Lynn Woolsey was hopeful going into Tuesday’s historic election that America was about to pick the first woman as president.
Most polls showed Hillary Clinton had a solid lead. In liberal bastions of California it seemed unfathomable that voters would go for Donald Trump — a political novice whose inflammatory comments on the campaign trail seemed to overshadow his appeal to a wide segment of the electorate.
As election results started rolling in, however, Woolsey, a liberal North Coast congresswoman for 20 years, realized she was wrong. Her eyes welled with tears at the thought of such a polarizing figure occupying the Oval Office.
“I am just so sad for our country that people would choose a reality TV star over someone who could actually do the job,” said the Petaluma Democrat, who was first elected in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman in politics.
Just as Trump’s election electrified millions of his supporters nationwide, the reality of a Trump White House elicited disappointment, dread and disgust among many in Sonoma County and across much of California. Here, voters threw overwhelming support behind Clinton while also electing the first black woman to the U.S. Senate in 20 years and legalizing marijuana — a sharp contrast to the nation’s pivot right Tuesday. Golden State residents also agreed to tax cigarettes, free nonviolent offenders from prison and uphold a ban on plastic grocery bags.
In doing so, California has emerged as a political outlier, cementing its progressive values while striking a defiant tone against the billionaire businessman elected as the 45th president. Among other things, Trump has touted campaign promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, roll back environmental protections, appoint conservative justices to control the Supreme Court and repeal and replace Obamacare, perhaps affecting some 20 million Americans.
California’s political gulf with the rest of the country is most striking along the left-leaning coast, including Sonoma County, where 70 percent of voters chose Clinton over Trump. In San Francisco, Clinton’s margin was 85 percent, and the best Trump did in the Bay Area was in Solano County, where he earned just over 32 percent of the vote.
In the election’s aftermath, anti-Trump demonstrators have taken to city streets across the nation in nightly marches. In downtown Santa Rosa last week, protesters carried signs reading, “Love Trumps Hate,” and “Not my president.” Others waved U.S. and Mexico flags in protest of Trump’s call for wide-scale deportations and a border wall with Mexico.
“Donald Trump instills so much fear in people,” said Tristan Collinsworth, a 22-year-old Sonoma State University student and Santa Rosa resident who stood outside City Hall with a sign that said “Reject Hate.” She is concerned about a rollback in civil rights for people of color, as well as for gay and transgender citizens.
“I feel deep sadness and a really intense fear that I did not feel the day before the election,” she said. “I’m afraid that under him our progress will come to a standstill.”
At a women’s political club meeting last week that had been planned as a Clinton victory party, crestfallen members instead denounced the president-elect and vowed to defeat him in four years.
“We cannot pull back,” Susan Moore, founder of the No Name Women’s Group, told a crowd of about 300 members gathered in Santa Rosa. “We have to notch it up. We have to say, ‘We’re it.’ ”