Who are auto workers and enthusiasts voting for?

One might assume that after the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler by the Obama administration, that auto enthusiasts and workers, especially of domestic brands, would overwhelmingly be supporting President Obama.

Traditionally, men and women who make their living from the auto business have favored Republicans. Though it was Republican Richard Nixon who created the EPA, Democrats in congress and in the media have often pointed fingers at America’s big three for failing to be more like Honda and Toyota, building trucks and SUVs instead of politically correct hybrids.

Of course, this criticism ignores the fact that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan build and sell the Tundra, Ridgeline, and Titan in America, respectively, which failed to achieve projected sales due to stiff competition from Chrysler, Ford, and GM. Additionally, the Japanese have expanded far into the SUV market with highly competent three-row behemoths like the Infiniti QX56 and the Toyota Sequoia, not to mention the long-running and globally popular Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX.

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While Japan should be commended for building quality trucks and SUVs that suit American tastes, it certainly makes them no less culpable for the politically incorrect “crime” of building large, comfortable, and safe multipurpose trucks.

Liberal journalists like Michelle Maynard blamed Detroit’s predicament on its product mix rather than multiple generations of burdensome legacy costs. Foreign-owned auto plants that have opened in the US, particularly in the south, are immune to the lure of the UAW, with employees preferring to deal directly with management. After witnessing the decline of their domestic competitors at the hands of overly aggressive union leaders, who could blame them?

Today, Democrats who praise the president for saving Detroit are part of the same crowd who called for the downfall of America’s “filthy” auto industry just a decade earlier. I have a hard time believing that the Prius-driving schmucks sporting Obama/Biden stickers were as supportive of Michigan as they claim to be now. Before 2008, they smugly referred to the industrial midwest as “flyover states.”

These are the people who regulated, strangled, and berated Detroit into a corner and now claim full credit for its rescue. It’s like dating someone who beats the shit out of you but pitches in for your cable bill.

Not all Democrats are alike, obviously, and surprisingly, President Jimmy Carter was an exception to the norm, delaying increases in safety and emission regulations to help Detroit catch up to the fuel crisis… the crisis caused in part by America’s expansive foreign policy.

Of course, Detroit does indeed deserve its own share of blame. The relentless focus on light trucks came at the expense of car development, catching them off guard as fuel prices suddenly rose. Part of this was due to the CAFE loophole that counted the fuel consumption of light trucks separately from cars, enabling manufacturers to build trucks that were more in line with full size sedans and wagons that Americans traditionally preferred, but with the addition of all-weather capability and a commanding driving position.

The 1995 Chevy Caprice Wagon was capable of 23mpg while the 1995 Ford Explorer 44 was good for 18mpg at most. Additionally, the Caprice was capable of carrying eight passengers compared to the Explorer’s five and offered greater cargo capacity. Unfortunately due to CAFE regulations and the resulting emergence of the profitable SUV, low demand for large cars sent GM’s full-size offerings to the history books.

The policies we trusted had a detrimental, unexpected effect.

Republicans are culpable as well. Though Mitt Romney was opposed to the sweetheart deal that the UAW received during the Obama administration’s bailouts of Chrysler and GM, he was still open to providing government assistance after a normal, managed bankruptcy was completed. So much for conservatives being advocates of free markets.

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Most significantly, however, is the way car guys tend to have an independent streak. Driving, owning, and maintaining your own vehicle is like having a pair of running legs. Car guys prefer to have the ability to stand up and run around on their own than wait on a corner for the government to pick them up and cart them around.

For the most dedicated auto enthusiasts, the automobile is more than a means of conveyance. It’s hands, heart, and soul, a part of who you are and how you assert yourself to the world. As a result, their politics tend to be similarly aligned, favoring free markets, small government, and a country that values individualism and independence.

For proof of this, look at the data provided by OpenSecrets.org. Of the nearly three million dollars donated to campaigns by people in the auto industry or related PACs, 85% went to Mitt Romney. Most of Romney’s support has been from car dealers, some of whom believe President Obama closed dealerships with strong Republican ties. Though that wasn’t explicitly true, more rural dealers than necessary were closed, reducing a steady base that GM and Chrysler had in markets that were mostly untouched by foreign competitors.

Despite clear allegiances among motoring enthusiasts, not all gearheads are alike. I will be voting for Gary Johnson on Tuesday, November 6, here in Missouri.

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