Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Two sisters clash. One runs Seattle Patriots for Trump: 898 members

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SEATTLE — It’s not easy being a Trump supporter in one of the bluest counties in America.

Just ask Christine Charters, organizer of the Meetup group Seattle Patriots for Trump.

It was formed in 2016 to back his presidential run, and is still here for Trump’s latest bid.

At Charters’ family gatherings, things had gotten so contentious that everyone agreed to stay out of any political talk.

The Trump Meetup group here has a surprising 898 members (as of Thursday), not bad for an area that’s ranked No. 9 among the 100 largest U.S. counties with registered voters who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. That’s from the research firm Nielsen, as reported in a Nov. 10 Seattle Times story.

Last week, standing before a row of U.S. flags on a stage at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump announced he was making another run for the presidency. Meanwhile, in King County, Patty Murray did well in her Senate race not just in liberal Seattle, but also the suburbs.

A couple of times a month, whether at a bowling alley, café, Zoom call or some kind of GOP event, somewhere between six and 10 members get together.

“It’s a pleasant change. You don’t feel like a social pariah,” says Charters.

What the members tell her they want to do, says Charters, is socialize, “get together with like-minded people, hang out.”

Unlike what some in blue Seattle might believe, “They’re pretty normal people. They’re not outliers, not talking about UFOs and lizard people,” she says.

Charters is 66, retired from the University of Washington’s College of Education, where she worked as a fiscal analyst.

Charters says she didn’t start out a conservative.

In the mid-1980s she was attending the progressive Evergreen State College in Olympia.

These days, she goes to Steve Bannon’s War Room website. Bannon for a while was Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, and most recently is appealing a conviction for criminal contempt of Congress.

She reads online magazines such as the conservative American Thinker (“The establishment is trying to divide and conquer MAGA”).

Sometimes she sends emails with links to such online material to her sister, Bridget Charters, a chef and culinary instructor who lives in Ballard.

Bridget, 60, is a liberal in the standard Seattle way; “not extreme, progressive.” She tells her sister, “Send me something that’s not editorializing. Back it up with facts!”

Christine recently moved to Sequim, known for its commercial lavender farms and being in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. She says Seattle “has been turned over to developers.”

Christine commutes in for the Meetup meetings and sometimes stays with Bridget.

The two sisters obviously have affection for each other. On the occasion of getting together for this story, they talked about that verboten subject: politics.

Bridget has a hard time understanding what happened with Christine.

“She’s very intelligent, well educated,” says Bridget. “She’s lost credibility with this attachment to Trump.”

Says Christine, “Trump is not a cult of personality for me. I thought he had good ideas. His concept of fair trade was good in terms of implementing tariffs on China. Securing the border was good. During Trump’s four years there were no foreign wars.”

And so it goes.

Chris White, married to Bridget, owns a landscaping company.

“I have five Hispanic guys working for me,” he says, by way of explaining a confrontation he had with Christine over immigration policies. Christine, not surprisingly, agreed with Trump.

As Bridget remembers, Chris told the sister, “You’re third-generation Irish off the boat. My guys are working on your house, taking care of your yard. You cannot speak that way.”

Best to just talk about other stuff.

Because otherwise, well, then you start veering into the 2020 election, about which Christine holds views on voter fraud that are not supported by evidence. “I don’t believe Biden is the legitimate president. A lot of it was rigged.”

And continue on about the recent midterm election results, about which Christine says, “It’s pretty obvious the Democrats slow-walked the count. There is plenty of opportunity to finesse things.”

That’s not how Bridget sees it.

“There’s been multiple studies, multiple election officials that have gone on record as having a clean and clear process. They were incensed their work was questioned,” she says.

Of the 898 members of the Meetup group, only a few responded to requests to talk for this story.

One member told Christine, “It’s going to be a hit job. I don’t trust those bastards.”

Another person told her, “Oh, what they’ll do is that they’ll bring in some other people who’re like bumpkins, and then conflate you with these people. They’ll try to make you look like a dummy.”

Those who responded told their stories about life as a Trumper.

Derek Chiasson, 41, of Bonney Lake, a single dad who’s a member of the group, knows what it’s like trying to socialize in this blue region. He’s tried online dating.

A year ago, on one of the sites, he decided to put on his profile that he had voted for Trump, although “being conservative was not the most important thing.”

Know how many responses he’s gotten since then?

Zero.

Chiasson tells of taking his late mom in 2021 to Las Vegas to the Trump International Hotel.

“She loved her reality shows. She liked ‘The Apprentice.’ She always had wanted to go to one of his hotels. She was a single mother of six, and had worked hard all her life. She cleaned houses. This was on her bucket list,” he says.

In the hotel lobby, Chiasson bought a red Trump cap. “It has meaning for me,” he says. A reminder of that special trip.

In August, he went to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake with some friends. To avoid sunburn, he wore the cap. One of the friends also happened to have a shaved head.

Whoa.

“Between your hat and the shaved head, they’ll be thinking we’re white supremacists,” somebody said.

Chiasson thought, “They wouldn’t complain if it was a Bernie shirt.”

In trying to find companionship, says Chiasson, “A significant number of women’s profiles say, ‘Not a Trump supporter. No conservatives.’ I had one date in which she spent half the dinner railing against Trump.”

For someone such as Jenna Edlund, executive director of the King County Republican Party, attending the Meetup Trump events has been a chance to promote becoming a precinct committee officer.

On her political evolution, Edlund says she also went from being a “super huge Democrat” who wrote a college paper on access to Planned Parenthood to campaigning for Tiffany Smiley in her race against Sen. Patty Murray, who won another term on Nov. 8.

By Nov. 9, Edlund was acknowledging the political facts in King County, tweeting a picture of herself diving in the sea off Cabo San Lucas. She posted, “Summary of my current mood #deepblue #sea #seattle …”

Edlund has been pondering how to update another part of her social media presence.

She’s been at her GOP job for only seven months.

Her LinkedIn profiles states, “Highly driven, active (sports minded) and seasoned sales manager (22 years of sales experience); capable of managing high level projects and proficient in multitasking.”

Should she update it to include her new job? What happens if she wants to return to her previous gig in sales?

“I’m fearful of backlash in my ability to seek employment,” says Edlund. “The minute you’re associated with being a Republican conservative, it’s completely taboo.”

In the ninth most liberal county in the U.S., what would you advise?

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