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A Tale of Two Elections – Democrats Terrified and Triumphant

I began election night doing upbeat media interviews at the Democratic Election Night Party. I predicted that we would be witnessing the historic election of the first female president of the United States and that Democratic candidates would rack up victories in local races across San Diego County due to a surge in registration, a strong field of candidates, and our increased capacity to win elections. I even brought a white pantsuit to change into at the moment Clinton was declared the winner.

As the evening progressed, a pall began to subdue the party. Democrats anxiously huddled around a lone television screen and watched closed-caption explanations as red began to flood across the electoral map. Once the floodgates opened, it seemed there was no stopping the tide or mitigating the stunned anxiety and punch-in-the-gut pain that transformed our party into a wake. Not only did Hillary Clinton not win, but the unthinkable had happened. Donald Trump was being elected President.

All the while, I was announcing victory after victory on the local front. San Diego Democrats swept races, with historic gains countywide. What could have been a night of sheer joy was instead a bitter sweet tale of two elections: one that plummeted us to terrifying depths of despair nationally, and another of elation that all our hard work paid off in San Diego, and our shared values had come to fruition.

Ironically, both stemmed from the same source. San Diegans embrace the diversity that is woven into our DNA. We reject the politics of fear, anger, hate, violence, misogyny, and racism. Our border region has deep and inextricable ties with Mexico. More Native American tribes live here than any other county in country. Being the home of the Pacific Fleet imbues us with pride and patriotism. From taxi drivers to tech entrepreneurs, our immigrant, refugee, and expat communities teem with energy and the hope of achieving the American dream. Our universities attract the best and brightest, who come to learn and stay to live.

It is this mixture of hope and fear that drove over 70,000 voters to register as Democrats this year. There is a palpable fear that in Donald Trump’s America, San Diego families will be torn apart, science and research mocked, and that racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and anti-immigrant discrimination will unleash ugly, frightening and very real forces of anger and hatred.

And so, we watch, wait, and hold our collective breath. We'll see if Donald Trump will act upon his promises to build a wall, block Muslims, deport 11 million people, criminalize abortion, drop 30 million people from health insurance, strengthen ties with Putin and tear up treaties -- or if he ran a campaign based on a pack of lies, taunts, and insults to win an election, just so he could change course and morph into a rational human being and steady leader. 

Breathe. Join the movement to change the Electoral College and validate the national popular vote. Breathe. Prepare to win elections in the 2018 backlash. Breathe. Engage in dialogues about a course correction in the National Democratic Party. Breathe. Regroup with a compelling message and vision to lead America forward. Exhale.

In the meantime, San Diego Democrats solidified majorities on school boards and city councils countywide, picked up over 20 Republican seats, elected the first woman and Latina as San Diego City Attorney, and still hope to unseat Darrell Issa. With 108,000 more Democrats than Republicans, we are no longer a red county or a swing county. We are a forward-looking and inclusive blue county, standing up for what is great and good in our country and in ourselves. We're building bridges to a bright future and inspiring those Americans who are feeling fearful and left behind to do the same.

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