An election. An inauguration. A divided state.

Mariam Charara watches the inauguration at her home in Dearborn

Mariam Charara, a Muslim mother living in Dearborn, shows her concern as she listens to the man who has threatened to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. (Photo by Brian Widdis)

About this project

One is a retired engineer who believed Hillary Clinton would be “the end of the America as we know it.” Another is a poetry teacher who in “conspiratorial moments” after Donald Trump’s election, worried about prison work camps. There’s the U.P. family that stocked up on ammunition, believing Clinton would impose harsh gun control, and the college-educated woman who, in a fleeting bit of panic, considered buying extra birth control before Trump took office.

The 2016 presidential election exposed deepening fault lines in Michigan. Bridge is following 11 people and families throughout 2017 in an effort to pierce the bubbles in which they, and the rest of us, live. Our reporters and photojournalists will check in on these very different residents throughout the year to see how their aspirations or fears from the election play out, and to learn more about their hopes — some shared, some not — for a state they all love. 

Learn more about the Michigan Divided project

Dave and Sherri Frohriep spent the first day of the Trump presidency like they had too many days of the Obama presidency – unemployed.

They didn’t watch the inauguration of the man they and many of their U.P. neighbors voted for. They can’t afford satellite TV, and their home in Luce County is too remote to pick up stations with rabbit ears. Instead, Dave Frohriep stacked wood in the basement of their home to feed their wood-burning furnace. A storm was blowing in, so he shoveled snow against the side of the house to shield it from the wind.

Frohriep family

The Frohriep family (Photo by John Russell)

In his inauguration speech, Donald Trump vowed “you will never be ignored again.” The Frohrieps hope so. In this snow-covered slab of Michigan bordering Lake Superior, where incomes are low and teen pregnancy rates high, residents feel like the world has passed them by. Trump promised to shake things up, and that sounded good to Dave and Sherri, who, along with two children, a rescue dog and a 250-pound rescue pig, survive on less than $20,000 a year.

“He said he’d bring back jobs,” Dave Frohriep said. “I hope so. That’s what everybody needs here.”

Almost 400 miles south, another low-income family was preparing for a new president from a decidedly different perspective. Mariam Charara spent Inauguration Day chasing her toddler, Madina, through their Dearborn home. Her husband, Hussein, was in his first weeks of student teaching at Edsel Ford High School, and Madina stood at the living-room window looking for her “baba,” who likes to wave at her there when he’s outside.

Mariam and Hussein limit screen time for Madina. But on Friday the TV was on, tuned to the news, where the candidate who made terrorism perpetrated by Muslims a focus of his campaign was being sworn in as the 45th president. Mariam, a Muslim who found that rhetoric unnerving, was watching in the modern fashion: one eye on the TV, the other on Twitter.

Mariam Charara watches the inauguration at her home in Dearborn

Mariam Charara watches the inauguration with her daughter at their home in Dearborn. (Photo by Brian Widdis)

“We are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people,” Trump said. “Who is you, though?” Mariam retorted from the couch. “Who is you?”

“I will never let you down,” Trump proclaimed from the podium. “You already did,” said Mariam.

“When you open your heart to patriotism,” the new President said, “there is no room for prejudice.”

Mariam Charara responded with a derisive sound that was half guffaw, half snort.

Trump’s speech received a warmer reaction in a modest bungalow in Holland, where Ron Price had the TV tuned to Fox News while his laptop streamed live video from right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

The 27-year-old reads mainstream media, but gives alternate web sites equal credibility.

Ron Price watches inauguration

Ron Price of Holland reads the Bible and Breitbart, and believes Trump became president through divine intervention. (Photo by Pat Shellenbarger)

“The average citizen doesn’t care about this kind of stuff,” he said, tossing a copy of The Wall Street Journal onto the coffee table next to two Bibles. “The average citizen cares about football, the Golden Globes,” stuff like that.

For those who get their news from mainstream news organizations, and for those who don’t, the country and indeed the state can look very different. The former may see a strong nation with undeniable problems, but rising employment and job growth. But for the latter, Trump’s description of “American carnage” in his inaugural address speaks to the unease they’ve felt in their own lives for far too long. While progressives touted the righteousness of Black Lives Matter, for example, Breitbart covered the surge in gun deaths in inner-city Chicago, accusing more mainstream outlets of staying “largely mum on the soaring death rate.”

