Trump and anti-Trump Michiganders meet: A photo story

SLIDESHOW: They came to the Henry Center in Lansing as strangers, but they didn’t stay that way for long. Four voted for Trump, four for Clinton, and two didn’t vote. A year after an election divided them, they were looking for a chance to understand the other side. Even before the session began, conservatives Cynthia Shafer of Harbor Springs and John Hulett of Ionia County were yucking it up. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Ten Michigan residents took their seats at 9 a.m. one recent Saturday for a three-hour session exploring their political differences and commonalities. There was coffee, donuts, a lot of laughs and a few tears. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Conservative Grand Rapids businessman Don Finelli shows liberal East Lansing communications specialist Lisa King a video he shot of himself while driving 130 miles per hour on the way to the event, leaving King feeling a bit unsettled. “If I could have a beer,” said King, who is expecting her third child, “I think Don would have a lot of stories to tell.” (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Donald Trump voters, on the left, talk about their choice for president to participants who didn’t vote for Trump, on the right. Asked if anyone would switch sides a year later, no one moved. The laughing and small-talk stopped. Shoulders straightened. It was the widest the divide felt all morning. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford).

During a break, undocumented immigrant Wilfredo Diaz and conservative Cynthia Shafer had a heart-to-heart about his fears of deportation. Diaz said he came to the gathering to show conservatives he is “not a criminal.” Shafer was one of several Trump voters who pulled Diaz aside to talk about his immigration status. “I don’t think any conservatives want people like you to be deported,” Shafer told Diaz.  (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

All the participants were asked the same questions in interviews in the months leading up to the event. While they were divided by politics, there was near unanimity on what matters most, in a discussion led by Bridge Magazine’s Ron French. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Clinton voters Jim Leija of Ann Arbor and Marlando Wade of Flint get acquainted. Both wanted to talk to Trump voters about life in their bubbles. Wade hasn’t taken a shower in his home for more than two years because of the water disaster in Flint, and Leija is a gay man of color. Wade came away from the morning feeling shared respect for others, while Leija was frustrated that tough issues weren’t addressed head-on. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

“How will we all get along?” was one of the big questions group members had coming in to the meeting. The answer: very well. “Everyone here is super-personable,” said conservative Tom Herbon of Troy. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Participants discussed what issues liberals and conservatives could work on together. One possibility: the environment. But some conservatives felt the environment is already great. “It’s all perception,” Herbon said. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Conservative Christian John Hulett of Ionia County breaks down while talking about the relationship with his brother that has been lost because of politics. “We never talk anymore,” Hulett said. “It really breaks my heart, because we’ve been separated so long.” (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

Before the session began, some participants wondered if the morning would devolve into shouting or fisticuffs. Instead, the group focused on what members had in common. “Differences become divides when communication ends,” said Aric Knuth, an English instructor at the University of Michigan. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

It was all smiles at the end of the event when the Michigan Divided project participants gathered for a group photo. Most felt the meeting helped them understand each other, though a few said later that some differences were papered over. From left to right: Marlando Wade, Don Finelli, Tom Herbon, Lisa King, Aric Knuth, Cynthia Shafer, Jim Leija, John Hulett, Wilfredo Diaz, Ben Shomo. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)

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Comments

Steve Williams
Tue, 11/07/2017 - 9:13am

The title says it all. "Trump and Anti-Trump ..." not "Trump and Hillary ..." Bridge Magazine, your slip is showing.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 11/07/2017 - 8:06pm

There were actually more than those two, but your point is certainly valid.

Ron French
Wed, 11/08/2017 - 10:09am

Steve, the headline couldn't say "Trump and Hillary" because three of our participants chose not to vote for either. We could have said Hillary and anti-Hillary," but we chose to go with the person who won the election. In this case (and in most cases), the headline actually doesn't say it all; if you look at the story, people are identified by who they voted for or by the fact they didn't vote; four Trump, four Clinton, three non-votes. Thanks for reading. 

Ed
Wed, 11/08/2017 - 2:26pm

We as a country could get more improvements for our families if we would listen to each other instead of violent protesting.

Kim
Sat, 11/11/2017 - 9:02am

The level of ignorance displayed by the conservatives in this article to the very real issues facing Dreamers, Muslims, LGBT people and people of color was pretty amazing to me. Elections have consequences, just because you are doing fine doesn't mean that other people aren't hurting, and you should think about that when you go to the polls.