Friends and relatives across the state say their relationships have changed since Trump’s election ... just in time for the holidays.
This Thanksgiving, Julia Marquand and her new husband, Rolando Avila, said they are bypassing a big celebration with her relatives, who voted for Donald Trump. Because of Avila’s immigration status — he came here as a child, undocumented — she said it stings knowing they supported the president-elect.
“I’m not going to bring my husband over there to eat if they’re going to vote to remove my husband from the whole country,” said Marquand, 30, of Seattle, referring to Trump’s proposals to deport millions of immigrants. They’re attending a smaller gathering instead.
The couple’s situation is not unique. As the effects of Trump’s victory ripple across the country, people throughout Washington say their personal relationships are in the line of fire, splitting along the country’s political divide.
Tips for navigating the holiday
• Decide as a group to set aside political discussions at the dinner table.
• Give yourself permission to miss the annual gathering, if you feel confrontation is imminent.
• Have an escape plan if you go. For instance, arrive a little late so no one’s blocking your vehicle.
• Come prepared with some interesting, apolitical talking points to divert conversations.
• Recognize that those who disagree with you are unlikely to suddenly just switch sides at a holiday gathering.
• When another person is talking, listen and pay respect.
• Keep in mind, that, technically, you care for these people.
Los Angeles Times: “Dreading postelection Thanksgiving? 4 tips for survival”
Over the past week, The Seattle Times fielded responses from families, couples and friends who feel torn after the real-estate mogul’s presidential victory, some of whom are concerned about potentially volatile holiday gatherings.
The tension follows a polarizing campaign season, boiling over in online social networks, as well as intimate spaces such as churches and homes.
“This may be the nail in the coffin for our marriage,” one woman wrote in an email. The family previously had a moratorium over talking politics, but now she said she’s questioning if she can live with her husband. “Every time I read the newspaper, part of my marriage dies.”
Many who cheer the president-elect’s transition into the White House — and his calls to halt illegal immigration, change international trade deals and shift American culture — say his Democratic foes are to blame for the divisive climate. Responding to the newspaper, some people said their social circles are united now, celebrating Trump’s win.
But for others, his election seems unfathomable.
“I’ll be protesting the Trump election, so I’ll probably just eat a hot dog for Thanksgiving lunch,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“Let’s just say, I am happier than ever that I am 2,000 miles away from family,” another added.
Strongly felt issues, hurtful comments
Jason, 41, from Belfair, Kitsap County, unfriended someone on Facebook who he said unfairly labeled him a “racist” after he made a celebratory post about Trump’s win.
Many respondents said they, too, have lost friends online during this election season, usually over posts that promote opposite stances, but sometimes for personal attacks.
“They say he (Trump) is racist, but I don’t get it — I’m not,” said Jason, who requested his last name not be used, out of fear for his safety. Feeling optimistic about Trump’s tax-cutting proposals and anti-Obamacare stance, Jason said Trump was the best choice for his family. “Obamacare is huge for me.”
In Washington state, Trump lost big, garnering 38 percent of the vote. And in Seattle, an analysis found Trump is on track to get just 8 percent, one of the lowest of big American cities and a historic low for a major-party presidential candidate here.
Some critics of the billionaire businessman say his rhetoric on the campaign trail has fueled an anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as prejudices toward other racial and religious minorities and people in the LGBTQ community.
Trump has also threatened to end the program created by President Obama that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, like Avila, to stay here legally, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That has fueled heavy concern among supporters and participants of the program.
Those issues surfaced in interviews with people in Washington state concerned about his positions, as well as his recent selection of candidates for his Cabinet and his attitude toward women.
Nancy Tudorof, 33, a University of Washington employee, said it feels like a cloud is hanging over the country since the election. She said she feels Trump’s victory isn’t something that she “can just put away” and pretend to be happy.
“I could back down; I could put on a happy face, but I choose not to,” Tudorof said.
And those emotions will linger throughout this week while she’s on vacation over the holiday in British Columbia with her fiancé, Sean Logan, and his Trump-voting family, she said.
“It wasn’t even something we thought about when we scheduled the trip months ago,” Logan said last week of their political differences. “They’re happy. They’re fine. They won, if you will.
“Nancy is not fine,” he added.
Avoiding conflicts vs. avoiding the gathering
For conversations with friends and relatives who have opposite political views, experts advise, assume they have good intentions, according to The New York Times, which compiled a list of 19 questions to help facilitate talks.
Also, “Don’t let imperfect word choices tank the conversation,” the report says. And “Forget policy debates for now.”
On a recent podcast episode of Savage Lovecast, hosted by Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage, a listener expressed concern over sharing the holidays with relatives who voted for Trump. Savage advised skipping the gathering, “not making nice” and focusing on self-care.
Janice Mangan, 61, of West Seattle, said last week she was considering a TV dinner alone on Thursday instead of her annual get-together with family members who supported the president-elect.
“We all circle, hold hands and pray, and I don’t know how I can do that,” she said.
Later, Mangan, a retired bus driver, said she would go with conscious caution about what they talk about. “I really like seeing the kids,” she said.
In Eastern Washington, Bruce Whitmore, 70, of Yakima, said he’s feeling subtle tension at his Protestant church after the election.
A retired elementary-school teacher and Vietnam War veteran, he said he voted Libertarian in the presidential election. His top priorities are helping veterans and people who are homeless, he said, and both of the major-party candidates had “repulsive” qualities.
And now, after Trump’s victory, Whitmore said he isn’t fitting in with the “euphoria of the Trump trend” among people at his church.
“I have to laugh at it because I have a world perspective on humanity, and this just doesn’t fit in,” he said. “Knowing the personality dynamics of certain people in our church, I could lose certain acquaintances.”