It is rare that so many elements of an American president’s political identity collide in one place.

Friday’s walkout by the United Auto Workers is a real-time test of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda: his call for higher wages for the middle class, his unequivocal pro-union stance, his willingness to imagine the future of electric vehicles for automakers – centered in Michigan, a state he must win in 2024 to keep the Oval Office.

The targeted strike by some members of the 150,000-member union aims to disrupt one of America’s oldest industries, at a time when Mr. Biden is sharpening the contrast between what his rivals and allies call “Bidenomics” and the Republican plan which, according to the president, is a darker version of the economy whose fallout mainly benefits the rich.

“Their plan – MAGAnomics – is more extreme than anything America has seen so far,” Mr. Biden said Thursday, hours before the union called the strike.

At the White House, Joe Biden’s aides believe the outcome of the battle between automakers and their workers will highlight many of the president’s arguments about the need to reduce income inequality, the benefits of empowering employees and increasing profits for companies such as car manufacturers, which allows them to increase wages.

“We need to rebuild the middle class and make things here again,” said Eddie Vale, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked for years for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

“If this is not handled properly, there are political risks,” Mr. Vale said, adding: “Ultimately, Mr. Biden will be able to play the role of honest broker in that case. »

These risks were already beginning to manifest themselves on Friday morning. In a scathing statement, the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce placed responsibility for the strike on Mr. Biden.

“The United Auto Workers (UAW) strike and, indeed, the ‘summer of strikes’ are a natural result of the entire Biden administration’s approach to promoting unionization at all costs.” , said Suzanne P. Clark, president of the country’s largest business lobby group.

She predicted the strike would have “considerable negative consequences for [the] economy.”

Unlike previous strikes by railroad workers or air traffic controllers, Mr. Biden has no special legal authority to intervene. In the current situation, he is not in control of the situation, but he is not a mere observer either.

Just before the strike vote, Mr. Biden called UAW President Shawn Fain and auto company executives. According to aides, the president called on the parties to ensure that workers get a fair contract and he urged both sides to stay at the negotiating table.

This does not happen.

How Mr Biden handles the situation could have a significant impact on his re-election hopes. According to a CNN poll earlier this month, only 39 percent of respondents approved of the job he is doing as president and 58 percent said his policies have made the U.S. economy worse rather than better. .

The fact that the strike is taking place in Michigan is also decisive. Mr. Biden won the state over former President Donald Trump with just over 50 percent of the vote. Without the state’s 16 electoral votes, Mr. Biden would not have beaten his rival.

However, the president is steadfast on policies relating to unions and the environment. In a speech in Philadelphia on Labor Day, Mr. Biden renewed both his vision of what he called a “transition to a future of electric vehicles built in America” ​​— which , he believes, will protect jobs – and his unwavering faith in unions.

“You know, there are a lot of politicians in this country who don’t know how to pronounce the word ‘union,’” he said. They talk about work, but they don’t say “union”. It’s “union”. I am proud to say “union”. I am proud to be the most pro-union president. »