- - Sunday, January 29, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Every inauguration brings people together and provides an opportunity for the president to speak directly to the American people about their plan for a hopeful future, and an outline of their path forward.

All day on Jan. 20, I was struck by this incredibly American transition of power and responsibility from former President Obama to President Trump. The grace of the Obamas and Mr. Trump shaking hands at the White House and Melania Trump’s gift for Michelle Obama were beautiful examples of kindness. Former presidents, vice presidents, Republican and Democratic leaders and even Hillary Clinton were part of this American mosaic. Each photo snapped provided a new page for the history books of our republic, a living example to young and old alike how we in the United States, the world’s most durable and dynamic democracy, change leaders.

For 240 years, we have had a smooth and honest transition of power.

Yet a militant group planned violent acts and burned vehicles in Washington, smashed windows of small businesses and attacked law enforcement officers. Their purpose? To intimidate and quiet the families who voted for Donald Trump. These unlawful acts go far beyond free speech, peaceful marches and the constitutional right to assembly. The leaders of the Democratic Party must be vocal and disavow this violence so it does not occur again. The silence has been deafening.

One person who did not stand silent on Inauguration Day was Mr. Trump. He stood up for working families who are the overlooked targets of the modern economy.

Along with many other Michiganians and Americans, my wife and I attended the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. I was inspired and encouraged by the plans he set forth.

I was struck, but not surprised, by the negative reaction of the mainstream media. When the liberal elites at The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC attacked the speech, they showed they just don’t get it. They don’t understand Michigan or America, or why Michigan’s blue collar working counties like Macomb, Saginaw and Monroe switched to Mr. Trump in 2016, giving him a victory on election day.

The president’s speech was truly an “Ode to Allentown,” an accurate portrayal of large portions of America’s heartland, like Billy Joel’s classic song about “closing all the factories down.”

Many of us in Michigan and America know of an Allentown. Criticism of the speech comes from the extreme left on each coast who have no idea of what occurs between New York or Washington and Los Angeles. They jet-set over our heads, and make no effort to understand what it’s like to work the land or build the cars they see below. They exhibit little understanding of what happens to a community when a factory closes or, the local hardware store is shuttered as jobs evaporate, making it harder for schools to function because of a decreased tax base. Similarly, the elites have little comprehension of what may occur when urban schools with too much violence in neighborhoods fail to teach children to read. Instead, the liberal elites flock to places like Davos, Switzerland for global conferences, merely flying over the Allentown’s of America.

Donald Trump heard the voices of families in big cities and small towns, blue collar or no collar who have lived by the compact echoed in “Allentown” that “if we work hard, if we behave” then anything was possible. We simply want a chance, a shot at the American dream once again.

On Inauguration Day, Mr. Trump used his speech to send a clear message: he will not stand for the further loss of American jobs or the loss of the American dream. And in the process, the president offered a new hope to the heartland between the coasts.

Perhaps the liberal elites and national media should spend time in an Allentown, somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific. See the challenges of an urban public school, of a community where the tool and die shops have gone away. See what happens when the refrigerator plant closes in Greenville, Michigan or when a coal mine ends its first, second or third shift. Even if they don’t leave the coasts, critics of Mr. Trump’s speech could read J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” a compelling story of the shifting demographics and loss of jobs and family disruption in the coal and manufacturing country of Ohio and Kentucky.

Mr. Trump sent a message of hope to the forgotten working families of America. While the coastal elites don’t want to hear about the “rusted-out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation,” those who live in the shadow of such facilities heard a new president speaking directly to them.

Seems that an ounce of compassion and a measure of understanding about the need for jobs, safety and education for middle class families is a hard thing to come by from the critics of Mr. Trump’s remake of Billy Joel’s “Allentown.”

• Bill Schuette is attorney general of Michigan.

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