One example of the news source gulf: Price believes that Clinton campaign manager John Podesta may be a Satanist, a claim some on the right drew from passages in hacked emails that were exposed in Wikileaks. (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included a link to an article tying Podesta to Satanism. Price asked that the link be changed to a source which he said he used in part to establish his conclusion that Podesta may be a Satanist)

About 650 miles away in Washington on Inauguration Day, Tom Herbon was watching the speech from row ZZ. He and his wife woke up at 3:15 a.m. in a Gettysburg hotel, packing peanut butter sandwiches and fruit cups and heading out the door to make it to the National Mall in time to claim a good spot. The retired IBM engineer always votes Republican, but for him, Trump was special.

Herbon at inauguration

Tom and Janet Herbon of Troy are all smiles as they watch the candidate they supported sworn in as president Friday in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

“His speech was spot-on,” Herbon said Friday night after returning to Gettysburg, the closest reasonably-priced hotel he could find. He pointed to one phrase in Trump’s inaugural speech that thrilled him:

“He said ‘America first,’” Herbon said. “Who’s going to disagree with that?”

Well, two live in Ann Arbor, and with five academic degrees between them, they found the historic roots of the phrase “America first” chilling.

The America First slogan was connected with anti-Semitism before World War II. “That power, even if it’s not intended, still exists,” said Aric Knuth, who teaches poetry and fiction writing.

“America first” sounds good, but “there’s something very troubling when we don’t acknowledge that this language once had the power to manifest and encourage a dark moment in American history,” Knuth said.

It’s a slogan likely to drive the wedge deeper between elites – the highly educated, mostly liberal academics clustered in communities like Ann Arbor and East Lansing – and Michigan’s still struggling blue-collar middle class, who have seen jobs leave the U.S. and often find themselves working longer hours for less pay.

At the same time an exhilarated Herbon was returning to his Gettysburg hotel Friday night, Knuth and his husband Jim Leija were a million miles away, culturally, watching a performance by the Meredith Monk Vocal Ensemble – an experimental “ecological art work” of dance and vocal sounds called “On Behalf of Nature.” The couple, who both work at the University of Michigan, spent Friday trying to avoid news of the inauguration. They both voted for Clinton, and were worried what Trump could mean for minority and LGBT rights.

In the lobby afterward, Knuth said the performance, “weird” even for him, made him think about the growing gulf between people, a gulf highlighted by the presidential election but that expands far beyond politics.

“This is not the kind of event that Trump supporters would like,” Knuth said, much as Clinton voters were turned off by the new president’s nationalistic inauguration speech.

Cynthia Shafer was watching television at 3 a.m. on inauguration day from her home in Harbor Springs – not because she couldn’t wait to see Trump sworn in, but because she had undergone a minor operation the previous day and was awake on painkillers.

Shafer watches inauguration

Cynthia Shafer, a Trump supporter, reacts to Friday’s inaugural speech in her Harbor Springs home. (Photo by John Russell)

The dinner she was to host that night for a dozen other Trump supporters (all of whom had been with her on election night) had been cancelled as she recovered from surgery. Her “Make America Great Again” t-shirt, “Build the Wall” button, Trump bobblehead doll, stars and stripes tablecloth, and “Drain the Swamp” cheese dip would have to re-emerge the following week.

As the sun rose, Shafer, lucid but sleepy, wrapped herself in a red shawl and cuddled on the sofa next to Lady, her teacup Yorkie, to watch the inauguration, frantically texting her daughter and Googling to find out who had designed Melania’s coat (Ralph Lauren).

Shafer is on one side of a stark dividing line: the reaction among women to Trump’s sometimes crude behavior toward women.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass about that tape with Billy Bush (in which Trump talked about grabbing a woman by the genitals). I got hit on all the time in my job in the corporate world.”

Lisa King is on the other side of that dividing line. A lifelong Democrat, the 34-year-old from East Lansing had not planned to watch the inauguration. Curiosity led her to turn on the TV, and she immediately regretted it. “I was disgusted,” she said. “He’s always me-first.”

