Surrounded by Seattle liberals, tea-party group feels isolated
Life is lonely as a Seattle Tea Party Patriot. All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Oh, the loneliness of being a Seattle Tea Party Patriot, especially after this last election.
All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool.
"It's getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe's, and I was glaring at everyone around me," says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group.
Carender's glaring took place at the Trader Joe's in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs.
"I kept thinking I was surrounded by people who are destroying freedom,"says Carender. "It's starting to make me angry, not wanting to be around these people."
Carender might be familiar to some because she made national news back in February 2009 for putting together the first ever tea-party protest — at Westlake Park, with 120 or so people attending. Carender now works for the national Tea Party Patriots.
She says she's seriously thinking about moving after her husband, Conor McNassar, a University of Washington math and physics major, is done with school.
They're thinking maybe Texas, maybe Eastern Washington, a long ways from where she grew up on Mercer Island.
Carender is one of three people listed as leaders of the Seattle Tea Party Patriots, and over the weekend they got together to tell their stories of life in one of the most politically blue cities in the country. These days, the group has about 925 on its email list, and maybe 18 people show up at monthly meet-ups.
Back in the mid-1930s, when supposedly the term "the Soviet of Washington" was used, it was likely the Seattle area that was being referred to. This is the place that now routinely helps puts Democratic candidates in the winning column, no matter how the rest of the state votes.
Greg Moon, 45, a computer programmer, is another organizer of the Seattle Tea Party Patriots. He's an Ingraham High grad and has a couple of engineering degrees from the UW.
He says that over the years, his politics evolved from apolitical, to liberal, to the Tea Party Patriots.
Moon says he voted for Democrats Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992.
By 1996 he was voting for independent Ross Perot, and on Feb. 16, 2009, he attended that seminal tea-party protest at Westlake Park organized by Carender.
He's not planning to leave Seattle, what with a brother, a sister, his dad and friends living in the area.
And, really, Seattle might be liberal, but at its roots it is also a very polite place.
"My dad is a liberal. He's a great guy. We get along just fine. A lot of my friends are liberal. Most of them are pretty cool," says Moon.
Still, there are times when the liberal/conservative divide can get nasty.
Moon is on an Internet discussion thread of about 10 people. An "acquaintance," he says, "started calling me a loser. I told him, 'I don't know where your anger is coming from. I pray for you.' "
He also couldn't help but notice after he put a McKenna-for-governor sign out in the traffic circle in his North End neighborhood, "it was gone in less than 12 hours."
And, says Moon, he makes sure his car doesn't have decals that'd obviously identify his politics.
Moon did put a "Believe in America" decal on his back windshield, but, he figures, "no one knows it's from the Romney campaign."
He says conservatives in Seattle have to be a little stealthy. He believes he has "a secret conservative neighbor" because the man has a U.S. flag on his porch.
"In the old days, anybody could fly an American flag. Now it's associated with conservatives," says Moon.
Mark Young, 54, is the third name listed as an organizer of the Seattle Tea Party Patriots. He and his wife, Denise, have five children, ages 21 to 30. He works as a telecommunications engineer in downtown Seattle.
For years, says Young, he worked on oil rigs in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, flying back and forth between his family here and the oil fields.
And, he says, for a number of years back in the 1980s and into the 1990s, he stopped filing tax returns — Young says he was a tax rebel.
He didn't mind paying taxes for defense and things like road construction, says Young, but not for foreign aid or what he believed was excess government spending.
There was correspondence back and forth between himself and the IRS, says Young, but "the statute of limitations" ran out and not much happened to him. Young says he now is back to paying taxes.
He, too, had pondered moving to someplace like San Antonio, Texas, but his family lives here.
Young doesn't talk politics at work.
But sometimes he can't help say something, such as with a former co-worker who, says Young, "was talking about rich people getting away with not paying taxes and taxing the rich."
Young says he told that person: "You just bought a $700 bike. You're paying for doggie day care in downtown Seattle. Really, you're rich."
But, he decided, it was best not to go on with that discussion, lest he end up being called in by human resources.
The three organizers are asked what it is about Seattle that makes it so liberal.
Young says, "Artists. It's an artsy-fartsy kind of place. I don't know any artists that aren't liberal. Maybe it's because they get money from the city for statues."
Carender says, "Californians. They moved up here after things got crappy in California. It's like a virus."
Moon figures, who knows, maybe it's just the way urban places are, full of libs.
Anyway, maybe Seattle politics aren't the greatest, but just drive around and ponder the nonpolitical side of one of the bluest of blue cities.
"I love the beach, and the mountains. It's a great place to live," says Moon.
Careful there, Greg, keep talking like that and Mayor Mike McGinn will invite you over for lunch.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org