TOPICS > Nation

What it’s like to be a Trump supporter in an ultra-liberal city

July 26, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
What is it like to be a conservative woman trying to find your voice in a city known for its progressive politics? The NewsHour's Elizabeth Flock wrote an in-depth profile of Trump supporters living in Portland, Oregon, the second half of our series on political divisions in unlikely places. Flock joins Judy Woodruff to take a closer look.
LISTENSEE PODCASTS

JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to the second half of our series on political divisions in unlikely places.

In May, NewsHour producer Elizabeth Flock wrote about a group of women in a conservative West Virginia coal mining town who spoke out against President Trump and received backlash from their neighbors.

WATCH: Meet the women who are taking a stand in Trump country

Her new piece, out this week, is an in-depth look at a group of conservative women trying to find their voice in a city known for its progressive politics, Portland, Oregon.

And Liz joins me now.

Liz, welcome back.

You were in Portland for several days and just got back. Why did you choose that city?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: In part, I chose Portland just because it was a progressive city, and I was really interested to see, what is it like to be a Trump supporter in such a liberal place?

But there had also been a number of recent pro-Trump rallies even after the election in Portland and the surrounding area, and those had ended in some violent clashes between the left and the right. And so I was really interested to see what was going on there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we actually covered — covered some of those.

How did you find these women? How did you get in touch with them and how easy was it to get them to trust you, to talk to you?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Yes.

Well, I found all of them online through pro-Trump Facebook groups, Women for Trump. It was really hard to gain their trust. A lot of them had no interested in speaking to me. There is a perception that the media is very liberal, very biased, produces fake news.

Some of them said they’d speak to me and later made the decision that they didn’t want to.

And one of the women I met in a public park because she said: “I’m concerned about meeting you. I don’t know what you’re going to do when I meet you. Maybe you will try to hurt me. I think we should meet in a public place.”

So there was a lot of fear of the media and how they’re portrayed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell us about what it’s like for them? What do they go through as they express their political views?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Well, they certainly get a lot of pushback for their beliefs. And some of them do have more extreme beliefs, to be certain.

Others hold more moderate views, but they’re all sort of clumped together as one thing. They’re called racists and bigots regularly. And they’re attacked online. They’re told that they should go die.

One woman told me, one day, when she was walking her dog and wearing a Trump hat, a man just stopped to say to her: “Your kind isn’t wanted here. You should just leave.”

And if they go to these rallies, they face even more of an extreme reaction. Many people in Portland, in the Pacific Northwest come out to counterprotest these rallies. And some of them are more liberal Portlanders who just want to say, I don’t agree with what you have to say.

But others are militant leftists that show up and basically say, we’re unapologetic about using physical violence against these Trump supporters.

And, certainly, violence happens on both sides, but the militant leftists are very unapologetic and open about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I think, for people who didn’t realize it, it’s eye-opening.

One of the women you talked to, Liz, is transgender.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Yes.

Her name is Athena Brown. And Athena switched parties from being a Democrat to being a Republican in mid-2016, just before the election. She became fed up, she said, with what she saw as political correctness on the left and in the liberal LGBT community.

And she told me: “You know, when I became — when I came out as transgender, I lost two friends. When I came out as Republican, I lost 100 friends on Facebook.”

And so she really saw that as an example of the left’s intolerance to people who do not share their views.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do these women keep going? In that environment, where they are such a minority, what keeps them going? How do they deal with it?

ELIZABETH FLOCK: I think they’re actually invigorated by the pushback that they’re getting.

I think they really feel that it’s worth, it’s important to go out and defend what they see as an attack on free speech. And, you know, one of the interesting things I saw is, as the left tried to shut down what they had to say, these Trump supporters, these women were more determined to go out and to speak.

They just wanted to get more active and became more even strident in their beliefs.

In both places, it felt like people on opposite sides of the political divide were not speaking to each other. They were speaking past each other, and there was no interest in really hearing what the other side had to say.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in a way, it was a mirror image of the anti-Trump women you talked to in conservative West Virginia.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Absolutely.

In both places, I think, as people tried to shut down what they had to say, these women just wanted to speak out louder. They wanted to get more involved and more active. But, in both places, it felt like people on opposite sides of the political divide were not speaking to each other. They were speaking past each other, and there was no interest in really hearing what the other side had to say.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Discouraging, but some great reporting.

Liz Flock, thank you very much.

ELIZABETH FLOCK: Thanks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can find Liz’s full reports on our Web site. That’s PBS.org/NewsHour.

SHARE VIA TEXT