BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Democrat Gov. Jared Polis brought a message of civility to a Colorado gathering of grassroots conservatives Friday as a progressive outlier on a star-studded line-up of right-of-center speakers.
“Maintaining your principles doesn’t mean you have to reward weakness or caving in,” Polis said at the 13th annual Freedom Conference in Beaver Creek, organized by the conservative Steamboat Institute based in Steamboat Springs. “There’s no role for saying somebody’s a murderer because they don’t want to require a mask but there’s no role for saying that masks are like some Nazi death camp either.”
Seated in an expansive hotel ballroom at the base of a high-end ski resort, the governor was speaking alongside longtime mentor and architect of the “Laffer Curve” Arthur Laffer, whom the governor interned for at the age of 13. Laffer, now 81, joined the panel moderated by Steamboat Tony Blankley Fellow Hadley Heath Manning from Tennessee by audio.
While the panel discussion focused almost exclusively on taxes and Colorado’s economic recovery post-COVID, the two stressed lowering the temperature of today’s political climate as a prerequisite for true prosperity immediately after a speech by Colorado Congresswoman and conservative firebrand Lauren Boebert.
“I think there’s a little phrase that would fit this: just because you disagree, doesn’t mean you have to be disagreeable,” Laffer said, going on to compare today’s hostile environment to the days he first began making visits to the Oval Office under the Nixon administration. The difference today, Laffer added, “is the stakes have gotten a lot higher,” and he highlighted the behemoth spending bills in Congress poised to reshape the American economy for decades.
Polis emphasized how polarization made things far more difficult to accomplish 1,500 miles away in Washington as opposed to Denver.
“I’m glad I’m no longer in Congress,” said the governor, who served five terms in the lower chamber where extremes clashed for attention on a nationwide stage.
“Wherever people stand on those things,” Polis said of recurring COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates, “civility and respect are really the foremost values we need to move forward.”
The governor doubled down on his decision announced this week to resist new statewide restrictions despite pressure from rising hospitalizations.
“We’re not in immediate danger of our hospitals and we have a pretty good vaccination rate,” Polis said, after Colorado spent months on lockdown throughout the pandemic.
Despite Polis’ left-of-center standing, Laffer showered the governor with praise, after ranking him ninth on the economist’s ranking scorecard in October. If the first-term Colorado governor completely eliminated the income tax however, Laffer said, “he will rank number one.”
“So governor, it’s up to you to know how your next year’s ranking is,” Laffer said with a laugh from the audience.
The panel finished with an acknowledgment that Polis was in the lion’s den, putting perspective into practice.
“I think we maybe agreed on some things, maybe disagreed, but if we disagreed, we did so agreeably,” Manning said.