Estes Park voters say election was just the beginning

What now, America?

When The New York Times posed that question in Estes Park a few days ago, the answers they got indicated that just maybe the body politic has warmed to the game.

In the passage below, two women — one Republican and one Democrat — talk about how this past election cycle reignited their passions for politics.

Both said this election, whether out of defeat or victory, was a renewed call to action and engagement — an alarm signal to push harder than ever in support of steadfast convictions. Many other voters, in a post-election swing through this deeply divided, fought-over county, expressed a similar thought: election over, game on.

“It’s a call to participation,” said Ms. Adams, 49, a yoga instructor. “I’m planning to just show up and see what I can do. Now more than ever, we have to just keep showing up. Obama needs us on his team.”

Ms. Craddock, 58, a small-business owner, said her energy was over-brimming, too, pointing full speed ahead toward reversing everything that Mr. Obama and Democrats have done in the last two years.

“I think this is going to end up probably being the best thing in American history that’s ever happened,” she said. “We have awakened.”

The Times, which produced a long series on Larimer County voters prior to the election, says the county mirrored the state in voting this year.

What will it mean for the nation to have a divided Congress? What will it mean to have people so deeply divided over issues such as health care and federal spending? Well, it may not be all bad, this small slice of America seems to say:

Many voters here, interviewed on a recent gray and frigid day threatening snow at 7,500 feet in the mountains, said they thought that gridlock in Washington and a stalemate over partisan politics were possible outcomes with a divided government and a passionately aroused, divided population at home.

But while some said that gridlock and a failure by the Republicans to compromise with Democrats in solving problems would lead to a backlash in two years, others said the opposite — that failure to push vehemently enough on Republican promises like repealing the health care overhaul would be enough to replenish voter anger and lead to a second wave of change.

“What’s crucial is that they listen,” said Annyce Stone, a college professor and Republican who was working on her laptop at a downtown coffee shop. “If they don’t listen, I think they’ll be voted out.”

Others said that divided government might not be so bad. Amy Hamrick, 34, a Democrat and the owner of Kind Coffee, a roaster and coffee house on Estes Park’s main street, said history made her optimistic about the next two years.

“In the Clinton and Reagan eras, when the power balanced out a little bit, they actually ended up figuring more stuff out,” she said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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