Trump’s victory brings feelings of optimism, despair in Pitkin County
Many Roaring Fork Valley residents took to Facebook on Wednesday to try to calm nerves about the presidential race outcome and reassure one another it would be all right. Rachel Richards would have none of it.
“I hate to be Debbie Downer here, but I’ve seen the agenda full scale for quite awhile now,” Richards, a Pitkin County commissioner, said Wednesday morning.
She wasn’t shy about sharing her outlook on Facebook threads. Former Roaring Fork Valley journalist David Frey noted in a post that the political pendulum swings back and forth. The same country that elected Trump, he noted, had previously elected its first black president twice.
“This is a divided nation. It always is. No matter who wins. The fight goes on,” Frey wrote.
“Give it a break,” Richards wrote as part of a long string of replies to Frey’s observations. “The world you woke up in is not the same.
“All three branches of government are now controlled by those happy to throw tens of millions out of any form of health care. Social Security will be cut, … climate change fully baked in, American public lands transferred back to the states for their useful disposal,” Richards wrote.
Glenn Beaton hopes a lot of policies enacted during the Obama years are up for scrutiny and change. Beaton, a conservative Republican, is a columnist for The Aspen Times. He actively supported Trump and expressed his optimism that he will be a successful leader Wednesday in Facebook threads.
“Trump understands the difference between campaigning and governing,” Beaton wrote. “I think he’ll be fine.”
He also hopes that Trump keeps his vows to the people that swept him into office.
“The people took back their country today,” he wrote on Facebook. “Let’s hold onto it this time. Let’s make sure the establishment know that we’re the boss.”
Party optimism amid local trepidation
Pitkin County Republican Committee Chairman Bob Jenkins, who was often seen around town donning a “Make America Great Again” hat during the campaign, said “the average, middle-American worker” stood up and spoke Tuesday night.
“This election wasn’t so much about the candidates — it was about the working men and women that have stood up and spoken,” he said. “If you want to improve the economy in America, why not hire a guy that knows how to create jobs?”
Beaton said Wednesday that he believes Trump is smart, as exemplified by the fact that he entered the primary and presidential race as a political outsider and pulled off the victory. He didn’t always come across as smart in the campaign, but Beaton is optimistic his governing style will be different.
“God, I hope so,” he said with a laugh.
And even though he is a conservative Republican, he said he is a bit troubled by the fact that the party controls the presidency, U.S. Senate and House, will soon appoint a tie-breaking Supreme Court justice and controls a strong majority of governorships and state legislatures.
With that type of control by his party, Trump should be able to make progress.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t screw it up,” Beaton said.
Jenkins said the presidential election represented a national tipping point between a socialistic approach and free-market capitalism.
“We think it is absolutely unifying,” Jenkins said of the presidential outcome. “Not necessarily unifying to the cutesy intellectual elites. But it is to middle-America and it is middle-America that made this country — not the intellectual elites.”
“Makes our mission all the more important”
On the less hopeful side, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo had strong feelings about Trump’s victory Wednesday morning.
“I’m as depressed today as I was when we were under attack on 9/11,” he said. “I’m shell-shocked.”
Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, told his staff Wednesday that the nonpartisan education and policy studies organization’s mission is more important now than ever.
“I know that a lot of us, like most of America and the world, are surprised by last night’s results,” Isaacson wrote in an email to the staff. “Let me just say that it makes our mission all the more important. We need to lay the ground for a new generation that understands enduring values, respects all people, and seeks to find solutions and new ideas to make all of our lives better in a changing world. American history has had many cycles, and it will have many more. Onward.”
Democratic superdelegate Blanca O’Leary echoed that optimism Wednesday, even as she admitted she still felt stunned by Trump’s victory.
“I’m very, very proud of Colorado,” she said. “Colorado did the right thing. I will do as I’m told by Hillary (Clinton) and Barack (Obama) and wish the best success for this president because I love our country.”
Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman was proud that Pitkin County “upheld our values” by supporting causes like open space, libraries and education. He couldn’t say as much for the presidential results.
“I couldn’t get to sleep last night,” he said. “I had to take a sleeping pill I was so depressed.”
Commissioner Michael Owsley called this “the strangest election I’ve ever participated in.” He didn’t expect Trump to win, but said he hopes Trump can bring the country together — even though nothing he’s heard Trump say up to this point indicates he’s capable of doing so.
