Madison Garver knits when anxious, and lately has been knitting a lot.
The 26-year-old from Boulder took up the craft in May, a month marked by North Korean missile tests, ISIL and Taliban attacks, Israeli airstrikes, escalating tensions with Iraq, a school shooting here in Colorado, attempts in Southern states to ban abortions, record-setting cylones, wildfires and flooding globally, and several Trump administration rollbacks of climate policies and environmental protections.
“Things can feel pretty overwhelming in the age of Trump,” she says. “I was thinking there’s no way I can take four more years of this. That’s why my therapist suggested I start knitting.”
Garver, an operations lead at Google, arrived two hours early Sunday to hear her pick for the Democratic presidential nomination talk about mending the nation. Knitting one stitch, then purling two on a wool cap, she said she felt glum after Elizabeth Warren’s relatively weak showing in the Iowa’s Democratic caucus and the New Hampshire primary earlier this month.
“But then Wednesday happened,” she said about Warren’s needling of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas. “It was a chance for everybody to wake up and see what she can do. I was so excited every time she poked him that I was pretty much running laps around my kitchen.”
“She was such a force, shredding Bloomberg as the misogynistic asshole he is. Somebody needed to say it,” added Warren volunteer Heidi Al-Sahsah, 52, who commutes from Colorado Springs to her job as an accounts manager for Adams County government. “As a strong-hearted woman, she speaks to me. I feel very connected to her.”
If the pundits have ruled Warren out after her weak showings in Iowa, New Hampshire and now Nevada, the 4,000 and so Warren supporters who crowded Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium Sunday afternoon weren’t buying it.
Megan Bench of Littleton derided the news media for overlooking Warren after only three states have voted. Still ahead lie South Carolina and, on March 3, Super Tuesday when Colorado and 13 other states vote.
“If anything, the sexism of the coverage makes me support her even more,” said the public interest lawyer who is counting on Warren victories in both the primary and general elections to help her pay down $350,000 in student debt. “It’s important to me to signal to my party that I’m not afraid to vote for a progressive woman.”
“Women are still being held to an almost impossible standard in American politics,” added Bench’s friend, Olga Knight from Aurora. “She is the only Democrat in the race with plans, meaningful plans, about structural changes. And the smartest person on that stage. Well, heck, smarter than all of them put together.”
Sunday’s tapestry of Warren supporters was woven largely of women about 30 and over. Many interviewed work in public education, health care and nonprofit services. Many wore T-shirts reading “Warren has a plan for that” T-shirts, or “Dream Big, Fight Hard” and “Nevertheless, she persisted.” As they waited for the candidate to take the stage, they shared pictures of their babies and grandchildren and danced to songs like “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Under Pressure,” and “My Girl” blaring over the loudspeaker.
Brian Nagle of Denver compared Sunday’s crowd of Warren supporters to last week’s largely young male crowd of so-called “Bernie bros” who packed, 11,000-strong, into the Colorado Convention Center to see frontrunner Bernie Sanders.
“This is a far more diverse crowd in terms of age and gender,” said Nagle, who will vote for Warren after months of vacillating between her and Sanders. “She brings a higher level of professionalism and a better record of consensus building. I think she’s a much better bet in terms of her ability to ultimately bring people together and get elected.”
His wife, nurse Mandy Nagle, said that Trump is so loathed in their house that she woke Sunday morning to find Brian had scribbled all over a picture of the president on the Denver’s Post’s front page. His scribbles were so hard, she noted, “that the paper literally had a hole in it.”
Scott Ferguson, an IT consultant from Broomfield, was a lifelong Republican going into the 2016 election and is now a Warren supporter. He attributes the shift partly to a sense that his old party has abandoned working people and “is beyond repair,” partly to Warren’s work fighting, post-economic crash in 2008, for consumer protections against Wall Street, and partly to what he sees as her “sincerity and authenticity.”
“You know when listening to her that she 100 percent feels for and cares about people,” he said. “You know that she would be a president that cares about all Americans, not just certain groups.”
Introduced by state Sen. Julie Gonzales, Warren spoke for an hour about those she said have been left out by the Trump administration: African Americans, Latinos, Asians, LGBTQ Americans, teachers, child care workers, union members, disabled Americans, Americans who can’t afford homes or health care or prescriptions.
She listed her signature “structural changes,” such as ending the Senate filibuster, reforming immigration policies to create a path toward citizenship, codifying abortion rights in the Constitution, enforcing anti-trust laws, cracking down on tax cheats, and imposing a two-cent wealth tax to support universal child care and preschool, public schools, special education programs, vocation programs, community colleges, four-year colleges — especially minority colleges — as well as to cancel student loan debt.
To each of these proposals, the crowd roared.
The crowd roared again as Warren called for federally legalizing marijuana, shuttering private prisons, and addressing inequities in the criminal justice system that make African Americans and other people of color several times more likely than whites to be arrested, detained, taken to trial and slapped with harsh sentences.
And the crowd roared even louder when she rallied for a universal health care system to address what she said should be a moral imperative.
“Health care is a human right,” she said. “I believe in an America where it is people, not money, that is most important.”
Near the end of her speech, Warren lowered her voice and quieted the crowd to speak about the anxiety she said has tied Americans in knots.
“We’ve had three years of Donald Trump and people are afraid for this country, and afraid for this planet, and the danger is real,” she said.
“Are you going to pull back? Are you going to be timid? Or are you going to (join) the fight? Fighting back is an act of patriotism. Americans are at our best when we see a problem and we fight back,” she continued, drawing perhaps the biggest roars of the afternoon.
This is the sense of fight Garver — who managed to knit most of the wool cap during Sunday’s rally — said she needs in a candidate. It is the quality the guy she had dated a few times also recognized in the Feb. 19 debate. He texted Garver after it ended: “Warren is bae” (“bae” = millennial for “the bomb”).
“It was the most attractive thing any man has ever said to me,” she said, smiling and knitting a few more stitches, and, she added, one that promoted him from just-a-guy status to “official boyfriend.”