It’s been four years. We’ll wait a little longer.
After a presidential term largely loathed by the Seattle region, residents fretted into Tuesday evening, searching for clues as to whether this will be the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, or simply the midpoint. But even in the deep blue Puget Sound region, in this deeply divided nation, it wasn’t hard to find people hoping, praying, for the opposite result.
Former Vice President Joe Biden led Washington, where he was a heavy favorite, with about 60% of the vote, shortly after polls closed Tuesday night. But razor-close margins in swing states across the country gave an anxious America little clarity Tuesday evening.
For many in the Seattle region, which once again voted overwhelmingly against Donald Trump on Tuesday, this presidency has felt personal. Trump’s presidency began with a push to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities, Seattle included. His term culminated in racial justice protests, in Seattle and across the country, that he turned into a centerpiece of his campaign, warning ominously of chaos and disorder.
For many, it’s felt like the president was at war, not with a foreign enemy, but with the progressive bastions that voted against him.
“We can not only keep making America great again, but we can make liberals cry again,” the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said in an election eve rally.
“It’s been a rough year, a rough four years,” said Lynn Simmons, as she dropped off her ballot at North Seattle College on Tuesday. “I’m ready to have it over with.”
She hasn’t liked Trump’s divisiveness or his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and she worries about what he might do if he doesn’t win.
Simmons, a geophysicist at the University of Washington’s seismology lab, planned on work serving as a distraction throughout the day Tuesday. We’re seeing only normal seismic activity, she said, before quickly changing the subject. No sense in tempting 2020 any further.
While officials had prepared for the possibility of civil unrest on election night, no major incidents had been reported as of about 11:30 p.m. In downtown Seattle, at least two groups of demonstrators took to the streets Tuesday night, spurred by the momentum of election night but still focused on demands that they’ve called for all summer: racial justice and an end to police brutality. Seattle police issued dispersal orders and reported making at least eight arrests as of about 10:20 p.m., alleging crimes including pedestrian interference, criminal mischief and assault on an officer.
Earlier Tuesday, Svetlana Mendyuk, 46, popped out to vote and run a couple of errands before a day she planned to spend “refreshing the screen.”
“I’ve got tabs open all over the place,” Mendyuk said of her internet browser. “It’s anxiety, a healthy dose of anxiety. Maybe an unhealthy dose.”
“Patience, that’s what I keep trying to tell myself.”
She voted for Biden because she likes him, likes his life story, likes that he’s been around so long that she considers him well vetted.
But she also voted against Trump.
“It’s either him,” Mendyuk said of Biden, “or the end of the republic. I hate to be melodramatic, but it’s surreal watching this stuff play out.”
In South Seattle, at the Rainier Beach Community Center, Hau Le couldn’t stop smiling as he prepared to cast his first ballot in a U.S. election. Le, 72, became an American citizen last year after a decade of waiting.
“He’s just happy to be voting,” said his daughter Anh Le, 45. She took the day off from her job as a nail technician to drive her father to the ballot box, and spend a celebratory day with him. “He feels good and feels happy for today.”
They exchanged a few words in Vietnamese.
“Because he loves the people that he voted for. Biden and Harris,” she said. “And he’s not worried.”
In that, he was among the lucky few.
In Wallingford, Vladimir Andral was still haunted by 2016.
“I thought we’d have the first woman president, but instead the nightmare happened,” Andral, 47, said. He was consciously avoiding news coverage throughout the day.
Andral described himself as a moderate Democrat, who has cast many split-ticket ballots and gave Trump the benefit of the doubt.
“I didn’t think he’d be as bad as my wife and other people expected. After four years, I had to tell my wife she was right. He’s a divisive individual. He tore apart the fabric of the country, sowed racial division,” Andral said. “He’s handled climate change poorly and our relationships with foreign countries are terrible.”
Andral, who is Black, said he, his young daughter and his wife have been subjected to more firsthand racist behavior, such as name calling that included racial epithets, since Trump’s election and he sees a connection to the president’s reluctance to condemn white supremacists.
“May Biden win,” Andral said.
On Tuesday evening at the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center, about 75 people stood in a line at the pop-up voting center. Some people had never received their ballot in the mail, and others wanted to ensure that they had registered to vote.
