On Dec. 19, the day the Washington state electors gathered in Olympia to cast their votes for the president and vice-president, I attended a rally there with my friend Sue Spencer. We arrived early and as the morning progressed, more and more people showed up.
The weather was miserable, so everyone was bundled up in heavy coats, hats and scarves. We huddled together on the Capitol steps or took shelter in the warm lobby. The variety of people there was impressive: young and old, men and women, LGBTQ folks, Latinos, Whites, Africa-Americans, Asians, Native-Americans. Even two Brownie troops from Seattle were there! Did those sweet little girls even understand what this was all about? And how had their leaders explained to them why we have a person like Donald Trump about to assume the presidency?
Soon our numbers swelled, and as I stood outside, ready to chant with the other demonstrators, I noticed a transgender woman standing nearby. She was near tears as she talked about how, after so many years, she finally felt accepted for who she was. Now she didn’t know what would happen to her. She was genuinely fearful and I felt for her. I think she reflected the feelings of most of us there. We all feared what might happen to our country.
Chanting helped us feel a sense of community, and we took courage. The expression on the trans woman’s face shifted from anxious to confident, as did everyone else’s. It felt good to be there together, taking action.
After that we waited inside for the moment when the electors would meet and vote. The lobby was packed and the stairs in the Rotunda were filled with protesters. A young bespectacled man spoke to the crowd, explaining that he was the organizer and that the rally was supposed to be a peaceful one in support of our electors. The rally was peaceful for sure, but it was clearly a mixed bag based on the signs and the sentiments expressed by the crowd. Here is a sampling of what the signs said: “Hate has No Place Here,” “Electoral College Vote Your Conscience,” “Trump Lost by 2.8 Million votes,” “Send It to the House,” “One Person One Vote,” “Dump Trump” and “We Need a President Who Will Stand Up For All Of Us.”
Someone dressed as Trump sashayed around, waving his hands. He wore a huge papier mache head (much too big for his body) with a gold-streaked head of hair and a crown. This figure was genuinely amusing to watch, and at the same time sobering. A king! Wasn’t this what the founding fathers wanted to avoid at all costs?
At the appointed hour as many of us as possible filled the gallery of the House chambers to watch the proceedings on closed circuit TV. When it was announced by the chosen chair of the electors that three people had voted for Colin Powell and one for Faith Spotted Eagle, I knew that the founder of the Hamilton Electors, Bret Chiafalo, had succeeded to some degree. He had advocated for electors across the country to vote for a more qualified Republican, based on his interpretation of the stated purpose of electors. That purpose was, and is, to prevent an unqualified demagogue with ties to foreign powers from becoming our president.
Even though I knew it was a long shot, a part of me still hoped that electors across the country would take courage and vote for a more appropriate Republican. Chiafalo said many of them had expressed to him their concerns about Trump.
I guess they just weren’t as brave as our “faithless” Washington state electors.
Reach Mary Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.