GRAND RAPIDS — This weekend marked another stop on President-elect Donald Trump’s “USA Thank You Tour 2016” across the country. The president-elect last stopped in the city almost a month earlier to the day, where he held the final rally of his campaign at the DeVos Place Convention Center. That night he announced it was the “beginning of a new adventure, an adventure to make America great again” — a month into his tenure as president-elect, an adventure is one way to put the experience.
In many areas of Michigan, the aftermath of the election has been marked with hate crimes and protests including at the University of Michigan. However, there have also been displays of support, such as during Trump’s visit.
Friday night at the Deltaplex Arena in Grand Rapids — even amidst a blizzard outside and reactions from the past month — spirits were high and red MAGA hats bountiful, as supporters awaited the man whom they expected to bring change. Though the election itself did not come down to the state of Michigan, the state was not projected to turn red and hasn’t voted Republican in over a generation — the last time being in 1988.
In Michigan, Trump won by 10,704 votes — the narrowest margin in the history of the state. The close margin of votes led to an ultimately thwarted recount effort by former Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein just hours prior to the victory tour rally. In opening remarks, Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, called the recount a “temper tantrum” on the part of Stein.
“Winning one was nice,” McDaniel said. “But winning twice is huge.”
The recount may be officially over in Michigan, with Trump set to be the president, but the election was still fresh on his mind. The majority of his speech focused on recalling his 17 months on the trail leading up to Nov. 8. He said the election allowed him to travel all over the United States.
“This gets you to stop at states that you won’t stop at and that’s what our founders had in mind and that’s what people had in mind,” Trump said.
Now on the victory tour, Trump stuck to issues pertinent to the state like maintaining jobs. He hinted to the crowd that Ford Motor Company has made a promise for him that involves staying in Michigan and not Mexico. Ford has for a long time depended on Mexico for open trade and with Trump vowing to create more jobs and trade in the United States, this could change.
“No state has been hurt worse by our trade deals,” Trump said. “And that’s how I knew I was going to win Michigan.”
In addition, Trump also brought Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris to the stage and announced he will lead the national Manufacturing Council. Dow Chemical is based in Midland, Mich., and Liveris said he intends to expand operations in the state.
“I might have a funny accent,” said Liveris, who is from Australia. “But I believe in America and I believe in Michigan.”
Michigan, Trump said, is something he believes in as well. Trump has already welcomed three Michigan natives — and two University of Michigan alumni — into his Cabinet. Betsy DeVos, who resides in Grand Rapids and whose family donated greatly to the Trump campaign, was chosen to be the head of the Department of Education. DeVos too spoke Friday night, stressing her devotion to “(making) education great again in this country.”
In Michigan, Devos’s appointment has been met with wariness, and experts nationwide have attacked her education credentials. Trump said at the tour stop she was “considered by everybody to be one of the top education reformers in the country.”
Despite the overwhelming support for the president-elect and his Secretary of Education pick from the crowd, the wariness felt across the country was not absent. Over the course of DeVos’ brief remarks, five protestors were escorted out of the arena in three spurts.
DeVos, however, carried on throughout the interruptions, emphasizing her commitment to bolstering the school systems by removing Common Core and increasing support to private and charter schools.
Afterward the protests, Trump commented there was no place safer than a Trump rally. Those in his audience, and those who elected him, were among the population he said was left behind by the past administration.
“For the first time for many, many years what we do know is that the pages will be authored by each and everyone of you,” Trump said. “The American people will be in charge. You will never again fall on deaf ears.”
This, he pledged to the crowd, will be fulfilled through campaign promises and the spirit of adventure and victory he had promised just a month before in the same city.
“My message tonight is for all Americans,” Trump said. “I am asking you to join this incredible movement. This movement that nobody has ever seen before.”