ANN ARBOR – Aric Knuth and Jim Leija took their dogs Olive and Maisie on a walk through their Ann Arbor neighborhood, past well-kept homes and blooming gardens. The couple lead upper-middle class lives in a vibrant city, with five college degrees between them and good jobs at the University of Michigan.
The doom and gloom they felt in January during the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump hasn’t touched them personally. That hasn’t budged their views.
“The thing about having the kind of admittedly privilege we have, there aren’t a lot of things that can happen that would change our lives right away,” Knuth said. “So it all still feels abstract and theoretical to me (but) I actually think it’s been worse than I thought it would be. There was a big part of me that thought once he took office, he’d calm down and the businessman side of him would take over and maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as everyone thought.”
“We resubscribed to the New York Times after the election, and in the op-eds (the opinion section), you cannot find a person who can say a good word about him, just one after another,” Leija said. “Even the conservatives who are writing for the New York Times can’t find a good word to say.”
The couple voted for Hillary Clinton, as did their friends and more than 80 percent of voters in progressive Ann Arbor. Leija said he doesn’t know any Clinton voters who would now vote for Trump. “He’s not even competent,” Leija said.
Surely Trump voters, though, are likely having second thoughts, Leija said. Knuth isn’t so sure.
“I don’t know that you can change people,” Knuth said.
How will the divide be bridged?
“Honestly, maybe not through conversations like this or articles like this, but through things getting worse and worse until people who don’t have the empathetic imagination to care about people different from them are suffering themselves,” Knuth said. “That’s a kind of dreary answer.”