with the prospect of inexpensive electric cars from China. Biden’s administration is considering a 27.5% tariff on the vehicles, which would not be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit. Trump has suggested he’d institute a 100% tariff on the vehicles.

Experts have long said the transition to electric cars will hurt auto-job heavy states like Michigan because electric cars require fewer parts — and fewer plants and workers to build those parts. A forecast by the Southeast Michigan Regional Council of Governments acknowledges the region could lose over 200,000 jobs by 2050 depending on when the transition occurs.

Biden and Democrats stance: Democrats say the economy is strong, pointing to 1.5 million in new construction and manufacturing jobs. They say the 26 months that the jobless rate has been below 4% is the longest ever, and that wages have risen faster than inflation. 

They also say two laws passed in 2022, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, will lead to more growth and help “onshore” some of the high-tech manufacturing that became a supply-chain nightmare during the pandemic.

On taxes, Biden’s 2025 funding proposal outlines spending cuts — and tax increases. According to the White House, the federal deficit would fall by $3 trillion by imposing a minimum 25% tax on the “unrealized income” of the very wealthy. Billion-dollar companies would see their rate jump from 15% to 21%. The idea: have the wealthiest 1% or 2% pay more to reduce the deficit and solidify Medicare and Social Security.

Trump and the Republicans stance: Republican lawmakers floated the idea of cutting the deficit by eliminating the Biden-backed Inflation Reduction Act which offered subsidies for buying electric cars and lowered prescription drug costs, including capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month for seniors.

Trump has proposed keeping the tax cuts and adding more tariffs on Chinese goods — 60% on all goods coming from the Asian giant, up from 12% now. It had been at 3% before the Trump administration quadrupled the rate in 2017.

Republicans say the economy has been waylaid by the economy, with Trump calling it “a country buster.” 

Trump has also assailed Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve Bank whose board sets key interest rates for the nation’s central bank. Trump claims interest rates are so high “people can’t buy homes” and as said he would “strongarm” Powell — whom he appointed in 2017 — to lower rates.

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The issue: 

The world’s average temperature has warmed 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1850s, and is projected to warm another several degrees by century’s end. The severity of warming will depend upon whether, and how quickly, society weans itself off the fossil fuels that drive climate change.

How it is important to Michigan: 

As a resource-rich, heavily-industrialized state surrounded by fresh water, Michigan is rarely unaffected by the classic jobs v. environment political tug-of-war.

For generations, the state’s economy has revolved around automotive and related manufacturing. While manufacturing jobs in Michigan have declined by nearly 290,000 since the turn of the millennium, a spate of environmental crises and expensive cleanups have made the state a poster child for the consequences of weakly-regulated industry.  

In Michigan, a warmer atmosphere is already causing more severe storms, worse mosquito and tick outbreaks, and risk to plants, fish and wildlife.  

On the flip side, the state’s northerly location and abundant fresh water make it a relative “climate haven,.”

As Michigan prepares for that future, it is struggling to clean up more than 26,000 contaminated sites left over from its industrial past. Ongoing air pollution in Detroit contributes to some of the nation’s highest asthma rates.

And the mining strongholds of the U.P. are experiencing a surge in mineral exploration to fuel the EV revolution, prompting concerns about related pollution.

Biden and Dems stance: 

Biden has referred to climate change as an “existential crisis,” and is attempting to  transition America from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The centerpiece of that effort is the Inflation Reduction Act, which funneled hundreds of billions of dollars into things like lead pipe removal, renewable energy infrastructure and the transition to electric vehicles.

Biden’s administration also used regulations to pursue its environmental agenda. Examples include the EPA’s recent decision to limit PFAS in drinking water and declare the chemicals “hazardous,” a first step toward suing polluters for cleanup.

His administration has also ratcheted down automotive emissions standards while offering tax credits to make electric vehicles more affordable, in keeping with Biden’s goal for half of U.S. new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030.

