It’s a running joke that Tod Steward is the only Trump voter in Seattle, and it has springboarded him to appearances boosting the president on Canadian radio and TV. But a strain is setting in.
Last year’s election made Seattle’s Tod Steward a minor celebrity. If by celebrity you mean “the kind that everybody hates,” he laughs.
Not here, though. In Canada. The 53-year-old First Hill resident has found a small niche in Canada as the most peculiar, and certainly most elusive, species of our time.
He’s Seattle’s Only Trump Voter™.
OK that’s not actually a trademarked phrase, nor is it numerically true. To be precise, 32,361 Seattleites besides Steward also cast votes for Donald Trump last November.
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But the percentage was so historically low — only 8 percent of the city’s 385,000 votes — and so few were open about their Trump support, that by default Steward has become a symbolic one and only.
For a time, he embraced this notoriety: “@realDonaldTrump: I’m the only one in downtown Seattle to have voted for you … Can u hire me?” Steward tweeted at the president-elect in November.
He’s been interviewed twice on TV by the CBC News Network (sort of Canada’s CNN), by CBC Radio’s “The Current” (Canada’s NPR “Morning Edition”) and by regional shows out of Vancouver.
He appears with his friend Ernie Lou, who rates Trump a “negative 5 on a scale of 1 to 10.” Together they make a political Siskel and Ebert, doing a thumbs-up, thumbs-down routine on Trump for Canadian audiences.
“Honestly I think they go to me because they can’t find anyone else on the West Coast who will publicly admit they backed Trump,” Steward says.
Last week, though, Steward and Lou again were on a CBC show out of British Columbia called “On the Coast.” Their segment was billed as “American voters reflect on Trump.” Steward gamely did his best to boost Trump, but afterward he acknowledged his pro-Trump role is becoming a bit strained.
“I’m supposed to be on there as a pro-Trump view, but I’ll be the first to admit — this first four months for Trump has been really bad,” Steward told me.
Steward, a public relations consultant, said he voted for Obama twice. So he is representative of a slice of thought that swung the election to Trump, decisively so in the Midwest. Namely, he is an independent voter who was willing to overlook all the controversy to get outsider-driven change.
“I was drawn to Trump because I’ve read some of his books and he’s a builder who gets things done,” Steward said. “I knew he wasn’t a rule follower — you could tell that from the campaign. But I figured he would put people in there who were doers. I thought he would govern from the middle. I didn’t think it would be anywhere near this chaotic.”
Steward’s outspokenness about Trump hasn’t been cost-free. He spoke up along with his friend Lou to show we could all still get along in a polarized country. But then some Seattle friends didn’t talk to him for weeks after the election. He no longer posts about politics on Facebook, because it so easily goes to the boiling point.
“I would give liberal, ‘tolerant’ Seattle a C- in being accepting of others,” he said.
Seattle should listen to Steward. He may, after all, be a bellwether. Trump’s polls have been ebbing recently, mostly due to doubts creeping in among the very base that voted for him, a Politico poll found this month.
For Steward it’s everything from the Twitter eruptions (“they’ve absolutely got to take away his Twitter account”) to a lack of concrete accomplishments (“there hasn’t been anything where I’ve said ‘wow, now that’s why I voted for him.’ Not yet, anyway.”).
The Trump presidency doesn’t feel sustainable. But what would cause it to collapse won’t be investigations or bombshell stories by themselves. It will be erosion of the support structure from below. In other words, it will be incremental changes of mind by people like Steward — who by his own description is teetering.
“I haven’t given up on him, not yet,” he says. “I’m not off the Trump bandwagon. You could say I’ve got one foot off.”
We’ll check back. It might be that Seattle’s Only Trump Voter™ ends up being the one that matters.