Islanders celebrate Trump inauguration

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From left, Dave Cartier of Edgartown, Dave LaRue of West Tisbury, Lee J. Barmakian of Oak Bluffs, and Damon Vickens of Chilmark attend an Inauguration party at the Loft on Friday. — Stacey Rupolo

While President Donald J. Trump was dancing at three inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., on the evening of his Inauguration, upwards of 70 Island residents marked the occasion in the company of a life-size cutout of the new POTUS.

The Martha’s Vineyard Republican Club’s Inauguration Evening at the Loft in Oak Bluffs was a party and a fundraiser for both the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organization and the Island GOP.

The tenor of the evening was upbeat and included a brief “Trump! Trump! Trump!” chant at one point, but the event resembled more closely a typical Island community gathering than the Sturm und Drang events that have marked this political season on both sides of the aisle.

Angela Cywinski of the 40-member Island GOP club, a prime mover of the event,

staffed the welcome desk at the party, and described it as more than an inaugural celebration:“This is a community event. Everyone is welcome here. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. This is a way to support a local community-involved business [the Loft] during the lean winter months, and to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters and for the club.”

Attendees had the opportunity to buy 50-50 raffle tickets to benefit BBBS, and to bid silently on a $4,200-valued weeklong vacation on the Caribbean island of St. John. Folks also received tickets for Trump-themed door prizes: a Trump-brand necktie, snappy navy blue Trump 45th President ballcaps, and whimsically designed “talking pens,” complete with the image of the new president.

Post-election political emotions still run high here, so a sort of Facebook war of commentary erupted over the past several weeks leading up to the GOP gala, a kerfuffle that somehow put Loft owner J.B. Blau in the middle. Mr. Blau had agreed before the election that candidate Clinton’s supporters could gather for an election-night gathering. Following the election, he agreed to the Friday-night gathering by the Trump camp.

In the intervening period, Facebook chatter erupted, with volleys from both sides, motivating Mr. Blau to issue a statement clarifying his equal-opportunity intent.

“Once I made it clear it was simply a group coming to celebrate, the same as a group of Hillary supporters came to celebrate election night, people backed off,” Mr. Blau told The Times. “The Loft was not the host for either event. We are a year-round venue that would feel very uncomfortable telling members of any major political party that they are not welcome to enter our premises. It would feel un-American. So long as they don’t spew hate and they act in accordance with our rules of conduct, everybody is welcome in our businesses. We got overwhelming support. Maybe 900 comments, and only four or five people upset, and half of them apologized to me eventually.”

While there were no obvious Democrats at the party, the event included several Clinton voters, “who came just to check out the event,”Ms. Cywinski reported this week. The gala raised $90 for BBBS, $1,003 for the GOP. One misbehaving man was ejected from the event for actions unrelated to the election or to any discernible political beliefs, she said.

There was plenty of red worn, but minimal gloating. Civil discourse prevailed, and there was a glimpse of the Island GOP persona that emerged over several hours of conversation with attendees. The Friday crowd was not dominated by big-wallet GOPers. They were cops and firemen, small business owners and working people, many of whom said they were not zealous Trump supporters from Day One, but had come over time to support him as a change agent.

Joe Gervais, chairman of the West Tisbury Republican town committee. “We ran a straw poll before the primaries, and President Trump got about one-third of the votes,” he said. He said the gala bodes well for the Island GOP: “I don’t know half the people here.”

Carolyn Flynn is chairman of the GOP club. Ohio Governor John Kasich was her first choice, a candidate favored initially by several of the partiers. “I’m really happy to have Republicans in charge now. Hopefully, President Trump will do a good job and doesn’t try to do too much. He’s got 100 things on his plate, and you can’t do it all,” she said.

Lee Barmakian is a youngish, though retired, electronics industry rep. He is an irrepressible personality, who says he came around to supporting President Trump’s candidacy after looking at Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). A lengthy conversation with him headlined most of the issues in the concluded campaigns around national needs, the state of the national work ethic, and the perceived need for plain talk.

“I began listening to what [candidate Trump] said, not how he said it. I consider myself an Independent. I’ve tended to vote with Republicans, but I’ve voted for candidates in major parties and some other parties over the years. I think party designations are just labels. Both parties are the same. I am tired of politicians who triangulated their way into power,” he said, adding, “Republican RINOs [Republicans in name only] who went to Washington to get rich.”

Mr. Barmakian was raised in the blue-collar manufacturing towns of Waltham and Worcester, where jobs are a hot button: “We have legislated and traded those jobs out of existence. If we make it attractive for companies, we can create jobs. Look at Worcester. There are 12 colleges in Worcester that can train people for all kinds of jobs.

“We are reasonable people who want people to get back to work. Ninety-five million people in our country are underutilized today, and it’ll take time to reinstill our work ethic,” he said.

Asked about the level of discord in the country, he said, “Prosperity cures a lot of ills. We will forget this contretemps.”

David LaRue of West Tisbury, another early Kasich supporter, appeared to be a heady, out-of-the-box thinker who doesn’t take himself too seriously. While he holds conservative positions, says he’s a strict constructionist on the U.S. Constitution (enforce it as it was written), and argues that establishing sanctuary cities on the Island is a bad idea, he says that Democrats will be “shocked” by the amount of legislative compromise coming from the Trump administration.

“I think he will work with a coalition of Democrats and new Republicans, rather than with the Republican RINOS. The fact is that both sides agree on 80 percent of any issue. We have to stop the stalemate, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he took those matters to the public via social media, a version of the ‘fireside chats’ President Franklin Roosevelt had on radio,” Mr. LaRue forecast.