TomStrand-W.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningAugust 27, 20173min180

Tom Strand isn't planning on giving up his seat on the Colorado Springs City Council to run for Congress against Republican Doug Lamborn, the entrenched 5th Congressional District incumbent up for election next year. Strand said his obligations to the council — he was elected as an at-large member in 2015, and as chairman of the Utilities Board are critically important.


081816-MANITOU-TRUMP-1-1024x708.jpg

Erin PraterErin PraterAugust 23, 201716min650
Laura Ettinger poses for a portrait outside of Create Cafe, which she owns, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Ettinger, an independent, is appalled by President Trump. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

For yoga instructor Jess Saffer and the other happy hippies of Manitou Springs, last year’s presidential election was an emotional body blow — intense, raw and visceral.

“It felt like heartbreak,” said Saffer, 28, of the moment she learned that Trump had taken the lead.

Nine months in, a siege mentality has taken hold in this quaint, funky tourist town nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak.

That’s because Manitou, known for its ancient healing waters and carefree vibe, is a blue dot in a sea of red. Though surrounding Colorado Springs is one of the most conservative cities in the state, Manitou, affectionately known as “Hippie Mayberry,” is one of the most liberal.

Here you’ll find locals who greet visitors like longtime friends, passersby who almost always spare change for beggars, and the area’s only retail pot shops.

And you’ll find Never Trumpers — those who voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein — anyone, anything but Trump — in spades.

What’s a Never Trumper living in the heart of Trump Country to do? Now that the initial shock of Trump’s victory has subsided, just how are Manitoids coping?

Some are displeased but dismissive, determined not to let national politics influence their highly individualized ways of life.

Others are trying on a newfound activism. Still others are trying to live more deliberate lives in which small acts of kindness play a bigger, more meaningful role — determined to fight what they perceive as a hateful regime with an old hippie weapon: love.

 

Yoga instructor Jessi Saffer eats a salad at Create Cafe Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Although Saffer is disappointed in her fellow Coloradans who voted for Trump, she tries to spread kindness with everyone. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Hurricane Trump
The morning after the election, Saffer began the process of coping with “severe disappointment in multiple people” — not just the broad swath of Trump voters across the nation, but “fellow Coloradans.”

She began to see the man in the truck next to her with the “drain the swamp” bumper sticker, the woman on the street with the red embroidered Make America Great Again trucker’s hat, as people who had betrayed her — and the nation — deeply.

“I’ll think, ‘Oh, you’re one of those,’” she said. “I’m pretty biased. But I’m not mean to them. It just blows my mind.”
Saffer has channeled her emotions into advocacy. She “resisted” by participating in a local protest and signing multiple petitions against laws Trump wants passed.

Many locals are adjusting to the new normal by leaning on each other.

“Manitou is a place full of community activists, people who want to move things forward in a positive way,” said Laura Ettinger, co-owner of Create Café, as the afternoon rush slowed to a trickle.

The cafe serves up unique options like zucchini noodles, lavender-honey beer and Manitou Lemonade made with water from a nearby spring. It features a “pay it forward pot” that funds the meals of hungry patrons with empty pockets.

She recalls the morning after Election Day in Manitou as brimming with despair.

“People were mourning,” said Ettinger, 54. “It was a sense of depression, of ‘we are in trouble now,’ of disbelief.”

But time marches on, and there’s work to do.

Trump can keep tweeting, if he must, Ettinger said, but she has mouths to feed — regardless of ability to pay.

“Nobody gets turned away,” she insisted.

“People in Manitou are going to take care of their people. We all have to deal with the national-level stuff, but really, when it comes down to change happening, it’s going to be at the local level.”

If there’s any place for a liberal to weather Hurricane Trump, “this would be it.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) sells whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. This liberal hippie town of 5,000 tucked in the foothills of the red-leaning El Paso County swung blue in the last presidential election. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

‘Hippie Mayberry’
Manitou Springs is a political phenomenon as much as it is a cultural one.

The predominately white municipality of roughly 5,000 is bereft of the diversity one might associate with a city so blue.

Much like Mayberry might, Manitou features fishing holes, effervescent springs and old-fashioned ice cream parlors.

There’s a penny arcade, a singular high school and nary a big box store in sight.

But Mayberry doesn’t host an annual coffin race down Main Street.

Mayberry’s gift shops don’t sell “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tree ornaments, cashew cheese, spring-water popsicles and “Bliss Booch” kombucha.

Mayberry isn’t home to a South American-inspired tea shop run by a religious sect that claims to serve “the Fruit of the Spirit,” or a pizzeria named Hell’s Kitchen.

“Manitou has long had a reputation for being hippie and liberal,” said Robert Loevy, professor emeritus of political science at Colorado College and co-author of “Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.”

Loevy, who served on the Colorado Reapportionment Commission in 2011, says Manitou is on the western edge of an area voting analysts call “Blue Colorado Springs,” which begins in Manitou and extends eastward through Old Colorado City, downtown Colorado Springs and into Eastern Colorado Springs.

While Boulder and Manitou Springs are both considered quintessential Colorado hippie towns, “they’re completely different places,” Loevy said.

“Boulder has people who are there making a great deal of money in Boulder or Denver,” he said.

Loevy sees Manitou as a different thing altogether — more similar to the strongly Democratic Western Slope ski towns like Keystone, Breckenridge and Vail than its liberal stepsister to the north.

In Colorado’s ski towns “you have a type of person who wants to live a more relaxed mountain lifestyle,” he said.

“They want to be right where the scenery is. They have plenty of money, usually earned somewhere else. They vote strongly Democratic, an important part of why Democrats do so well in elections.