“It’s my own hope,” Owsley said.
concerns over environment, other trump policies
Richards told The Aspen Times on Wednesday that the fate of public lands is particularly worrisome for the Roaring Fork Valley. People have downplayed the chances of public-land transfers even though the Republican Party put the issue in its platform. The same people doubted Donald Trump could be elected president, she noted. That should be a clue, she said, of what’s to come.
“It’s just clearly unleashed,” she said of the conservative agenda. With the presidency and both branches of Congress are in Republican hands, she believes a number of policies will change.
“I think anything’s on the table,” Richards said.
Trump made it clear during the campaign that he doesn’t believe in climate change. He vowed he would roll back the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulating powers. Aspen Skiing Co. has been a big supporter of the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases. It’s invited the past two directors of the EPA to Aspen for presentations.
Auden Schendler, Skico’s vice president of sustainability, said goals are going to have to change for those fighting to curb greenhouse gases after the election.
“The climate movement will continue, but the era of American leadership is over,” Schendler wrote in an email. He is traveling on business in New Zealand.
“We are looking at a movement that is more global than American, more grass roots than national, and even more like a social revolution then before, out of necessity,” Schendler wrote. “The civil rights movement did not stop because we had bigoted leadership. Nor will the climate movement be stopped by executive leadership that denies science.”
As Democrats spent the day “soaking in the news,” O’Leary said she had heard discussions about the electorial college. Younger voters in particular, she said, could be the catalyst for changing that system.
Newman fears of another system that could change: the Supreme Court.
“That could set back our country 100 years,” he said, while also expressing concerns about climate change.
DiSalvo said he’s concerned about a return to policies that, for example, required law enforcement to lock up immigrants caught without the proper paperwork.
“Our jail was overflowing when we had to do that,” he said.
He said he’s concerned about a woman’s right to an abortion, gay rights and what will happen with the Supreme Court.
“These issues will affect each one of us in our lives,” DiSalvo said.
Aspen Next Gen Chairman Skippy Mesirow, who has led local efforts to increase civic participation and voter turnout within the under-40 crowd since early this year, said he was “extremely disappointed and surprised” at the outcome of the presidential election.
“I took it to heart and as personally as anybody,” he said.
Nevertheless, Mesirow said, “We need to put into perspective that this (electoral process) is a 200-plus year experiment that has produced the best country in the world. And our structure of democracy is far more important than any single candidate.”
Mesirow said he appreciated both speeches from Obama and Clinton on Wednesday morning, and specifically their reiteration of a peaceful transition of power.
“I think that both she and Obama lived up the highest ideals as a country, accepted defeat graciously and put country ahead of self,” Mesirow said. “We should be grateful for that.”
Mesirow also credited President-elect Donald Trump for delivering an unexpectedly “consolatory” victory speech.
“That speech could’ve gone in a much different direction,” he said. “It could’ve been terrifying for the future of our country. And it wasn’t.”
Going forward, Mesirow said, “It’s up to us to come together, to find communality, listen to each other, and build a better America for tomorrow. Just as we’ve done for the last 200 years.”
Having had some time to process the outcome of the presidential race and the reality of a nation under Trump, Aspen resident Chris Burley said he also considers the occasion a call to action for a younger generation of Americans.
“I think it’s time for young people to stand up,” he said. “I feel inspired to become more involved in my community, to get out there and push good ideas.”
That’s the silver lining to an otherwise undesirable situation for Burley.
Before feeling motivated and inspired, Burley said, “My first feeling was profound anger and disappointment.”
Burley said the environment is one of his greatest concerns with Trump as president.
“I’m really nervous and scared about our environment, both locally and globally,” he said. “I’m really worried (the government) is going to continue down a path of carbon consumption.”
The worry, fear and other depressing emotions young people, mostly liberals, felt Wednesday is familiar to the other side. About half the country has felt that way for the past eight years, Rabbi David Segal said.
“I think that requires empathy, which can be scary because people think they’re giving in to the opposition, but you can have empathy without losing your convictions.”
Americans must do a better job of listening to and understanding each other, he added — and that can start now.
“It starts in your neighborhood or in your school or in your church or where you volunteer,” he said. “We’re in this digital echo chamber of our own creation, personified by Facebook. Even those of us who are well-intentioned and like to say we respect the other side, are we really in conversation with it, with anyone?”
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