Lisa King at the Women's March in Lansing

Lisa King of East Lansing attends a women’s march rally Saturday at the state capitol in Lansing. (Photo by Brian Widdis)

By the following afternoon, disgust had turned to determination. On social media, King tracked friends attending the women’s protest march in Washington, D.C., while she met up with other friends who’d gathered in Lansing for a similar rally at the state Capitol. Wearing a pink crochet hat, she stood in the middle of a crowd estimated at 8,000, cheering and waving a sign that read “Nasty Women Keep Fighting.”

“Standing here right now, looking at the capitol, around all these people who feel like I do, I’m really inspired,” said King.

The mother of two young children has become more involved politically since the election, writing letters and making phone calls to legislators on her support for the Affordable Care Act and her opposition to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education.

As Trump took the oath of office, Wilfredo Diaz was pulling up at a relative’s house in Delaware. He’d driven all night from his suburban Grand Rapids home in his 2008 BMW. He kept the radio off, too depressed to listen to what the new president was saying, afraid his life was about to change, and not in the way he had hoped.

Diaz, 22, is a one of more than 700,000 “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. as children who were granted a reprieve from deportation by an executive order signed by Obama. Trump has vowed to repeal the order. Diaz’s cousin and her boyfriend, who made the trip with him, are also undocumented immigrants.

After Trump was elected, a co-worker joked to Diaz, “We’re going to send you back.”

“I don’t laugh,” Diaz recalled. “I just look at him. ”

For Diaz and immigrants like him, the election is more than a debate over social issues or economic policy. People like him have been attacked as hurting the country he calls home. Since the election, Diaz has been saving as much money as he can — something for him and his family to live on if they are deported.

“It’s more frightening now that he’s president,” Diaz said. “Are his first decisions going to affect me and my family? He can do a whole, 180-degree change in my life.”

On Friday morning, 72-year-old John Hulett was running errands near his Eaton County home trying to find time to watch Trump’s inauguration. While waiting on appointments, he plugged in ear buds and watched bits and pieces of the inauguration ceremony on his phone. The images on the screen were small, but the Evangelical Christian saw big changes.

“You could just feel the surge of patriotism and the love of America through the crowd,” Hulett said. “It confirmed everything I think about (Trump). He resonates a sense of hope.”

Hulett and his wife prayed and read the Bible to make a decision about who to vote for. But he also knows there are almost 10 million people in Michigan saying different prayers for different problems, who look at the same man giving the same speech in Washington, D.C., and envision starkly different futures.

“Look at the backdrop of the inauguration. Those buildings, those are ours.”

“We own that,” Hulett said. “We have a new representative, but that doesn’t take away from who we are. In four or eight years, something will change again. That’s why we have our 45th president and not just one dictator. That’s America.”

The fog of politics

The Herbons checked out of their Gettysburg hotel Saturday morning, carefully packing their inauguration tickets as mementos. They set their GPS for their Michigan home, clicked an option to avoid toll roads, and steered their 17-year-old minivan into the early morning fog, confident of the direction they were headed.

It was foggy in Ann Arbor, too, when Aric Knuth came down the stairs Saturday morning. At his computer, he typed an email to a journalist. He’d been thinking about the connections between the experimental dance performance he and Jim had seen the night before, and the growing gulf between people highlighted by the election.

Like the dance performance, sometimes the meaning of things isn’t immediately apparent, he wrote. “If you’re too quick to assume what something means, you won’t ask questions. And I, for one, think there are important questions.”

He looked out his front window at the fog, unable to see what lie ahead.

This story was written by Ron French and reported by Ron French, Nancy Derringer, Pat Shellenbarger and Jacob Wheeler.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:59am

Divided America? More like everyone expecting government for them America. No President or any other politician can fix the problems. It starts with you as an individual. Do you really need that pack of cigarettes? Do you really need to go to a bar and drink after work because you've had a long day and you need alcohol to relax you? Are there healthier choices for dinner other than fast food restaurants? Can you take some classes to help you find a job in another field? Do you read books on how to better yourself or do you spend all day watching trash TV shows that lower your IQ? How much time do you waste playing video games? Do you seek spiritual growth and attend church services even though your ego says that you don't need spiritual health? Do you spend quality time with your kids teaching them strong morals? These are all things that you as an individual must look at. Trump, Hillary, Obama, and no other politician can fix your problems. You have to take action and fix the person that you see in the mirror before you'll start seeing any changes for the better.

