As Seattle has erupted in protests since the inauguration of President Trump, his supporters, a distinct minority in the Puget Sound area, have watched and wondered what all the commotion is about.
The young administration of President Trump has been dominated, in Seattle, by protests — five days of major ones since the inauguration, including the largest march in the city’s history.
To protesters, and to much of Seattle, the Trump administration can feel impossible — how can this be happening? How can people support him?
Many of Trump’s supporters — just 8 percent of Seattle voters, but progressively larger percentages as you leave the city — are asking the same questions, but about the protests, rather than the president.
They don’t get the hubbub. He won. And he’s doing exactly what he said he would do. And Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and certain immigrants — which had lawyers racing down airport concourses to stop flights, split up some families and left others heartsick with worry?
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It’s necessary, Trump’s supporters say. He’s following through on a promise, albeit maybe a little hastily.
“He was simply doing what he said he was going to do in the campaign,” said Paul Hess, a business consultant and alpaca farmer in Kenmore. “Maybe it happened a little abruptly, maybe it could have been handled a little better, but I don’t see the underlying policy as being anything absurd or abnormal or contrary to the Constitution or federal law.”
Hess, 68, said that he worried the United States would become like some European countries, many of which have much larger populations of Muslim immigrants and have struggled with assimilation.
“Some people might call it extraordinary and draconian,” Hess said of Trump’s immigration order. “But if we need to temporarily suspend people, I don’t see anything so terrible about that.”
While mass, nearly spontaneous protests have dominated the news, the nation as a whole seems split on Trump’s order, which temporarily bars all refugees as well as citizens from seven countries, all of which are at least 90 percent Muslim.
Two polls, released soon after the order was issued, found a plurality of support for the ban. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found 49 percent of respondents agreed with Trump’s order, while 41 percent disagreed. A HuffPost/YouGov poll put support at 48 percent and opposition at 42 percent.
But a Gallup poll found that 55 percent disapproved of the order, while only 42 percent approved. It also found that Trump’s job approval was the lowest for any beginning president since the firm began polling, dating back to President Eisenhower.
“It could have been, maybe, better preparation on some of it. But he announced what he was going to do at every campaign stop for a year,” said Glenn Avery, a Seattle political consultant. “He certainly couldn’t have surprised anybody that listened.”
Avery, 71, wore his Make America Great Again hat on Inauguration Day as he walked his dog and got coffee in his Queen Anne neighborhood.
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“We’ve had, basically, open borders, we’ve ignored the immigration laws,” he said. “So I think it’s time for a reset, especially from those countries where ISIS is a major factor.”
Avery and other Trump supporters decried the immigration and refugee system under President Obama as far too lax. For refugees, the approval process took up to two years and required at least three interviews, six background and security checks and three fingerprint screenings.
Evidence of terrorism in the United States, from the targeted countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are the ones affected by the order — is scant.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in a U.S. terrorist attack by anyone with family backgrounds in those countries, according to statistics compiled by Charles Kurzman, a University of North Carolina sociology professor. And of the more than 240,000 Americans killed since 9/11, just 123 were killed by Muslim-American extremists, according to Kurzman.
But Europe has certainly dealt with a spate of recent terrorist attacks associated with radical jihadism. And compared with images of bombs and beheadings, numbers can pale in emotional power.
“I believe that they’re letting terrorists in like crazy,” said Carolyn Anderson, a Trump supporter from Blaine, Whatcom County. “I believe that Donald Trump is the man that God has called to lead our country out of the darkness and that he is seeking to give everyone an opportunity who is not going to be a danger to our nation. We’ve thrown the doors wide open and said come on in, and that’s not right.”
Anderson, 73, went to both of Trump’s Washington campaign rallies, in Lynden in May and in Everett in August. After posting a Facebook picture of herself with a Trump sign at the Everett rally, she said she was deeply affected by an acquaintance who commented on it, questioning her Christianity.
“I prayed about it, I really don’t know how to respond,” she said. “You can’t answer them back with the same voice that they’re talking to you with, because they’re not going to hear it, they just discount it.”
Margot Wade-Terry retired to Bellingham in 1988, after a career as a Seattle police officer. Part of the reason she moved, she said: Seattle was too liberal.
She takes pains to call Trump’s executive order a moratorium, not a ban. The order’s various provisions are set to expire in 90 and 120 days, except for the block on Syrian refugees, which is indefinite.
“It’s possible that the order was implemented, let’s put it, clumsily, but it was something that needed to happen,” Wade-Terry said. “It’s like, I have a home and frankly if somebody really wanted to get in they could, but they’re going to have to come through a locked door. I don’t think that everybody should just be able to come through an unlocked door.”
Wade-Terry’s description of those protesting Trump’s executive order can sound a lot like some protesters’ description of Trump supporters.
“They’re going to listen to the people they want to listen to, they want to talk to folks that are like-minded,” she said. “I don’t believe that the people who are so opposed are willing to even look. They’re so convinced that they’re right, they don’t want to hear anything else.”