Harley-Davidson remains the most potent symbol of the America that had muscle cars, choppers and miniskirts; before multiculturalism, LGBTQ and fatal love diseases; before stupid wars; before soldiers started calling themselves war fighters; before cops thought they were commandos; when it was still a misdemeanor to punch a cop and the cops were more likely to punch you back and put you in a cell for the night than charge you. That America. You know the one everybody agreed was the greatest of all the English speaking nations: The America Donald Trump promises to resurrect.
Trump got elected because he was selling us somewhere back in our long ago. So the only surprise when at least five Harleys wound up parked on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday was that event took as long to occur as it did. Allegedly, Harley executives rode the bikes onto the White House grounds.
It was a feel good press event. Trump praised the Motor Company as, “a true American icon, one of the greats.”
“Your motorcycles have carried American service members in the war,” Trump said, “and they take care of our police officers.”
“You’ve given me tremendous support, your workers in particular.”
The devil was in the specifics which are less easily captured by a staged photo opportunity than by mere words.
Like, for example, the meeting between Harley executives and union leaders was originally scheduled to be held at the company’s Powertrain Operations plant in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Numerous local and national outlets including the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune reported that the visit was cancelled because a group called the Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump promised a protest outside the plant. Trump press secretary Sean Spicer said, “Look, it was easier for the executives to come here, considering the week and all of the activity that’s been going on.”
Most of the recent demonstrations are protests of the new President’s restrictions on immigration to the United States from the Third World. And that could have been potentially embarrassing for Harley at Menomonee Falls. When the motorcycle symbol of a preeminent America opened the plant, they layed off 125 American computer programmers and subcontracted their work to an Indian technical staffing company named Infosys. Layed off American workers who applied for jobs at the new Wisconsin office of Infosys claimed that South Asian workers were getting preferential treatment. The South Asians were imported to the United States with the aid of a something called an H1B visa. The visas allow American companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields – like computer programming.
During his campaign, Trump opposed the use of H1B visas, calling them a “cheap labor program.”
It has also been kind of a rough sales week for Harley. On Tuesday the company announced that sales were down again last year (to 262,221 bikes from 266,382 in 2015 and 270,726 in 2014. The same day Harley announced its dealers were still selling 2016 models.
But it would be great if Harley was successful. It would be great if it could symbolize what Trump says he is trying to accomplish. It looked successful yesterday on the White House lawn. It looked a model component in the rebuilding of America. It would also be great of that was true.