By Steve Barnhoorn
On Nov. 8, as we watched the election returns come in, my mom was stunned by the results of one of the most unpredictable election cycles in American history – a Rust Belt revolt from working-class folks, displaced or threatened by free trade. It was a realignment election on par with Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980.
My family can identify with this expression of discontent. My younger brother worked for the Delco General Motors plant for 24 years in Rochester before his job was outsourced to Mexico.
Clearly, America must develop an industrial policy in response to the globalization that has drastically changed our economy.
I support the high expectations for Donald Trump to get results, rebuild the economy and deal aggressively with terrorism. Yet I cannot ignore that 2016 brought out an ugliness I don’t want to seeagain.
In the weeks after the election, I was disturbed to see swastikas and hateful messages from white supremacists attempting to ride the coattails of Trump’s win.
My late father grew up in Holland during the Nazi occupation, when troops went door to door to haul off teenage boys to labor concentration camps.
Once, Dad and my Uncle Simon hid underneath a house for several days with steel lids over their heads – protection from Nazis who had orders to shoot through the floors if they thought they were being misled.
Fortunately for Dad and Uncle Simon, this didn’t come to pass. But after Nazis sealed off the food supply routes to Holland, they had to beg from farm to farm to bring home food for the family. To this day, Dad’s stories still haunt me.
Coming from this lifelong Republican and the son of an immigrant who sought a better life, factions such as the alt-right and other extremist groups must be told in no uncertain terms that they do not have a safe haven with the Republican Party, or in civilized society. Remaining silent or being sanguine only emboldens these groups; their vile ideas and behaviors are un-American, evil and not representative of the 62 million who voted for Trump.
I call on our new president to condemn and disassociate from these extremists, and to unite the country to move forward in a positive direction.
Ronald Reagan believed in an America that was a shining city on a hill. To heal the divisions of the election, President Trump must convey the same optimistic spirit and reach across the aisle.
He has the opportunity to create an environment to bring our country together.
Now that he has become our 45th president, my fingers are crossed that Donald Trump will appeal to our country’s better angels, and be a force for good.
Steve Barnhoorn, of Honeoye, is a member of the Richmond Town Board.