“I see Manitou as fitting more into that pattern because although it’s not a ski town, it’s really close to the mountains.

“The effect of that is like the ski towns: Manitou is Democratic.”

It’s so Democratic, in fact, that Manitou — more precisely, the three precincts that encompass it and parts of El Paso County — swung blue in the last two presidential elections by nearly 2:1, according to data available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

Though Manitou is about as Democratic as they come, it’s a drop in the bucket when compared to the estimated 688,000 residents of El Paso County, which swung red in November.

At a commission meeting he attended, “we spent a long time discussing Manitou Springs, and one of our staff pointed out that we were talking about a very small number of voters — less than 5,000 at the time,” Loevy pointed out.

However minuscule Manitou’s effect on elections outside city limits, its residents are passionate about politics.

Why does it lean so far left?

“That’s a really good question,” Loevy said. “I can’t answer it. I’ve never heard any theories on why Manitou attracts liberals and people likely to vote Democrat.”

 

‘I’m scared, I really am’
“Messy” is coping with the Trump presidency by living how he pleases before the nation goes to “hell in a hand basket” at the hands of Trump.

On a recent Thursday morning, that meant smoking a cigarette and sipping coffee with fellow transients outside The Maté Factor Café, a local bistro run by the offbeat religious group Twelve Tribes.

Two nights prior, 52-year-old Messy — less commonly known by his birth name, Scott Smith — had arrived from Boulder, hoping to catch a hippie gathering before moving on to a festival in Virginia.

“I’m scared, I really am,” said Messy, clad in tie-dye T-shirt and faded overalls, his matted dirty blonde dreads mingling with the voodoo doll necklace resting on his chest.

Just what is there to fear under Trump?

Messy’s not exactly sure. But says he doesn’t trust hateful men.

“People are great, but he wants to build a wall to keep people out,” Messy mused. “Those are the good people, the Mexican people — they’re running from something in their country — poverty, crime. They come over here just to get away from it and to work to make a living. I thought that’s what this country was built on, that people can come over here.

Messy planned to linger in Manitou for a couple days, then hit the road. He adores Manitou — a true hippie down, unlike Boulder, he says — but gets restless.

“I love it here, but I can’t stay in any one place too long.”

 

Dave Cutshaw (right) poses for a portrait while selling whittled sticks Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Manitou Springs. Cutshaw sees President Trump as a spoiled child. (Photo by James Wooldridge, The Gazette)

Trump, the petulant child
Dave Cutshaw has more important matters to tend to than worrying too much about Trump — like whittling walking sticks outside of Heavenly Squeeze Juice Bar.

“Donald Trump is just a little kid,” he spat while clearing pulp out of beetle tracks on a tree branch he was readying to stain.

His dog, Sagebrush, rested nearby.

“He had everything he ever wanted, and this is just the ultimate prize.”

Cutshaw recalls Election Night — sitting outside of nearby Camino Real Imports. Hearing the hollers that Trump had won. A man throwing things in his apartment, angrily bemoaning the end of the world.

“I just laughed,” said Cutshaw, 59, who lives off the land outside city limits.

“It don’t matter. It was a lesser-of-two-evil type thing. They haven’t had a good president in there for years.”
Cutshaw thinks Trump’s blunt nature could come in handy.

Right now the country needs an “asshole president” to turn the ship around, and insolent Trump just might be the man for the job, he posited.

If he isn’t?

It’s no skin off Cutshaw’s back.

“I come down here, make some money, go back in the mountains when I get tired of it all,” he said.

 

That old hippie weapon
Saffer is coping in a very Manitou way: spreading as much love as possible.

She’s doing so because she believes Trump — “pure hate, pure ego, pure negativity” — is its antithesis.

“Just being kind to passing strangers is huge,” said Saffer, who works at a local spa and retreat center.

“In this job specifically, I’m able to create events that bring community members together to focus on what’s important: coming back to unconditional love for everybody ….”

She paused.

“Including Trump,” she added with emphasis.

Really?

“Yeah, really,” she said with a laugh. “It’s hard.”

Just how does a Trump opponent tackle such a task?

“It’s a constant balance of your own thought process, focusing on what’s real and what’s true, which is that we’re all the same — nobody’s better or worse,” she said.

Trump “clearly has his own struggles.”

“If somebody like that can be shown love, possibly they can change.”

Porcelain dishes clinked as Ettinger sat a generous kale salad and a hefty, steaming bowl of parsley-garnished soup in front of Saffer, who smiled gratefully.

One small act of kindness, however trivial, can inspire countless glorious counterfeits, Safer believes.

One hearty, nourishing bowl of soup.

One shy smile to a stranger on the street.

One ice cold glass of Manitou Lemonade.


RunForSomethingLogo.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningAugust 18, 20173min390

The progressive Run for Something organization announced this week it's backing several Colorado candidates for municipal office, school boards and legislative seats. The national group, which aims to recruit and support "talented, passionate young people" — up to age 35 —  "who will advocate for progressive values" is getting behind dozens of Democratic candidates in 18 states in its initial round of endorsements, part of what organizers call an effort to build a bench in down-ballot races the traditional party apparatus often ignores.


Hillary-Bernie-W.jpg

Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 28, 20175min380

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday rolled out the red carpet to welcome Democrat Levi Tillemann into an already crowded primary race for the chance to challenge GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. Sounding positively gleeful, NRCC regional spokesman Jack Pandol used the occasion to invoke tried-and-true GOP bogeyman Nancy Pelosi — five times in 10 sentences — and mock early Democratic frontrunner Jason Crow, even throwing in the still-tender rift between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters for good measure.