Oh, boy. Some Washington state Republicans are not digging the Donald.
Like Chris Vance, a Republican running for U.S. Senate.
“At some point, you have to say, 'My party may not always be right,'" Vance said. "And I have to follow my conscience and my principles. There is no honor out there right now in this idea of, ‘No matter who we nominate we have to fall in line.’ I can’t do it and I won’t do it.”
So what does it mean to be a Republican, in Washington, during this election cycle?
That was the topic KUOW asked local Republicans and a guest panel to discuss in Bellevue on Thursday night. Those in attendance predicted the party will withstand this volatile election season, but they differed on the appeal of Donald Trump and how long-lasting effects of his candidacy will be.
Sharon Chadek lives in Bellevue. She doesn’t bring up her conservative political views except with close friends, because she doesn’t find non-conservatives very receptive, and she doesn’t want “to get her car keyed.” But she came out Thursday night to hear what other Republicans in the region are thinking.
And she still has questions for political candidates: “How they’re going to keep this country safe. How they’re going to save the economy.”
Chadek said if Donald Trump’s answers to these questions can be believed, she’s on board.
“He’s outrageous and rough around the edges and he wouldn’t have been my guy. But he says a lot of things that would cause me to vote for him.”
Others said they feel driven away from the Republican party because they see Trump’s statements as so hostile to ethnic groups.
Former Attorney General Rob McKenna said he is not voting for Trump or any other presidential candidate this year, but he doesn’t believe Trump’s candidacy will be the end of the Republican party.
Rather, McKenna said he believes Trump won’t win, and the party will respond by embracing younger and more diverse candidates like Marco Rubio.
“The party is a big organism,” he said. “Because people, more than anything, want to win, because what’s the fun if you never actually get to do anything because you’re in the minority? So parties make adjustments over time.”
But Vance said he believes Trump’s success as a candidate could signal more far-reaching trends of nativism and isolationism among voters.
He said these tendencies have already damaged the party’s appeal in California.
“California is one of the most ethnically diverse places in the United States, and we’ve completely alienated not only African-Americans but Hispanic-Americans to the point where we don’t have a candidate running for the United State Senate. An open seat in the United States Senate and we couldn’t get a candidate in the top two!”
But KVI morning host John Carlson told the audience he has come to support Trump. “He wasn’t my first choice or third or seventh choice either. But on four key domestic issues, I think he would be hands-down better than Hilary Clinton.”
Carlson said those are Trump’s list of U.S. Supreme Court nominees, repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, and immigration.
“On immigration, quite frankly, I think he is right,” he said. “About illegal immigration and opposing amnesty and frankly, yes, about building a wall. If we aren’t going to build a wall, why don’t we just take down what we have in place now? Because what we have in place now, oftentimes for hundreds of miles, is a joke.”
State Rep. Matthew Manweller isn’t voting for Trump. But he blamed a political culture based on shaming and shunning people over their views – rather than debating those differences openly – for contributing to Trump’s rise.
“When you shame people into silence you don’t change their mind, you just create incredible resentment, and that resentment manifests itself in Donald Trump,” Manweller said.
“I can’t say I want to build a wall, because you’ll call me a racist. I can’t say I don’t want men in my shower, because you’ll call me a bigot. But I can vote for Donald Trump and he can say it for me.”
Seattle resident Danielle Hayden said she came to Thursday’s event seeking like-minded political moderates. Hayden said Trump’s brashness has been appealing. But she’s probably not going to vote for him in November.
“He’s a hothead. Which again initially was refreshing because he wasn’t sticking to a script, per se, but I think that’s also quite dangerous and there has to be a sense of decency and decorum with foreign relations.”
She said she was disappointed to hear very little discussion of collaboration across party lines. “I think empathy is just so important for successful democracy,” she said.
Hayden said being African-American and living in Seattle can make it more isolating to hold any conservative views. She joined a group called Right Northwest Chicks to compensate, but she said even attending their meetings requires a commute to the Eastside.