You don’t have to look very far across the Canada-U.S. border to find a tiny Republican outpost in the Democratic blue state of Washington.
Tony’s White Spot Diner in Blaine is so red that Tony Andrews’ wife Tina makes and sells those red baseball caps that Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump likes to wear, emblazoned with “Make America Great Again.”
Their little café, decked out with antiques to look like the quintessential small-town diner, is more popular with Canadians coming across the border to pick up mail than it is with local residents.
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Especially now that the Andrews have made no secret of their support for Trump and their distrust of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
I’ve been told off. They said if they knew what side I was on they would never have come in in the first place and not to expect them back again.
Tony Andrews, owner of Tony’s White Spot in Blaine and a Donald Trump supporter
In recent days, Tony’s White Spot has undergone a withering Facebook boycott, a voting with their feet by Democrat neighbours shunning both their diner and their views.
“I’ve been told off. They said if they knew what side I was on they would never have come in in the first place and not to expect them back again,” said Tony, whose white waxed handlebar moustache lends to the diner’s rustic charm.
On the last day of what has been one of the nastiest, most divisive election campaigns in U.S. history, the Andrews find themselves wondering what America will look like on Nov. 9.
“I still think Trump will win, and he’ll win the Senate and Congress, too,” said Tony Andrews, who has lived in Blaine for more than 30 years after retiring from the military. “At least, I sure hope so. I don’t know what to make of it if he loses.”
Tina Andrews, if it is possible, is more of a diehard Republican than her husband. A Vietnamese boat refugee who fled the Communist country in 1979 with 279 others, of whom 200 died a sea, says she fears liberal America is heading toward totalitarianism. Yet she is quiet about her views compared to her husband, who wears one of her hats.
I just voted for Clinton, in spite of the fact I said I never would. ... And why did I change my mind? Because we need a landslide against Donald Trump.
Vincent Lalonde, owner of Mount Bakery café in Fairhaven and a Bernie Sanders supporter
In Bellingham’s Fairhaven district, 35 kilometres down the Interstate 5, another small café owner sees the election much differently. Vincent Lalonde, whose Mount Bakery café is safely ensconced in a so-blue community that you can’t find a single Donald Trump/Mike Pence sign, doesn’t understand how anyone can support the Republican presidential candidate.
“I don’t even know where to start. He doesn’t understand our democratic system, he doesn’t have a sense of what human rights are about, he’s a misogynist and a racist,” he said.
Yet despite his deep liberal roots, Lalonde said he just voted, reluctantly, for Clinton. That’s because he was a Bernie Sanders supporter, and a party delegate for him at the local level.
“I just voted for Clinton, in spite of the fact I said I never would,” he said. “I said I wouldn’t because I protested against the war and it was a non-starter that I would ever vote for her because she voted for the Iraq war. And why did I change my mind? Because we need a landslide against Donald Trump.”
The two cafés, in their own ways, are surrogates for how divided the United States remains over who should occupy the Oval Office. As Election Day arrives, more than 43 million Americans have already cast ballots in early voting opportunities in most states. Clinton holds a small lead among registered voters, and largely Hispanic neighbourhoods in key states like Florida have turned out in droves.
Polarized on both sides, more so than the red state/blue state elections of 2008 and 2012, the so-called undecided voter in 2016 is as rare as finding someone without an opinion.
Tony Andrews concedes that the state will likely go Democratic.
Lalonde scoffs. “Ya think so?” he told a reporter.
Yet both men worry about the fallout of a political process so poisoned that they both say they want changes. And strikingly, they both see the process as gerrymandered, but by different definitions.
“I love this country and I feel we are losing why we were founded in the first place,” said Andrews, who dismisses Trump’s crude words about women and minorities in the same way the candidate does, as “locker-room” talk. “I don’t care what he says, political correctness is ruining this country and he is not politically correct by any means.”
Lalonde, whose family has Canadian roots — his grandfather was born in Princeton and his great-grandfather was from Quebec — but was born and raised in western Washington, worries about the political schism dividing the nation.
“One of the things I saw that most summed it up for me, it is a big red flag about where our country is that this many people could support someone like Donald Trump,” Lalonde said. “People feel like I have to be this or that and if I am not this, then I have to be that.”
And yet, he said, institutional politics has become so ingrained that it is actually hurting American society. “I think there is a lot of truth to that,” he said. “But you are not going to solve it by blowing it up.”
Tony Andrews says he hopes the politically inspired boycott doesn’t last long. Most of his neighbours, even though they’re Democrats, are nice people, he says.
But the Andrews have their own supporters, too. Paul Burrill, a local fisherman and crab exporter, brought two of his crew in for breakfast on Monday, specifically to support the Andrews after they learned of the Facebook boycott.
“When I hear of people like me, I want to support their business. A friend of mine told me they were being affected by the Facebook post,” Burrill said. “People can do whatever they want. I appreciate the fact that at this point in time we can actually express our opinion. And we should be able to express our opinion without fear of repercussion.”