Donald Trump campaigned for president on a promise to Michigan auto workers that "If I'm elected, you won't lose one plant, you'll have plants coming into this country, you're going to have jobs again, you won't lose one plant, I promise you that."
Barely two years later, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, General Motors announced that it was closing major auto plants in Michigan, as well as Ohio and Maryland. Thousands of jobs are being cut, and the future for many of the remaining plants suddenly seems very insecure.
Trump, the candidate who claimed in 2016 that his Democratic rival "hasn't got a clue" about how to maintain American manufacturing, is now exposed as the president who really hasn't got a clue about keeping plants open and keeping workers on the job.
The heartbreaking reality is that Trump was never going to be a good president for the American workers who build cars and other vehicles in the nation's historic factory towns. A reality-TV star with almost no understanding of the complex and demanding circumstance of domestic manufacturing in an age of globalization and automation, Trump peddled a combination of bumper-sticker slogans and past-their-expiration-date policy proposals on the 2016 campaign trail. That was enough to win narrow victories in a number of manufacturing states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin -- that were hurting after years of bipartisan neglect. It is true that many voters who felt they had been let down by both parties took a chance on Trump. But Trump assumed the presidency without an agenda, and he embraced the schemes of a Congress led by two of the worst players in Washington on manufacturing issues: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
It was only a matter of time before Trump's facade of empty rhetoric and false premises crashed into the reality of 21st-century economics and technological change. The midterm elections revealed the extent to which confidence in Trump had already crumbled. In the three Great Lakes states that gave Trump the presidency by delivering the Electoral College votes he had needed two years ago -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- voters handed victories to the Democrats in three gubernatorial races and three US Senate races.