Emily Thompson
Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:57pm

I am extremely disappointed in the selection of opinions represented here. You've chosen to follow and (give a voice to) 5 Trump voters and 4 non-Trump voters, but of the non-Trump voters only 2 voted for Clinton. Given Trump's slim margin of victory, you should have included 1-2 more Clinton voters in the mix. Also absent are African Americans and Detroiters, and progressive young people. Instead, Ron Price is the voice of Michigan's under 30 crowd I would have expected more thoughtful choices from Bridge Magazine.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:51am

Three big cheers! We will all be better off when we realize that our personal happiness and well being has far less to do with who's president and what government program is going to be dreamt up than what we make of our own situation. So Hillary supporters, get over it. Of course maybe that explains the gulf between the two philosophies of man and state?

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 4:31pm

I think most of us are existing in isolated bubbles of like minded individuals, only listening to each other or the talking heads or on-line blogs that reinforce our own ideas and beliefs. There is not enough communication and exchange between contrasting groups. I think our politics is mirroring this isolation and divide. There seems to be no bridge to make dialogue, negotiation or comprise possible. I can relate to some of the individuals featured in this story but not to others. That's in part because I have not walked in their shoes nor have they walked in mine. We need to come together, but how?

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 4:45pm

I am an average guy, I need to know where I am suppose to be before I can figure out how to get there.

I don't understand what 'common ground' is, or what 'come together' means or what it is suppose to look like? Can you describe to me what you mean or how it should look when we 'come together?'

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:46am

Bridge magazine is trying to start a civil conversation, looking for solutions. It is this very response that creates the "divide". YOU have all the answers, right? Loud, obnoxious, know it all who can't appreciate the "others story". I just hope Bridge begins to weed out judgmental bullies like you.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:13pm

Weed out judgemental bullies? Politically, I am to the right of Atilla the Hun. But I listen to NPR and Sean Hannity, read the Detroit Free Press, CNN, and Fox News, and enjoy as friends liberals, conservatives, gays and lesbians, straights, and some who I do not know where they stand. I feel so sorry for those that can not tolerate any human who does not think exactly like they do. I hope Bridge continues to let the bullies and the meek express their ideas.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 4:59am

Thank you, Bernadette. Belicose, bullying behavior. Just like Trump. Wow.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:15am

As a progressive, humanist liberal Democrat, I find it gut-wrenching to read the stories about the Trump believers. I'm supposed to be open-minded, right? These narratives border on being too much information, as I find myself unable to allow the proverbial "benefit of the doubt". One good example: the woman not caring about DT's genital-grabbing comments because she herself experienced similar things in the corporate world. Really? So that excuses the inexcusable because it was common to her own experience? I'm sorry, that simply doesn't compute. It's the opposite of the common-sense reaction. I happen to have family in northern Michigan who are Trump voters. They only listen to Rush Limbaugh, get all of their news from so-called Fox News, and are one-issue voters: abortion. The rest of it matters little to them, and they have turned a blind eye to all of the other troubling aspects a DT presidency offers (the lying, for one). I'm not even a believer, but I find myself saying, "god help us".

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:11pm

Could we have avoided the Civil War through greater understanding? I don't think so. State's rights was a smokescreen for keeping slavery and Trump supporters are supporting a president that espouses racism and fascist principles. I am glad the country is divided unlike Nazi Germany. Unfortunately, the people that supported Trump will see their livelihoods and freedoms diminish and still blame the "elites" that Republican propaganda will feed them daily. Trump's supporters should have supported Sanders as a way to offset their declining wages and resources and yet voted for a man that will divides us, curb our freedoms even more and cut needed social benefits for most while enriching the 1%. As long as propaganda Trumps facts, we will stay divided.

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 4:47pm

If Senator Sanders had won what would you have measured to prove to other that he was a success?

Nola Lagniappe
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:48pm

Let the church say Amen!

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:30pm

Thank you for your comments. I read the article earlier today and that woman who didn't care about groping really irritated me. So, if she had been raped woukd that make it okay for other women? All your comments are spot on.

