Competing visions of Trump’s America in Aspen this week
August 7, 2017
This week in Aspen will see a march against the Trump administration a day before one of his top campaign supporters is scheduled to articulate the president's vision for America.
Thomas Barrack Jr., who was the chairman of the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, is scheduled to speak from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Paepcke Auditorium as part of the Aspen Institute's McCloskey Speaker Series. "He will discuss his personal insights into our 45th president and his vision for our country," according to the Institute's website.
Learning of Barrack's appearance motivated Missouri Heights resident Linda Lafferty to organize a march in downtown Aspen as well as a forum of speakers at Paepcke Park the day before his talk Wednesday. Last week Lafferty secured a special-event permit from the city to demonstrate and march. The title of the event is "Our Vision, Not Trump's: A Protest."
Lafferty, an award-winning author and wife of former Aspen Times editor Andy Stone, conceded Friday that marches aren't her forte. But neither is appreciating Trump's presidency.
"He has outraged me to a point where I can no longer just do nothing," she said. "We really need to get together and march and seek like-minded people. We need to hear the other voices who have the same concerns."
With the help of Blanca O'Leary, Aspen's only superdelegate in last year's election and former president of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, Lafferty has been lining up local residents to speak on such hot-button subjects as health care, science, public lands, the environment, women's rights and other concerns. Confirmed speakers so far include Sloan Shoemaker, who runs the Carbondale-based conservation watchdog Wilderness Workshop, as well as John Bennett, a former mayor of Aspen. Bennett emphasized the event is a march against Trump's agenda but not a protest over the nonpartisan Aspen Institute's speaker.
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Marchers will gather at Paepcke Park around 11:45 to hear the speakers. Demonstrators will then march on Hopkins Avenue to downtown, where they will pass by City Hall and take their messages to both the Hyman and Cooper avenue pedestrian malls. They will conclude the demonstration with a return to the park.
Since Trump's election in November, a number of marches and protests have taken place both locally, nationally and globally. More notably were the Women's Marches in January, including one that was a ski down Aspen Mountain and a more traditional one in Denver.
A modest-sized group of locals also staged a demonstration in March in Aspen when Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump took a ski vacation here.
Lafferty said she attended the Denver Women's March but not the ones in Aspen.
"I was too young to protest in the '60s," she said. "I didn't grow up in that culture. But I found the Women's March so empowering in Denver. There were so many like-minded people who were from all walks of life. It really felt like it was a community for sanity."
O'Leary also walked in the Women's March in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she said more than 2,500 people participated. Marches like this week's help energize Democrats, she said.
"This is sort of like a vaccination or a booster shot for what we've already been doing," O'Leary said, noting the 2018 midterm elections hold the key to their effort.
"You want to keep the passion, but next year is when you really, really demonstrate by going door to door," she said.
Barrack is the founder and CEO of Colony Capital and spoke at last year's Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
His is a friend of Trump's who speaks favorably of the president. He said Trump believes the Democrats are using the alleged Russia conspiracy as an excuse for losing the election.
"He just looks at this as the continuum of taking a group of unrelated facts and putting them together in concentric circles and saying, 'Aha — look what happened!'" Barrack told The Washington Post in July. "With Don Jr., whatever set of facts there are may not lead to the conclusion that the establishment media is making."
And in a June interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Barrack said he was not ready to grade Trump on his presidential performance so far.
"I wouldn't give it a grade yet," he said at the time. "If you sat back, and you said, 'Look, let's be real. Is there a health care bill? No. Is there a tax bill? No. Where are we on foreign policy?' We've made a lot of chips into things, and we're doing a great job. But it's too early to bring the report card in.
"I would give it an A for saying that what they intended to do was to come and turn things upside down for us. It wasn't status quo. You can't stand status quo. We can't live with status quo. So I would take a sabbatical from the grades. I'd say, 'Let's look at it in a year. Let's look at it as we approach these midterms. And give him a chance.'"
O'Leary said she would not attend Barrack's talk.