Trump and GOP stance: 

Trump has frequently downplayed the urgency of climate change, while vowing to reverse Biden’s climate and environmental policies.

During his presidency, the Trump administration rolled back more than 100 environmental regulations, arguing they were bad for businesses. Biden later reversed many of those policies. 

Trump has frequently argued Biden’s green energy push leaves the U.S. economy at a competitive disadvantage against China.

According to his campaign website, Trump would rescind Biden’s pro-green energy agenda, replacing it with a policy to “unleash American oil and natural gas production.” He would also exit the Paris Climate Accord, end renewable energy subsidies while expanding tax cuts for fossil fuels.

Trump and Biden appear partially aligned on one key issue: They both support keeping nuclear power in America’s energy mix.

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Foreign policy

The issue: After the 2021 withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the United States was not directly involved in a foreign conflict for the first time in 20 years. Now, wars in Ukraine, Gaza and ongoing tensions with China have dominated U.S. foreign policy. 

The United States has sent some $75 billion to Ukraine to support its war with Russia, and Israel has been the nation’s top recipient of foreign aid since 1946, receiving $3.3 billion per year to purchase U.S. military equipment.

The FBI deems China a “grave threat” to the United States because of “counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts,” and its efforts to “become the world’s greatest superpower through predatory lending and business practices, systematic theft of intellectual property and brazen cyber intrusions.”

How is it important to Michigan: Michigan is a diverse state that is home to 300,000 residents of Arab descent, 105,000 Jews, 39,000 Ukrainian-Americans and 40,000 residents of Chinese descent.

At least 10,000 workers in Michigan are employed by more than 200 Chinese companies, and Michigan-based automakers including Ford and General Motors have extensive business interests in China. China heavily subsidizes its own manufacturing, however, and imposes severe restrictions on American businesses operating in the nation.

Biden and Democrats stance: Biden and Democrats broadly support continued aid to Ukraine. 

They generally are in alignment with the president’s strategy of “managing competition” with China by fighting unfair trade practices with increased tariffs on some imports but continuing to do business with the superpower.

Democrats have traditionally supported Israel, but are increasingly divided on the war. A growing minority of House members wants to halt weapon sales to Israel, and the progressive wing of the party is demanding a ceasefire or opposes Israel’s invasion of Gaza following the Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel. 

Opposition to Biden’s policy on Israel led to an effort to vote “uncommitted” in the February presidential primary that netted more than 100,000 votes,  far more than protest votes in 2016 and 2020 but far less than in 2008.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, were the only Michigan Democrats to vote against $17 billion in defense aid for Israel and $9 billion for humanitarian aid in Gaza and elsewhere in April.

Trump and Republicans stance: Trump and most Republicans are steadfast in support of Israel and critical of Biden’s approach to China. 

As president, Trump imposed a series of tariffs on China as part of his “America First” economic policy and has promised to revoke its status as a most favored nation, which lowers trade barriers. Other Republicans are actively calling for regime change in China.

Republicans are more divided on a $60 billion aid package to Ukraine, as Rep. John James, R-Shelby Township, was only one of six GOP House members from Michigan to favor it. 

While Trump has criticized Biden’s handling of the war, he does not outright oppose aid but has spoken in favor of increased conditions on the support.

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Health care and drugs

The issue: Health care costs remain top-of-mind for many America. A nsnational poll, released by University of Michigan researchers May 2, found that cost of medical care, long-term care and medications remains a top worry for people 50 and older. Research has shown that drug prices in the United States are nearly double well-off countries. Prices rose for 4,200 drugs from 2022 to 2023, with 46% of them exceeding the rate of inflation.

How it is important to Michigan:  In Michigan, much of the health care debate recently has focused on the cost of medications, including the effort to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. In 2022, more than half of Michigan adults 50 and older worried they will not be able to afford prescription drugs over the next few years, and more than half said they have failed to fill a prescription because of cost, according to the Michigan Prescription Drug Survey by AARP Michigan.