William C. Plumpe
Sun, 01/29/2017 - 6:47am

If Podesta is a Satanist then Trump is Putin's paid toady.
And Trump conspired with Putin to unduly influence
the election in Trump's favor.
I think that sounds like treason.
Something Congress and the FBI should thoroughly investigate
no matter where it leads. Much more credible and much more important
than Clinton's e mails or Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud.

George Moroz
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:27am

I hope that Bridge is not sliding into the fantasy of "there are no bad ideas, just different perspectives." There are plenty of bad ideas out there that deserve to be examined, exposed and resisted. That's why we have brains and the (too-often not exercised) ability to reason.

Gwen Young
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 11:39am

Michigan has been in the dumpper for at least since 2000. Actually probably before that. The population seems to have missed that technology has taken away more jobs than have moved overseas. The field that I worked in was going through changes about every 5 years if not sooner. I did work in a Union shop. The Union put out information on what was happening in the trade. I also worked with older members who conveyed how jobs were done in previous decades. The job that I did no longer exists. I had to retrain. That is a fact of life.Feel badly for the people in the UP. The UP is lovely place to live but employment is horrible. Factory jobs are gone and they aren't coming back. The article didn't say what they were doing to change their situation. The deal breaker for me with Trump was his divisiveness. I have family members who are native American and some have hispanic last names. Trumps attitude on women made me angry. The lady who blew off sexual harassment has to consider that not all women may not feel that way. Made me sad to see Trump demean that gold star family and John McCain.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:31pm

Trump has a classic "Personality Disorder" - primarily Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Look up the symptoms on line and click them off. Surprised that I have only heard one journalist call that out. Translates to having very little regard for the truth and an inability to process any criticism among other traits. If his lips are moving or if he is tweeting - there is a very, very high probability that he is lying. Fact checkers had him at around 75 to 80% lies versus a more normal 20 to 25% for Hilary and most politicians. There is no cure - so he will no doubt continue to do politically dumb things - in spite of a high IQ. However, Narcissists can be successful. Some of what he proposes may well be beneficial and some of it is down right scary. Will be an interesting and possibly dangerous 4 years. Lots of luck pulling people together - appears unlikely to happen. We need an additional political party - a centrist party to represent those of us who have been disenfranchised by the far right and the far left. That also appears unlikely to happen.

Stephen C Brown
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:27pm

I see no outrageous, indefensible comments here. Most people just want to be left alone and get on with their lives, but the real long-term disaster of Trump's election will be the collapse of American leadership in the post-WWII world. The day after the election, Xi Jinping visited a trade conference in Latin America. By 2018, China will have more trade with Latin America than the US will, thanks to Trump's mistaken blaming for job losses. Trump's rejection of the TPP now means that Asian nations will have to trade on China's terms, not America's. America will lose power, and prestige, in the international arena-that's what will not come back for generations.

Mary Fox
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 2:54pm

One way to start a civil conversation is to ungerrymander the state, take money out of the elections so Betsy Devos and company isn't controlling the republican party and blocking any moderate party members from running. As a democrat, I'm happy to work to compromise on some issues, but what this state does is disenfranchise people like me by gerrymandering my district and the state so that i have NO VOICE REPRESENTING ME. Gerrymandering and money buying elections is the number one problem in this state and as long as we are voting majority for democrats and getting less than half ot the congressional representatives because of gerrymandering and as long as we are rated F for ethics in our government, I'll NEVER trust a republican. I worked as an observer in the aborted recount, and I'll say there are MAJOR problems about how votes are counted, collected and recounted. Trump never should have been given our electoral votes and I will never trust an election run by republicans in my state again.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:21pm

Mary, Yes, you identify several critical issues facing MI. Michiganders need to pay attention to our current reality, engage in the political process, demand change. I am grateful for Bridge bringing such fine reporting. The many dissenters on this site prove they are doing a good job!

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:23pm

And as you feel disenfranchised by Republicans running things, so would I feel the same with Democrats running things.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:09pm

Geez People, you seem to have forgotten the use of the now famous "Alternative Facts" used Sunday on TV by the Trumpster's female mouthpiece.When one has the advantage of the 4th dementia truth or fiction now there are no rational rules - just chaos on bent untruth.This Alternative Facts Dimension may be used again and again as only the drama unfolds is shaped and reshaped for purpose.Scary eh !!!