Gustav Cadet, originally from Haiti, was voting for the first time. Although he’s been a U.S. citizen since 2011, casting a ballot in Haiti or in Washington had never interested Cadet.
“I need some change,” said Cadet, who lost his job during the pandemic.
Outside Seattle, in suburbs to the north and on the east side of Lake Washington, you could find the pockets of Trump supporters that gave the president 21% of the Tuesday vote in King County and 36% in Snohomish.
Linda Chum, 36, a Snohomish County resident, was voting with her parents at the Snohomish County Superior Courthouse in Everett at around 6:30 p.m.
The Army veteran says that she voted for Obama in 2008, but has now voted for Trump twice.
“It’s kind of hard to be a Republican in Washington,” says Chum. “I don’t even tell my co-workers, you know, what side I’m on.”
Mason Gracia, 51, drove from his home in Gold Bar, Snohomish County, to drop off his ballot at the Monroe library. He voted for Trump in 2016, thinks that presidents usually get more done in their second term and thinks he “should be allowed a second term to finish what he started.”
Bruce “MacK” MacKintosh watched election returns in what he calls his “man cave” on Whidbey Island, toggling among three local news sites and Facebook.
MacKintosh, a retired real estate investor, said he was disturbed by the tactics some have used in protests over the summer and fall in Seattle following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and worried about demoralized police leaving local departments.
He also worried that left-wing rioters might “tear up the city” on election night.
MacKintosh voted for Trump this year, though he didn’t in 2016. He doesn’t like Trump as a person, but thinks he makes a good president.
“I can divorce my thoughts of Trump the man from Trump the president,” MacKintosh said. “And I think when we look back decades from now he’s going to be one of the most effective presidents we’ve had. And I hate the man.”
In Normandy Park, Joseph Buttitta, 79, planned early Tuesday evening to eat a dinner of spare ribs with his wife, then take a sleeping pill. Anything to avoid watching the election results come in.
“I’d be on pins and needles and I don’t think I’d need that,” Buttitta said, noting his age and the fact that he has health issues.
The retired Boeing flight controls engineer, who identifies as conservative, conducted the same ritual in 2016, when he fell asleep and awoke the next morning to find that Hillary Clinton had lost.
The result was unexpected. To Buttitta it felt like Christmas morning.
This year, though, he was worried that Trump would lose. Too often, Buttitta has thought, the president couldn’t keep his big mouth shut. The first debate was painful.
“If he loses this election, because it’s his to win, I think it’ll be his own fault,” Buttitta said.
The morning after the 2016 election was also visceral in the memory of Chelsea Cooper. It felt similar to how she felt when a dear friend died, said Cooper, 33, as she pushed her infant daughter through Queen Anne on Tuesday evening.
“I had so much of my faith in humanity shaken in 2016, that so many people would consider joking about groping women, joking about being able to walk in on women undressing, and joking that the power you held over them made them incapable of objecting, wasn’t disqualifying to lead our country,” Cooper said.
A human resources employee at Amazon, Cooper worries about what a conservative Supreme Court means for gay friends or for people seeking abortions. But most of all, she’s worried about what happens to democracy and democratic norms if Trump is reelected.
“There is a part of me that believes if Trump wins this election, I am afraid we will not have another one,” Cooper said.
Will Cornell, sitting at the bar of Sam’s Tavern on Capitol Hill, has a plan for what to do if Trump is reelected. He’s moving to Canada — for real.
“I work for Starbucks in real estate, and they have opportunities for me there,” he said. “I haven’t actually drafted my letter to request a reassignment, but I would ask to be placed in Vancouver or somewhere in western Canada.”
Cornell said he watched Trump’s victory in 2016 at a party on Queen Anne and compared the moment to Pearl Harbor. “It was a horrible, historical national moment.”
He expected to be up late Tuesday, hoping for some decisive resolution to the presidential contest before he went to sleep, even as that appeared more and more unlikely. If Trump were to lose, he’d head outside. “I’ll be partying, dancing in the streets,” he said. “I’m not that excited about Biden, I’m just anti-Trump.”
Seattle Times reporters Sydney Brownstone, Nicole Brodeur, Mike Carter, Heidi Groover, Melissa Hellman, Brendan Kiley, Patrick Malone, Hal Bernton and Paul Roberts contributed to this report.