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Autoworker Tells CNN the Blunt Truth About Trump That They Still Don't Understand

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The general media line in the Trump-Mexico trade kerfuffle was that autoworkers were going to among be the Americans most hurt if the president imposed a 5 percent tariff on our southern neighbors if they didn’t start enforcing immigration laws and stop the flow of illegal immigrants from their Central American neighbors.

Mexico apparently got the message: Late Friday, the president announced that the proposed tariffs wouldn’t be enacted because of an agreement with the Obrador government which “has agreed to take strong measures” to stem illegal migration, according to The Associated Press.

Before that, however, CNN found out that not all auto workers necessarily believed the tariffs would have been apocalyptic. In fact, one Chrysler mechanic the network talked to said he was pleased there was “somebody would actually fight for us” in the White House.

So first, a quick recap of what’s going on: In late May, Trump announced that he was going to slap a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods if they didn’t do more to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

The tariffs would be effective starting June 10 and would increase by 5 percent for every month there wasn’t a deal, reaching a maximum of 25 percent.

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Automakers were probably going to get hit the hardest if the tariffs went into effect; cars and car parts are our two biggest imports from Mexico. The general belief, at least among those who were reporting on the showdown, was that this was going to be ruinous to the industry — and that those in the industry would be against it.

However, when CNN interviewed Chrysler mechanic Chris Vitale, what it found instead was a man who was for the proposed tariffs — if they were being used as a negotiating tool with the Obrador government.

In a piece that aired Wednesday, CNN’s Erica Hill said that “after 25 years in the volatile industry, Vitale believes they can weather a storm. And he’s confident this president has his back.”

“The idea that somebody would actually fight for us after being told for years and years, ‘Oh, you don’t matter. You’re going the way of the buggy whip,'” he said.

Do you agree with Trump's negotiating strategy with Mexico?

“He’s won legions of fans for — just for doing that.”

Video below:

Vitale was contrasted with Sean Crawford, a GM auto worker who thought that the tariffs would doom the industry.

“If you raise the price of these products, less people are going to buy them. It’s just common-sense economics. And if less people buy these products that I’m building every day, then they’re going to have to lay people off,” he said.

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Vitale, a two-time Obama voter, said he felt Trump “wouldn’t have to resort to that if we had a Senate and a Congress that would enforce the borders.”

“People have endured much worse than expensive avocados or a few more dollars here and there, you know, to protect the country,” Vitale said. “And I think that this is valid, what he’s doing.”

Keep in mind that, as the events of Friday demonstrated, these weren’t tariffs aimed at protectionism. They were a negotiating tool, something that has been “indefinitely suspended” because the Obrador government has apparently agreed to “stem the tide of Migration through Mexico, and to our Southern Border. This is being done to greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States.”

People don’t have to deal with “expensive avocados” and that’s a good thing. Tariffs as a way to boost domestic industry are inherently ruinous. However, what the Trump administration has shown is that they can be an effective negotiating tool, particularly when you’re at the helm of the world’s largest economy.

Now, whether or not this tack works against China or other nations is another issue entirely. At least when it comes to Mexico, however, the president seems to have won — and the promised apocalypse has been anything but.

Yet, the fact that there are people who support these kinds of policies continually stuns the folks at CNN.

Is Vitale representative of an entire industry? No, of course not. But one imagines that the media was surprised to find people like Vitale.

I imagine they’d be surprised, too, to learn that there are a lot more like him.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture