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.
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.”
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.”
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 ….”
“Including Trump,” she added with emphasis.
“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.
Littleton resident Gabriel McArthur says the reason he’s seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the 6th Congressional District is because Democrats can’t “articulate clearly and loudly” what the party stands for and shouldn’t assume that criticizing President Trump will be enough to attract voters.
Would-be vandals and ecoterrorists, take note. Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg isn’t messing around if you want mess around with oil and gas equipment. The Republican from Sterling is sponsoring Senate Bill 35 to elevate the charge of tampering with oil and gas equipment from a class 2 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony. The charge should […]
DENVER — Good morning fellow Colorado-critters and welcome to the midweek Hot Sheet extravaganza. For those believers, today's date means we've got just 24 full days of shopping madness left before Santa's sleigh leaves its skid marks atop your roof. Speaking of marks, it looks like the 2016 presidential election has left its mark — an odd one — in Southern Colorado. More on that below.
And for those wonks who are counting ... just 707 days left until Decision 2018, when Colorado will choose a new woman or man (please a woman ... please some sanity) to reign supreme atop the Gold Dome throne as governor.
Exchanges started predictably with, “who is Evan McMullin?” Saturday afternoon on Denver’s 16th Street as supporters of the independent candidate for president tried to rally excitement and educate voters on a campaign that’s a mere two months old — an infancy in the life of a presidential campaign.
Serving as a primer to an in-person visit from McMullin Tuesday at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, the small group of about 20 marched from Union Station to the state Capitol building wielding campaign signs and hawking campaign literature.
The largely unknown candidate’s grassroots campaign in Colorado, steered by local political newcomers, has become a new home for “never-Trump” voters and disenchanted conservatives, some of whom planned on staying home on Election Day until McMullin declared his candidacy.
Independent voters likely to cast ballots shifted strongly to Democrat Hillary Clinton, giving her the lead over Republican Donald Trump in Colorado and other critical swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, and moved her into a tie with Trump in Ohio, according to a Quinnipiac University swing state poll released Monday, Oct. 17.
Clinton also had double-digit leads among women who said they were likely to vote and led between 28 to 76 percent among nonwhite voters, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll found.
John Morales was interning for Bernie Sanders' campaign when the longshot Democratic candidate's hopes started to fade in the spring. That's when Libertarian Gary Johnson caught his interest.
In many ways Johnson and Sanders are ideological opposites. The Vermont senator is an opponent of foreign trade deals and won over many younger voters in the primaries by calling for enormous government spending to guarantee universal health care and free college tuition. Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, supports smaller government and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But he shares Sanders' outsider, tell-it-like-it-is style, social liberalism and skepticism about military intervention overseas — attributes that have won over enough Sanders supporters to worry Democrats he could jeopardize Hillary Clinton's chances in November.
“The one finger salute. I get a few of those,” said a guy at the gas station as I asked him about his “Trump, Pence” bumper sticker.
Mean actions and mean words are not unique to Hillary, NeverTrump, Johnson, Stein or Trump supporters. Each has individuals in their camps who have very bad manners. And they are not unique to politics in 2016. Larry Tagg notes in his piece, “Evidence for the Unpopular Mr. Lincoln” that Lincoln was called, “a braying ass, wishy-washy, namby-pamby, imbecile, disgusting & a facetious pettifogger.” Ouch!
DENVER — Good morning and HAPPY MONDAY! Too loud? Sorry. The weekend was full of canvassing, door knocking, phone calling, barbecuing and other campaign events across Colorado — including visits from two women in national politics carrying torches on opposite sides of the island, Carly Fiorina and Jill Stein. And, of course, there was the legislative BBQ at the Colorado State Fair, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran's Annual Birthday Bash and the Independence Institute's big yearly Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Party. Whoo! You're no doubt exhausted — but alas, it's another work day! With the kids back in school, we are now officially in the heart of presidential general election campaign season. All you campaign circus performing gypsies, enjoy those larger than average paychecks — or that peaked interest in your race for village dog catcher — while it lasts. OK, I understand you want to gallivant around the neighborhood throwing unruly animals in jail, but where do you stand on the Clinton Foundation? What about Trump's immigration stance? Remember, it only happens but once a quadrennial. Good luck this week.
The Green Party’s Jill Stein made a presidential campaign stop in the Centennial State Saturday, courting the undecided Colorado voter, dissatisfied with the two major party candidates.
Stein, a physician from Massachusetts, rallied a modest group of supporters at Colorado Springs’ Acacia Park, before leading a march through downtown chanting political battle cries like “Jill not Hill,” on their way to the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church where a larger group of more than 100 gathered.