In no state did Donald Trump receive a lower percentage of the popular vote than in Vermont. The new Republican president, however, still has plenty of committed supporters here — and many of them are in Washington, D.C., this week to celebrate Trump’s inauguration.
Ellie Martin took more than a passing interest in the 2016 race for president.
The Underhill resident made frequent trips to New Hampshire, knocking on hundreds of doors in the battleground state. And she’s traveled long distances — and endured massive crowds — for a chance to meet her political hero.
“I attended four rallies of Trump’s,” Martin says.
So on Nov. 9, Martin celebrated her candidate’s seismic victory over Hillary Clinton. And now, Martin is ready to party.
“Well, I’m going to the ball, so I got out my dancing shoes and my dress that I’ll wear to the ball,” Martin says.
Martin is 75 years old. She has six children, 15 grandchildren, and three great-grandkids. And on Thursday, she boarded a plane for Washington, D.C., to watch the 45th president of the United States get sworn in.
“I think America is badly in need of a change of direction, and he is the key pin that is going to right the ship forward,” Martin says.
Interest among Vermonters in the pomp and ceremony surrounding Trump’s inauguration is not overwhelming. As of Wednesday morning, residents of this state had requested only 409 of the 714 tickets available to the inaugural ceremonies through Vermont’s congressional delegation.
And the Washington-based Vermont State Society, a non-partisan social group, has opted to host a happy hour for Vermonters attending the Women's March on Washington rather than its traditional inaugural gala.
But hundreds of Vermonters are excited enough about the prospect of a Trump presidency to visit the nation’s capital this weekend to witness his swearing in.
“I think I have to be there,” says Rick Cochran. “This is part of his history. I just think this is so cool. And I think it’s important for our country.”
Cochran, a St. Johnsbury resident, was a Vermont delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July. He admits that Marco Rubio was his first choice. But as he saw more and more evidence of Trump’s mass appeal, Cochran says it didn’t take long for him to come on board.
“And I just thought, you know, this has to be something indicative of something very, very unique,” Cochran says. “And clearly election night proved that to be the case.”
The pro-Trump Vermonters are a tight-knit group, and Martin says many of them planned to meet up in D.C. on Thursday.
“And then we’ll go out to dinner,” Martin says. “I think there are 17 of us so far that will be having dinner together.”
Cochran says it can be politically isolating at times, living in a blue state that went overwhelmingly for Clinton.
“But I also look at Vermont and I say, you know, a third of Vermonters, basically, voted for Donald Trump,” Cochran says.
Martin was born and raised in Vermont. She says the state changed since she grew up, and not all for the better.
“I didn’t grow up in a liberal state,” Martin says. “I grew up in a very conservative area where individual rights and personal freedoms were valued.”
But for Martin, Trump’s victory has had the effect of bringing her closer to the Democratic neighbors that will be grieving the inauguration, rather than celebrating it. Shortly after the election, Martin saw a post on Front Porch Forum. It was written by a Clinton supporter, looking to meet up with a Trump voter.
“And I responded to it,” Martin says.
Martin is now part of a group called “Can We Talk.” It’s a mix of conservative Trump voters and liberal Democrats. They’ve meet once a week for the past month.
“And we’re learning that we can really appreciate one another,” Martin says. “We can even like one another, and that’s unusual for us.”
Martin says she looks forward to resuming those conversations, when she returns from the inauguration.