I Watched America Elect Donald Trump In A Room Packed With Democratic Volunteers In North Carolina
When the polls closed in North Carolina last night, I was stuck waiting for the results from a faulty tabulator in a middle school library that comprised a polling place in rural-suburban Apex, a small town outside of the state capitol of Raleigh. For the last 10 weeks, I'd been the Field Director for a state legislative campaign on top of my work for Bustle, and tonight was finally the night that the fruits of our tireless labor would be revealed. A few short hours after that frustrating wait in that middle school library, I watched Donald Trump get elected with a room full of Democratic volunteers in North Carolina, and it was heartbreaking.
The plan was to leave my candidate's smaller party, held in a restaurant within our district, to attend the statewide Democratic Party's massive shindig in Raleigh. Those plans were quickly halted when it became clear that my candidate, who ran for a hotly-contested state senate seat, had lost by about 1000 votes. We held our heads and hopes high, knowing that there were so many other important races that were still too close to call — not the least of which being whether North Carolina would turn blue and we would finally oust Pat McCrory, our good-for-nothing governor who will forever be known as "Bathroom Pat" for digging his heels in with his fellow Republicans over HB2. We actually succeeded in the final part. The rest, as we all know, didn't go nearly as planned.
The way we all felt when the tide began turning in favor of the horrifying President-Elect Trump reality has been and will be well-documented. First, there was shock — I knew that my candidate's race, similarly to the races for "big" senate and governor, was going to be close, but there was almost no doubt in my mind or the minds of the Democratic Party staffers I shared an office with that Hillary Clinton was going to win. It was a joke among us, we laughed about it. To go from believing one thing about the country you live in to being confronted with an insane truth that is opposite of all you'd held dear was dissonant, terrifyingly so. It's not a far cry to say it felt like Neo "waking up" in The Matrix.
The most tragic aspect to what happened last night in that small bar in Cary, North Carolina, and the rest of the country, was not the disappointment and shock of the the aghast partisans whose hubris and underestimation of disenfranchised white voters caused their candidate to tank. It was feeling, as a collective, the sheer weight of what was happening with about 20 people who had worked so hard to ensure that this very thing didn't happen. It was to feel, along with the people who I'd called endlessly begging them to lend their time to our candidate, like our massive concerted effort was for naught.
Last night was a world-changing blow to everyone who believes bigotry is an unforgivable (and unelectable) sin. But in that room with the people I'd grown to love, I felt a small part of those 20-odd volunteers and family members struggle not to die. I won't let it die within myself, but I know for me and for them, it's going to be a hell of a struggle — and I know we'll keep fighting.