DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper is calling for unity after a divisive election in which he described Republican Donald Trump as a “narcissistic fraud.”
His comments Thursday came just hours before thousands of protesters voiced their concerns with a Trump presidency, marching around the Colorado Capitol and through downtown Denver, shutting down roads and highways as police corralled the large group.
The mostly peaceful protest saw no arrests, and police used limited amounts of pepper spray on the protesters. The event was part of actions across the country.
Hickenlooper cautioned against vitriol in the wake of the election. Sitting in his office, he read a quote from Abraham Lincoln after Lincoln had won a polarizing race.
“The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case,” the quote from Lincoln read.
“This was a bitter election, which reflects how deeply and intensely people’s emotions were engaged,” Hickenlooper said.
The Democratic governor – one of Hillary Clinton’s top surrogates – made Clinton’s short list for vice president. Hickenlooper also was eyed for a Cabinet position.
“I’m the one who dodged the bullet,” the governor joked, underscoring that it is unlikely that he would be considered for a position in the Trump administration.
“I will say there was a level of relief,” he added about no longer realistically having to think about leaving Colorado for Washington, D.C.
The governor has two years left in his administration.
Still, Hickenlooper isn’t shutting the door on serving in the Trump administration.
“If the president of the United States says ‘I need you’ ... It’s hard to say no,” he said, noting that he has never met the president-elect.
Protesters outside the Capitol later in the day, however, appeared to have no problem saying “no” to Trump. In fact, they had much stronger expletives for him, carrying signs that stated Trump is not their president.
“Many of us are heartbroken, filled with fear and ready to create change,” read the Facebook description of the protest in Denver on Thursday night. “With Trump’s miraculous win last night, we now have to stand up to an administration filled with bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia and a complete lack of compassion.”
State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter who, ultimately, backed Clinton, marched with the protesters.
“It’s always cool to be a part of history, to witness it and to actually be in the midst of it,” Salazar said after participating. “This is going to be written about. This is going to be in our history books. That people repudiated the hatred that we see coming from this president-elect.”
Salazar said he would run legislation in the upcoming session, which will begin in January, to curb potential Trump policies, including on immigration and hydraulic fracturing.
“Maybe we can’t do much as state representatives, but I’m going to do everything I can, because I’m not afraid of this guy,” Salazar said.
Hickenlooper said in many ways the deck was stacked against Clinton.
He pointed to WikiLeaks releases of unflattering internal emails and FBI scrutiny over her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
While there were no significant smoking guns in the leaks or investigations, it left a black eye on the Clinton campaign that led to mistrust by the public.
“She’s not telegenic, and I think people couldn’t trust her, and I think the media didn’t trust her because she doesn’t trust the media,” Hickenlooper said.
“In the end, she couldn’t turn that corner.”
The governor is closely watching to see if the Trump administration will make significant changes to health care policy.
He also is worried about a lack of focus from Trump on leaking toxic abandoned mines throughout the West, as well as on preserving public lands.
As for protesting that might include violence, property damage and burning Trump in effigy, as has been seen at events throughout the country, Hickenlooper said, “I’m not sure that’s constructive.
“This is one country, and we’re going to have our differences, and I think it’s important to keep discussing those differences ... I don’t think that enables anybody to say my agenda is the right one.”