Democrats rally against Trump’s visit to Macomb

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Shelby Township — Democrats are showing their opposition to President Donald Trump’s campaign-style visit Saturday to Washington Township.

Andy Levin, who is running to succeed his father, speaks to voters at UAW Local 600 about education, unions, and health care.

A little over 100 people gathered at UAW Local 400 in Shelby Township for a counter-demonstration and potluck teach-in event. They hope a blue wave of Democrats will get elected in November to help the party retake control of Congress and statewide offices in Michigan.

Dana Nessell, the party’s endorsed candidate for Michigan attorney general, said the office she’s fighting for is the “last line of defense to combat the Trump administration.”

“Nobody likes to talk about what he’s doing to our state or our county more than I do because that’s why I’m running for attorney general,” said Nessel. “Let’s make sure we tell Bill Schuette this is his last time around.”

Dana Nessel, candidate for Michigan Attorney General, spoke to voters at UAW Local 400 Saturday.

Attorney General Bill Schuette is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and is term-limited from running again for attorney general.

Andy Levin, who is running to succeed his father, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, spoke about education, unions and health care.

“There’s no chance to restore the middle class if we don’t fight for the unions and UAW,” said Levin, who faces ex-state Rep. Ellen Lipton of Huntington Woods and Martin Brook of Bloomfield Hills in the August primary. “We’re down to six percent of the sector unionized in the country, and that’s a shame. Let’s tell Trump it’s time to restore the freedoms and unions.”

“We not only need to protect the Affordable Care Act but also education,” said Levin of Bloomfield Hills. “We don’t need privatization or unlimited charterization (of schools), we need a good public school for every child in Michigan. We need to tell Donald Trump to send (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos packing.”

The money being raised at the event is going to Democrats in the 10th Congressional District, a traditional Republican stronghold.

“We’re giving it to the 10th District because this is considered ‘Trump country,’ but is it really? Most of them are retired union workers and if we start fighting, we will start winning,” said Jeremy Fisher, president of the Warren Area Democratic Club and an event organizer.

In Washington Township, activist Bruce Fealk donned prison garb and a giant paper mache Trump head next to a dirt road outside the venue, where he was joined Tom Moran, who held a sign declaring the president “sold us out.”

“When he came to Michigan (in 2016), he talked about the forgotten man, not leaving us behind, but he sold us out,” said Moran, who also regularly protested Trump two years ago.

Moran called the tax cut plan signed by Trump in December a “giveaway” to the wealthy and corporations. “It’s going to drain the treasury. Then they’re going to cut our Medicare, our benefits for the middle class, the people that voted for him,” he said.

Trump has not proposed cutting Medicare, the government health care program for seniors. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has urged entitlement reform, but the president hasn’t indicated an interest in doing so.

Dan Colling, a Lake Shore Public Schools board trustee and event organizer, said the rally was important to hold because of Macomb County voted 54 percent to 42 percent for Trump in 2016.

“The spotlight was on Macomb after the election, and people were wondering how could a county that elected Obama twice vote Republican, and that’s because Macomb often votes for change,” said Colling of St. Clair Shores. “They voted for Trump because they don’t see conditions getting better for working families and are worried about public schools.”

Colling added the event was not just about protesting Trump’s policies but spoke to what Democrats stand for, such as educational equality, rebuilding infrastructure and values that unite the party.

Others like Michael Radtke, a Sterling Heights Council member, disapproved of Trump’s rally in Michigan.

“Macomb has a bad reputation state- and nationwide, and Trump hasn’t been back here since before he was elected and now that he is, he’s going as far north as he can” in the county, Radtke said. “He wouldn’t dare come below 16 Mile because he doesn’t want to deal with the problems he promised he would and hasn’t fixed.

“...Macomb and its infrastructure is often overlooked. ... We’re never going to get Mound Road fixed.”

Fisher agreed the hope is to show what Democrats stand for and get them to the polls in November. He blamed Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 on a party that didn’t properly market what it stood for “in an election focused on two personalities.”

“One of the biggest things people don’t talk about is that Democrats didn’t show up at the polls in 2016, especially in Macomb,” said Fisher, 38. “The south part of the county barely showed compared to the north end. That’s vital because the southern part like Roseville and Center Line are overwhelmingly Democrat.”

Volunteers like Pam Kellar, from Warren, filled the room vowing to get voters to the polls and promote more Democrat representatives.

“My biggest worry is education,” said Kellar, 72, a former teacher in Warren for 39 years. “Boy, the best thing he’s done is getting folks to become more involved in politics and government than ever before. We’re going to see the difference in 2018. I can feel the blue wave coming.”

Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed

Twitter: @SarahRahal_