That’s part of the larger concern about accessibility and costs of health care. 

About 9% of Michiganders reported having medical debt, according to an analysis by the California-based health care research organization, KFF. The result: Some Americans say they cut spending on other essentials or borrow money.

The Affordable Care Act, meanwhile, continues to impact millions of Michiganders, guaranteeing no-cost access to a variety of preventative services and protections for those with preexisting conditions, for example. More than 418,000 Michiganders now get their health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act, according to the Biden administration.

That’s the highest rate of marketplace enrollment since it launched in 2013. 

Biden and Democrats stance: Biden and fellow Democrats have continued to tout savings and protections under the Affordable Care Act and their work in tamping down drug costs.

Driven in large part by COVID-era policies, the numbers of uninsured Americans fell to the lowest point in history last year — to just more than 7% of the population. Of those, more than half are likely eligible for tax credits if they choose to get insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices with drug companies for certain drugs covered under Medicare’s drug coverage. 

Trump and Republicans stance: As president, Trump repeatedly blasted the Affordable Care Act but never presented an alternative. In 2020, his administration outlined plans to reduce drug costs to enable Americans to buy cheaper drugs from Canada and other nations. As president, his administration also oversaw the development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year, far sooner than most experts had predicted.

Trump has remained critical of drug prices, but it hasn’t been a big part of his campaign like it was in 2016 and 2020.

Read more from Bridge:


The issue: For years, the number of migrants seeking entry at the southern border to Mexico has increased and is now generally recognized as a full-fledged crisis. Many are fleeing war and poverty. In December 2023, border agents recorded a record 267,000 encounters with migrants at the Southwest border, up 40% from 2021.

How it is important to Michigan: Michigan is a border state itself and one of the United States' most important crossings. Illegal entries into the northern border are also increasing, as agents recorded 12,296 encounters in the Detroit region in 2023, up from 7,000 the previous year.

In Michigan, about 91,000 people are in the state without authorization, about 1.2% of the state’s population, according to the nonpartisan research firm Migration Policy Institute. Nationwide, about 10.5 million people live in the United States without legal authorization — double the number from 1995, but roughly the same as 2017, when Trump was president, according to the Pew Research Center.

The number of immigrants legally allowed to enter Michigan, including those granted green cards and refugee or asylum status, had not risen dramatically under Biden as of 2022, according to the most recent federal data available.

The debate intensified in Michigan following this year’s slaying of Grand Rapids resident Ruby Garcia. Authorities allege she was shot by Brandon Ortiz-Vite, a man she may have dated. He was in the U.S. illegally after previously being deported. 

It is Kent County’s second homicide in 10 months involving an immigrant. 

Biden and Democrats stance:  Biden has advocated for “a fair and orderly immigration system” that addresses longstanding border issues while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants. Since Biden took office, illegal border crossings have averaged about 2 million per year, the highest level in history, though crossings are down in 2024, according to the Washington Post. 

A bipartisan plan backed by Biden that aimed to curb illegal crossings by increasing the number of border agents, installing drug-detection machines and creating emergency protocols for border backlog collapsed in Congress after Trump and other conservatives criticized the deal

On April 29, Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador promised to stem the tide of illegal immigration, saying in a joint statement that they’d ordered their national security teams to “immediately implement concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings while protecting human rights.” 


Trump and Republicans stance: Trump has called for mass deportations and framed illegal immigration as a security and economic issue and existential threat to the United States.

Per his campaign website, Trump would end “catch-and-release” of migrants awaiting hearings in immigration court, restore his “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring prospective immigrants to wait across the border while their cases are decided and deputize the National Guard and local law enforcement to assist with deportations. 

Republicans have argued for stricter enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border and a ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” that don’t fully comply with U.S. immigration enforcement. Trump and his allies claim Garcia’s death is just one example of violence that occurs because of border policies. Research has shown that immigrants are statistically less likely to commit crimes, regardless of their legal status.

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