Democrats both terrified and triumphant
By Francine Busby
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.
Signaling a shift in the political landscape, the San Diego County Democratic Party raised $1.4 million to elect 70 percent of their endorsed candidates in November, including winning 16 seats previously held by Republicans. Democratic voter registration surged by over 70,000, giving Democrats a record 108,000 voter advantage over Republicans countywide. In fact, Republican registrations have fallen to only 2.6 percent more than independent voters.
What could have been a night of sheer joy was instead a bittersweet tale of two elections: one that plummeted us to terrifying depths of despair nationally; another of elation that all our hard work had paid off and our shared values had come to fruition in San Diego.
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 the 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. Our soccer fields are full of healthy California children and cheering families. Women as well as members of our LGBT, Latino, African American and Asian communities are represented on our school boards, city councils, and our state and congressional delegations.
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 would unleash ugly, frightening, and very real forces of anger and hatred.
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, befriend Putin and tear up treaties — or if his campaign was based on a pack of lies, taunts and insults just to win an election, with the intent to morph into a rational human being and steady leader.
So far, the outlook is dim.
In the meantime, there is some good news.
San Diegans voted for Hillary Clinton by a 15 percent margin and made inroads in solid Republican city councils with the election of the first Democrats in decades with Colin Parent in La Mesa; Cori Schumacher, an outstanding LGBT candidate, in Carlsbad; and Ben Kalasho in El Cajon. Democrats now hold majorities on city councils in Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, National City, San Diego and Solana Beach.
Democrats hold all the seats on the boards of the San Diego, Mira Costa, Southwestern and Palomar Community College Districts and San Diego Unified School District and majorities on the County Board of Education, as well as the boards of Poway Unified, Sweetwater Union, and San Dieguito High School Districts.
The election of Mara Elliott, the first woman and Latina City Attorney of San Diego and the passage of measures K and L, that move all city elections to run-offs in November, bodes well for more equitable elections in the city of San Diego.
Colonel Doug Applegate lost his race against Darrell Issa by less than 1,900 votes, but he won the San Diego portion of the 49th district by a whopping 6 percent. Even the 25 percent of the district that resides in Orange County, where he lost by 20 percent, is trending Democratic.
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.
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 message and vision to lead America forward. Exhale.
—Francine Busby is the chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party. She can be reached at email@example.com.