I had zero interest in phone banking for an unabashedly racist and misogynistic candidate, I told my editor. As the biracial child of immigrants, I knew that Trump—and people who support him—might be okay with only half of my heritage. While Trump might allow white European immigrants like my German father (and Trump's third wife) into the country, they might demean and ban people like my Filipino mother.
I simply wasn't interested in getting into a confrontation with an angry old bigot on what was supposed to be my day off.
The location of Donald Trump's Seattle campaign office is a closely guarded secret—and a libertarian tech nerd is the guardian of that secret.
Let's call him Dirk.
You won’t find the address of Trump’s Seattle campaign headquarters on any of Dirk’s e-mail blasts, which he’s been sending out daily to people—not all of them Trump supporters—who registered to attend Trump’s rally on May 7. The address wasn’t on the e-mail blast Dirk sent out asking Trump supporters to come to the Seattle office and do some phone banking ahead of the Republican primary on May 24. To get the address, you had to send Dirk an e-mail with your real name on it, your phone number, and an “endorsement for Mr. Trump.”
A loyalty oath, in other words.
I wasn't willing to swear an oath to Donald Trump. But someone I knew was. So I tagged along on their phone banking volunteer shift —without swearing an oath to support Donald Trump myself. That makes me one of the few people under 60 in Seattle who knows the top-secret location of Trump's Seattle campaign office.
And I'm not telling.
But I can tell you this: Trump's Seattle campaign office is located in an unmarked storefront on Highway 99 near a couple of sex shops. The "unmarked" part was weird, because Trump likes to put his name on things. TRUMP Tower in New York City. TRUMP Hotel in Las Vegas. TRUMP casinos, TRUMP steaks, TRUMP water. But you won't find Trump's name on his office here. (The "near sex shops" part didn't seem weird at all.) From the outside, Trump's Seattle office looks like an empty property—the windows have been carefully covered with brown butcher paper so that no one can see in.
Walk through the doors of Trump's campaign office—as I did last Saturday morning, on my day off, at my editor's insistence—and everything is as you would expect: Trump signs, American flags, coffee, snacks, the elderly.
Dirk has beady dark eyes and slicked-back hair, and he looked to be in his late 30s. A long-suffering libertarian who runs a small consulting firm, Dirk is careful about sharing the exact location of Trump's Seattle HQ because door-to-door Trump canvassers in the area have been pelted with rocks.
"We don't want a brick through the window," said Dirk.
There were other volunteers. One was a mustachioed Queen Anne resident wearing a red flannel shirt. The man is a sixtysomething former Democrat. There was a great deal of "corruption" in the 2008 convention, he told us, and that corruption resulted in Barack Obama getting the nomination over Hillary Clinton. That same year, his home-remodeling business was hit hard by the economic crash. He hasn't backed a Democrat since. He thinks Trump is a straight shooter.
To my surprise, I wasn't the only woman in the room. The mustachioed man's wife was there too. She told me they're the only Trump supporters in their neighborhood. She was very pleasant.
In fact, everyone was pleasant. Absurdly pleasant. I didn't get into any confrontations with angry old bigots. If anyone noticed I was a person of color, they either didn't care or were grateful for the exonerating power of my presence. ("This campaign can't be racist! There was a woman of color at the phone bank today!")
After a short tutorial from Dirk, we logged into computer terminals and began making calls to registered Republicans and independents—mostly in far-flung rural outposts. If they didn't pick up, we left a voice mail: "No other candidate stands up for Americans like Donald Trump. We will make America great again!"
Of those who did answer, most were not Trump supporters. Several hung up. One man, a self-described lifelong Republican from Aberdeen, told me angrily: "He's an ass!" Another man, from Bremerton, said: "I can't stand the guy!" When I asked a seventysomething woman if the party could count on her voting for Trump, she laughed: "No! That guy's a nut!" Then she hung up. I sighed with relief.
Not a single person I spoke to while phone banking for Trump gave me the chance to engage with them on the issues. If they had, I would have read from my script: "Mr. Trump's policies on the Second Amendment will only strengthen Americans' constitutional right to bear arms." Or, on immigration: "Mr. Trump's immigration policies [include] building a wall across the southern border and making Mexico pay for it, and returning all criminal aliens back to their country of origin."
There was also a special section in the script dedicated to voters who told us all politicians are crooks. "One of my favorite things about Mr. Trump is that his campaign is self-funded," we were supposed to respond.
Not that it matters in Trump world, but this happens to be a straight-up lie. Earlier this month, Trump said he would start soliciting donations to raise money for his campaign. He hired Steven Mnuchin, a GOP fundraiser and former Goldman Sachs executive, and announced that he intended to raise a billion dollars. And the $50 million of his own money that Trump spent during the primary? He didn't donate it to his campaign, he loaned it to his campaign. Trump can pay himself back that $50 million out of the billion he hopes to raise. And does anyone doubt Trump will pay himself back?
Everyone in Trump's Seattle office had their own reasons for supporting the Orange Menace. They had been taken in by what Trump looks like on the surface: the self-made billionaire, the truth-telling American patriot. The reality, of course, is that Trump is a longtime Democratic donor, a vulture real-estate magnate who inherited a fortune, a man with connections to America's white-supremacist fringe, and a serial philanderer whose first ex-wife accused him of sexually assaulting her.
If they think Trump is on their side, they're dreaming.
Dirk is definitely a dreamer—he's dreaming of a Trump victory in Washington State in November. He believes it's a real possibility. So Dirk is going to work diligently to try to make that happen—which is great news, because Dirk is going to waste a lot of energy and time, and hopefully a nice chunk of Trump's money (resources that could be used in vulnerable swing states), working for a candidate so hated by the people of Washington State that his office is effectively underground.
I have a dream, too. In my dream, this campaign comes to an end—I want this over. I've watched Trump's campaign evolve from a political joke into a terrifying reality. It has been emotionally exhausting. Fearmongering and intolerance breed violence. On May 16, two Boston men were sentenced to prison for attacking a sleeping 58-year-old Mexican man they believed to be an immigrant. The men, who are brothers, told the police they were "inspired" by Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, Rodrigo Duterte, former mayor in the Philippines's southernmost island of Mindanao, was just elected president. He's a fan of rape jokes, he's a misogynist, and he has openly embraced political violence. President Duterte was called the "Trump of the Philippines" before he won. Here's hoping Trump never becomes the "Duterte of the United States."