Doug Usher joked on Inauguration Day that he’s part of a relatively exclusive Colorado club.
“I am an actual Biden supporter,” he said with a laugh, standing with his wife, Katie Meadows, at The Lyric’s inauguration watch party on Wednesday.
Usher is one of about 15,700 people in Larimer County who voted for President Joe Biden in Colorado’s Democratic presidential primary. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders carried the vote in Larimer County and the rest of Colorado in the primary, but Biden ultimately beat former President Donald Trump by a margin of about 16% here.
Usher said he supported Biden because he felt he could bring people together and earn votes across political lines — even that of Usher’s father, a “life-long Republican” who voted for Trump in 2016. Watching his first-choice candidate get sworn into office Tuesday felt “cathartic.”
“I see him as a single-term president who’s here to get us through this time,” Usher said. “He’s going to provide the unification that we really need right now.”
About a dozen people were at The Lyric’s watch party Wednesday morning, watching the ceremony in the largest of its three screening areas. Usher and Meadows stopped by after dropping their two kids off at school.
Meadows said she was struck by Biden’s word choice during his post-swearing-in remarks.
“He uses ‘us’ and ‘we,’ ” she said.
“Instead of ‘me, me, me,’ ” Usher added. “His rhetoric is so different from the previous administration.”
“He’s the kind of president who’s going to lift up the people around him,” he added, referencing Biden’s cabinet picks and the political runway his candidacy could provide for Vice President Kamala Harris. “As opposed to standing on their shoulders, he’s going to put them on his.”
The watch party at The Lyric was one of few public events during an otherwise quiet Inauguration Day in Fort Collins. The streets of Old Town sat empty as Biden gave his speech in Washington, D.C.
Leanne Mathews said she watched Harris, the first female, Black and Asian-American vice president in American history, get sworn in on TV before she had to go to work.
The ceremony “was relieving and beautiful,” she said. “I cried.”
Originally a Sanders supporter, Mathews said she readily voted for Biden in the general election because of his political experience — and, frankly, because he wasn’t Trump.
“For me it almost felt like less of a vote for Biden and more of a vote against Trump. Just anything to get him out office,” she said. “It’s just a relief to have decent people in office again, and to get away from the hate that exudes out of Trump and the people who supported him.”
Mathews said she hopes to see Biden take swift action on managing the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing student loan debt and making health care more accessible.
If we weren’t still in the throes of a pandemic, she said she’d get all her friends and family together to get a drink in Old Town Wednesday night. Considering the current situation, her celebrations will probably be more subdued. Still, “it’s just a good day,” she said.
“Four years ago on election night, I went to bed and prayed that Trump wouldn’t be president,” Mathews said. “And last night, I went to bed thankful and elated that when I woke up, he wouldn’t be.”
Heather Poynter-Lausch of Fort Collins said she’s also feeling relieved.
“I don’t have to worry about our president betraying our country to Russia or anybody else,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about him inciting white supremacists or abusing his position for his own gain. Biden is an actual public servant that will put competent people into the administration and will try to do good.”
Biden made progress on some of her biggest hopes on Day 1, issuing executive orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and end the travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. Poynter-Lausch also wants to see the end of family separations at the border and reconstruction of “the economic view that only benefits the rich.”
She said she’s feeling daunted about the work ahead, and “terrified of being disappointed.”
“We have huge challenges — climate, racial injustice, the economy, a new voting rights act,” she said. “What if he doesn’t do enough? He’s a moderate, so what if he just takes little steps instead of the sweeping reforms we need?”
Marie O’Connell, a front-line health care worker in Fort Collins, said the inauguration makes her feel hope in a way she hasn’t in a long time.
She said she’s the child of immigrants and was already distressed about Trump’s travel ban, efforts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and other policies, but his administration’s approach to the pandemic has been “so disrespectful of human life, so disrespectful of our work.”
“We were struggling in the ICU to care for folks, having folks unable to see family members who were so severely, critically ill — and at the same time, having the President downplay the severity, not wear a mask himself, downplay the need for masks,” she said on Tuesday night. “Tomorrow we have someone who cares, who takes COVID seriously and says he will use the levers of government to help us save people. … I feel like reinforcements are finally on the way.”
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.