Fear, resilience among Fil-Am Dems over Trump presidency

Ryan Songalia
Filipino-American Democrats in Nevada are crushed by Donald Trump's presidential win but vow to organize and fight back

 ACCEPTANCE. Hillary Clinton supporters console one another in Las Vegas as the reality of a Donald Trump presidency sets in. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

LAS VEGAS, USA – It was 8 o’clock Pacific time before the Nevada Democratic Party’s Election Night gathering at Aria Las Vegas on Tuesday night, November 8 opened its doors. But as results came across the screen from the east coast voting, the party seemed over before it even began.

It seemed a safe enough bet that the Democrats’ gathering would be the hottest on the strip that night, with Nevada being carried twice by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 by large margins and virtually all polls assuring that Hillary Clinton would become the first female president of the United States.

Yet by the time the convention center’s doors opened, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio – all swing states with double-digit electoral votes, had fallen into the hands of Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee. With traditionally blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin deadlocked and Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes beginning to slim, the mood turned somber and the reality of their doomsday scenario coming true began to set in. 

Trump, a first-time politician who ran on a platform of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” for an indeterminate amount of time, was the embodiment of everything which threatened their vision of the American dream. For each step Obama had taken society forward with his embrace of LGBT and immigrant rights, Trump’s outline offered two steps in retreat.

“Is everybody excited?” asked Roberta Lange, Nevada Democratic Party chair, to a lukewarm response.

“This is just like 2012,” said one man in front of the television in his most hopeful tone. “At 8 pm it was looking like Mitt Romney would win and then at 9:30, boom! Obama wins a landslide.” Brave faces turned to resignation when Pennsylvania fell.

Tears were shed, drinks spilled and fear spread of overnight repeals of every gain accomplished by Obama. 

“Everything, down the drain,” said one frustrated Democrat, as word of an impending Trump presidency matched with a GOP controlled House of Representatives and Senate spread.

Just down the strip from the Democratic Party's election day results party is Trump Las Vegas. Photo by Ryan Songalia/Rappler

Gregory Cendana, executive director for Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), was one of several Filipino-American union workers in attendance who had spent months encouraging voter registration in Asian-American communities and canvassing votes in battleground states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The night’s events had a sobering effect.

“When we think about the Affordable Care Act and health care, when we think about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, when we think about a variety of programs Obama led in his administration…I worry about what Trump would do when he’s president to take us even further back than where we are,” said Cendena.

Scary future

“A Trump presidency would mean that the things that we care about…pathway to citizenship, fighting for immigration reform, healthcare, education, those things won’t be prioritized in a Trump presidency and I have a hard time believing that people like us, Filipino-Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, people of color, immigrants, are gonna be as represented in his administration.”

“I think what it means for us is a very scary future,” says Johanna Hester, a Filipino-American raised in Las Pinas and national president of APALA. “He campaigned on a platform of hate, and a platform that talked about people, women, black people, Mexicans. He talked about every single person except white people in America. I’m just very worried that a bunch of racists and xenophobes are gonna be running this country.”

The night went as well as the Nevada Democrats could control, with the state being called quickly for Clinton and Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrats’  bet to replace the retiring Harry Reid in the US Senate, taking control of the race shortly after results started coming in.

The day brought to a close an election cycle as divisive as any in recent American history. At one polling location in nearby Henderson, two African-American males rolled up to Liberty High School to vote while blasting a hip hop song from their car which continued the repetitive hook “F—k Donald Trump!”, while another white male complained that he had difficulty voting due to a change of address while alleging that undocumented immigrants were voting without any identification.

Fear eventually gave way to resilience among this crowd, and the realization that America, for all its flaws, remains the democratic model all other governments for the people aspire to.

“We’re not gonna just sit back and take this,” said Luisa Blue, executive vice president for Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 1.2 million workers nationwide, including about 110,000 Asian workers.

“We’re gonna stand up and fight back. We’re gonna continue to fight for immigrant rights. We’re gonna continue to fight for racial justice, we’re gonna continue to fight for decent healthcare for everybody. We’re gonna continue to fight for decent schools and for families to be able to afford college without going into debt. We’re gonna continue to stick with our issues and fight.”

“We’re gonna have to think about how we’re gonna respond, how we’re gonna push back and how we’re gonna continue to galvanize folks and let people know that we can’t stop here, that we won’t stop here, that we must continue to organize and build power,” adds Cendana.

With the night a downer, Senator-elect Masto took to the stage to rally supporters to remind them that the will of the people supersedes that of any one man.

“America was built on a system of checks and balances. I promise you this: I will put one hell of a check and balance on [Trump],” said Masto, the first Latina senator in US history, to rapturous applause.

And, just as Obama assured, the sun did rise that following morning. – Rappler.com