Dispatch from Oakland: The Last Blue Place

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Looking out on the floor of the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland, you’d never think that the 2010 elections have been an utterly catastrophic disaster for the Democratic party. As I’m typing this, there’s a conga-line—or something close to it—forming on the floor below the stage, and a dozen or so couples are cutting a rug to the swing band up above. Occasionally, the crowd will get restless, and a chant of “Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” will begin, and then sputter out after a few short bursts. They’re all here for Jerry Brown, the state’s once-and-future governor (and secretary of state, and attorney general, and mayor of Oakland), who’s just defeated Meg Whitman and is expected to address supporters here later tonight.

California might be the one state in the union tonight where Democrats can feel legitimately good (if still a little confused) about the way things turned out. Sure, they’ll lose a few House seats, but Barbara Boxer held onto her senate seat, and Brown, despite a $141 million-challenge from former eBay CEO Whitman, returned the governor’s mansion to the Democrats for the first time in seven years. Proposition 23, the ballot provision that would have reversed the state’s progressive climate change law, went down to defeat. All is well for Golden State Democrats. Or at least as well as you’d hope, given the circumstances.

“I don’t care what’s going on in the rest of the country,” says Marianne Kearney-Brown of Napa. “Because we’re gonna have Jer-ry Brown!” 

Really, the only real setback was the defeat of Prop 19, which would have legalized marijuana. But to the provision’s supporters, who assembled just down the street from Brown’s victory party, in the parking lot of the pot-centric Oaksterdam University, losing was hardly the end of the world.

As Nela Mendoza of Oakland explained to me, “If it passes, well, fuck, we’ll burn, dude! And if it doesn’t pass…we’ll burn anyway.” Word.

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