Reactions differ on Trump

Published 9:49 am Thursday, January 19, 2017

In rural Minnesota, hopes are going high

By John Enger

Before the election, there was no mystery about how Bill Batchelder planned to vote.

Email newsletter signup

He had put up the largest pro-Donald Trump sign in 50 miles on a piece of land right by the Bemidji airport.

Batchelder, who runs the Bemidji Woolen Mills company commissioned the sign before the election along with a few friends. It wasn’t alone.

“Have you been on Highway 2 between Duluth and Grand Forks?” Batchelder said before the election. “You can count the Hillary Clinton signs on one hand. There’s hundreds of Trump’s signs.”

Minnesota didn’t go for President-elect Donald Trump, but many of its rural counties did. As Trump takes office, supporters in northern part of the state have high hopes for the 45th president.

Now after the election, Batchelder said he’s still surprised by Trump’s national win. But he’s optimistic, and said he hopes the new president will inspire a return to an older style of patriotism.

“Just work a little harder for your country,” he said. “Ask for a little less.”

He hopes Trump will build up immigration law, if not an actual wall, and he hopes he’ll cut taxes and regulations on small businesses.

Mainly though, Batchelder hopes Trump will make health insurance more affordable for him and a handful of his most senior employees. His company plan expired at the end of last year. He’s waiting to see what happens to the Affordable Care Act before buying a new one.

“I’m walking on egg crate right now,” he said. “I’m holding my hands, saying a prayer that something is going to happen.”

Beltrami, Koochiching and Itasca counties all supported Barack Obama four years ago. This time, they counties all swung for Trump by wide margins.

Former Beltrami County commissioner Joe Vene said it’s not really a shift at all.

Vene is a lifelong independent. He supported Obama last time around and said he wanted change. In November, he voted for Trump for the same reason.

That’s what the whole region voted for, Vene said.

“I think they’re looking for change,” he said. “Though they may not necessarily know what that change will materialize as.”

When Vene voted for Obama, rural northern Minnesota was lagging far behind the rest of the state economy. Unemployment in Beltrami County was nearing 8 percent. Itasca reached 10 percent.

During the Obama years, the local economy improved. Beltrami County is under 5 percent unemployment, and the state Department of Employment and Economic Development says more rural Minnesotans are entering the middle class.

But it’s not improving fast enough everyone, Vene said. The area has lost 30 percent of its manufacturing base in the last decade.

Vene hopes the new administration will energize business, and bring industry back to northern Minnesota.

He was disappointed by the change the last administration brought. So was Rod Anderson, a Bemidji butcher who still runs a small shop at age 76.

Anderson is used to political disappointments. Whoever he votes for, he said, his taxes stay high.

“Before I got into business for myself I was a Democrat,” Anderson said. “Then I got into business and I find out the Democrats were trying to make the business people pay all the taxes.”

Anderson had a bout with stomach cancer 17 years ago. Ever since then, he said, getting health insurance has been expensive and confusing.

He voted for Trump, but he almost didn’t live to see the inauguration. A few weeks ago Anderson had a brain bleed. Surgeons in Fargo had to drill two holes in his skull to relieve the pressure — a procedure he said will cost him thousands.

Anderson’s hopes are high for Trump. He hopes that this time, things will get better.

Mary Merrill, a 67-year-old Minneapolis native, has fears of the Trump administration. Laura Yuen/MPR News

Mary Merrill, a 67-year-old Minneapolis native, has fears of the Trump administration. Laura Yuen/MPR News

Opponents: ‘I’m worried, but I’m praying for the best’

By Laura Yuen

As the nation gets ready to swear in a new president Friday, everyday Minnesotans who opposed Donald Trump are preparing for his inauguration — and for the next four years.

Whether it’s through acts of resistance or moments of prayer, they’re coming to terms with a President Trump.

Nowhere is the anxiety felt more than in Minnesota’s central cities. Voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties chose Hillary Clinton over Trump by margins of 35 percentage points or more.

High hopes for President Trump

“I’m worried, but I’m praying for the best,” said Mary Merrill, a 67-year-old Minneapolis native who was one of thousands who attended the annual MLK Holiday Breakfast at the city’s convention center Monday. “I’m working hard to do what I can in my small corner of the universe to say, ‘We’ve faced worse times than this.’”

Her fears extend not only to how Trump will treat people of color and women but how his rhetoric, which Merrill views as reckless, will affect the rest of the globe, from foreign policy to the environment.

But now, she said, it’s time for people like her to get work, start engaging people who supported Trump and try to find some common ground.

“I think this election of Donald Trump says a lot more about us as a country, us as a people,” she said. “I think we need to have a dialogue, reacquaint ourselves as Americans, as a nation.”

Along a picturesque stretch of Minnehaha Creek, Rabbi Michael Latz was getting ready for a Friday night Shabbat service at Shir Tikvah Congregation.

While it’s not an “anti-Trump” service, Latz does call it an act of “faithful resistance” that happens to fall on the day Trump is sworn in.

He said it will draw heavily from this week’s Torah reading. Jews around the world will dive into the beginning of the book of Exodus, which details the suffering of Israelites under a new ruler in Egypt.

“It’s a story about how we as moral people face leaders who don’t honor human dignity,” Latz said. “And sadly, for the first time in my lifetime, we have a president-elect who traffics in bigotry and indecency. … Our task as people of faith is to hold our public leaders accountable and to remind them that they serve us.”

Latz said he worries how repealing Obamacare would affect the sick and uninsured, and what Trump’s rhetoric signals for the rights of transgender people and immigrants.

Others are joining in on the resistance movement, and they see Trump’s rise as a way to galvanize voters and political activists.

Shiranthi Goonathilaka, a 22-year-old organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change in north Minneapolis, is planning about 20 “political-education house parties” on a single night next month.

The party-goers will discuss what Trump’s term will mean for people who suddenly feel on the margins.

“For a lot of folks who didn’t see themselves on the front line of any social-justice movement, Trump now as our president is showing them they’re at risk for being who they are, whether that’s your gender, your ethnicity, or race,” she said.

St. Paul resident James Cross, an organizer with Native Lives Matter, said he’s trying to keep an open mind about the new president. Cross said he’s been praying a lot lately that Trump’s divisive speech on the campaign trail was not genuine.

“I’m just hoping that it’s not in him,” Cross said. “I’m hoping his Creator will open his eyes and open his heart to be peaceful, and understand that America needs a good leader — not somebody who’s putting everybody down.”

But that won’t stop Cross from marching Friday afternoon in Minneapolis in a massive Inauguration Day protest. It’ll start at 2 p.m. on Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue and end with a large rally at City Hall.

And on Saturday, organizers of a women’s march to the state Capitol are expecting 20,000 demonstrators.