If you think Seattle has successfully immunized itself against a Trumpian right, look no further than our neighbor to the south, Burien, for an example of what happens to local politics catalyzed by Trump-style rhetoric. I wrote about some of the extremism that had filtered into Burien's hyperlocal brand of nativism last month. In the last few weeks, however, it seems that tensions between two factions of Burien politics—"Burien Proud Burien First" versus the Burien Left—have escalated.
Burien resident Andrew McNair, 37, has four candidate signs on his lawn. They show Burien's slate of liberal candidates for the November elections—incumbent City Council Member Nancy Tosta, Pedro Olguin, Jimmy Matta, and Krystal Marx. Both Olguin and Matta say they ran for office because of some of the anti-immigrant hate they witnessed and experienced following Trump's election, and Marx and Tosta supported Burien's sanctuary city ordinance. (The sanctuary city policy, which was challenged by an unsuccessful petition, isn't the only place where these candidates align, but it's been one of the most divisive issues in Burien politics.)
Last Monday, McNair, who works from home with an office overlooking his front lawn, said he saw a car drive across the median on his street, swerve onto his lawn, and knock into all four signs, bending them down. He said he was shocked, but eventually unbent the signs' metal stands and placed them upright again. He also filed a police report. Yesterday, McNair said he woke up to find all his signs bent again in a similar way. He again fixed the signs' stands and propped them upright.
Later that same afternoon, McNair said he saw the same car come back. "The back passenger side has a little Trump sticker," McNair remembered. "He did the same thing: slowed down, plowed into all four signs, and drove off. This time I had the presence of mind to pay attention to his license plate."
McNair called the police again, who filed an additional report. King County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Sgt. Cindi West confirmed the reports and said that deputies had located and interviewed a suspect, who is now currently under investigation for vandalism.
McNair told The Stranger that he's used to getting candidate signs torn up and thrown on the ground—that much is par for the course during a heated set of elections. But, he said, "I'm making a stink about it now because I think there's a significant difference between taking a sign and ripping it out and using your car as a political battering ram."
McNair says that he thinks more conservative Burienites who once belonged to unincorporated King County have a fear of losing political control to a different kind of Burien resident.
"My wife and I wanted to buy a house but couldn't afford anything in Seattle," McNair said. "It's a really nice community and I'm really excited to raise my son here. I think when they see folks like me beginning to vote for people, they feel like they're losing their autonomy again."
But McNair also thinks that the 2016 presidential election "amped up" local resentments. "With Burien, I think the 2016 election validated a certain kind of political rhetoric as being okay or effective and I think we're seeing that," he said.