We mull whether it’s OK to have Republican friends in Seattle anymore, and Kshama Sawant clarifies her no-friend zone. But one Republican steps up with a crazy idea to bring conservatism back into City Hall — literally.

Share story

Never have I felt so much like a foreign correspondent, embedded behind enemy lines.

My email in-tray and phone messages have been filled with the hushed whisperings of people who sound like they’re on the run.

“Please, please do not use my name,” read a typical one.

“I would never ever divulge who I really am, for fear of being ostracized,” said another.

Signed off another: “Name withheld, for fear I’ll lose my job. At least I won’t be invited out again for after-work drinks.”

Finally: “We are like sleeper cells because nobody knows the identities or the locations of the others. We are Republicans living in Seattle.”

The occasion was my last column about whether it has become taboo in Seattle to be friends with Republicans. Whether it really is or not, lots of our conservative neighbors sure feel like it is.

“I ran into my next-door neighbor at a GOP event,” wrote one Seattleite, also signing as ‘name withheld.’ “We were shocked. We had known each other for a decade but neither suspected the other was a ‘closet Republican.’”

It’s not really this bad here, is it — like we have our own political leper society?

I figured when I wrote the column that political no-friend-zones weren’t real. That the concept was more a figure of speech for our bitterly divided times.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant wrote to say that in fact I did exaggerate and misinterpret her comments on this subject — though her clarification hardly seems to me less extreme.

To recap, a fellow council member had referred to Seattle attorneys Mike and John McKay as “our Republican friends.” Sawant did object about the friend part, but she was talking about not having any Republican politicians as friends.

“There is a fundamental difference between ordinary people who vote Republican because of the paucity of political choices, and the Republican politicians who actively fight for corporations and the super-wealthy,” she wrote.

She added, though, that her no-friend zone is real.

“To be clear, I not only don’t have Republican politicians as friends, I don’t choose to spend my personal time with corporate Democratic politicians either.”

That would seem to include most of her City Council colleagues (as most accept corporate donations). I’ve got to hand it to Sawant — she’s open about what she thinks, and is consistent!

To some readers, this refusal to see basic humanity in political opponents is destroying democracy.

“Purists are responsible for many of the world’s ills,” wrote Seattle’s John Walenta.

“Where oh where are the Dan Evanses, the Norm Rices, the Tom Foleys,” wrote Howard Behar, the former Starbucks executive.

But other readers insist Sawant is right. President Donald Trump poses an existential threat, and yearning for the lost art of compromise only perpetuates a weak and broken political system.

“At this time when so many Americans seemingly cannot recognize we are dealing with a diabolical genius … we need help. And it can only come from (political outsiders) like Sawant,” suggested George Hertel of Woodinville.

“I’m not sure anything can be done about it until Ms. Sawant gets her way and true revolution takes place,” retired Seattle firefighter Kevin Locke said.

Amid all this turmoil, one Republican not only agreed to be named, but offered himself up to be Seattle’s official right-wing friend.

“I’d be more than happy to be the city’s token conservative,” said John Erik Anderson, a 27-year-old Army officer.

I figured he was kidding. But when I called him, he proposed that he, a cheerful Republican, can provide nonjudgmental, right-leaning comment and perspective to any Seattleite who wishes it (he lives in Tacoma, which he said is much more relaxed about politics). He also can make himself available to show up at Seattle political mixers and government meetings, to be a sort of ambassador for conservatives.

“Like how cities have a poet laureate. Only this is for bridging the political divide,” he said.

Right-Winger-in-Residence, we could call it. Sure, it’s crazy and will never work. But in case you didn’t notice, there is a war on.