Trump won, and it all started here

click to enlarge At Tampa's Marriott Waterside Hotel, anxious Democrats watch as returns come in. - Chip Weiner
Chip Weiner
At Tampa's Marriott Waterside Hotel, anxious Democrats watch as returns come in.

Nope, it's not a dream.

In six months’ time, your gratis annual Well Woman exam may be a thing of history, as well as what passes for international relations. Environmental regulations? Meh. By all means, drill off our coasts. Contaminate the water table.

Who cares?

Not enough people, apparently.

Plenty of people are still trying to wrap their heads around the fact that Donald Trump easily won the presidency and defied all the norms that tend to dictate the process of electing a president in this country, even if Clinton won the popular vote.

But plenty of others likely see his victory as confirming that their prejudices — and bullying those who don’t share them — are acceptable.

And it may have all started here in Florida, a state absolutely crucial to Trump’s victory.

There’s that saying that now makes Florida Dems a little woozy: “As the I-4 Corridor goes, so goes Florida. And as Florida goes, so goes the nation.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton won Hillsborough County, but no other county along that deadly stretch of road that bisects the state.

Pinellas County, the peninsula just beyond I-4’s western terminus, which many deem a bellwether, was called for Trump relatively early on, which puzzled Democrats there.

After all, they saw some wins in the swing county, like that of County Commissioner Charlie Justice, who bested a Republican challenger, and former Governor Charlie Crist, who successfully challenged Republican Congressman David Jolly.

“We’re excited to see our two most important seats be a pickup and a hold in Pinellas County,” said Susan McGrath, head of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee. “We were also able to hold back Republican attempts to take over the majority of the County Commission, a government agency that’s working together in a great bipartisan manner… The only reason that Commissioner Justice was challenged was a purely political motive, and the voters spoke clearly on that, by saying that organization, that group of governing bodies, worked.”

Why did Secretary Hillary Clinton lose her grip in Pinellas?

“I think Secretary Clinton has endured more negative publicity and attacks than probably any candidate we’ve seen in modern history,” McGrath said, attacks which seemed to culminate in the FBI’s rekindling of Clinton’s email debacle. “When you have to endure that kind of continuous attacks and questions, sometimes that confuses voters and it sticks.”

The League of Women Voters points to a factor that may be key in Clinton’s loss: the U.S. Supreme Court’s rolling back of voter protections.

“This is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act,” League president Christ Carson said in the wake of the results. “Thousands of eligible voters were purged from the rolls. Onerous voter ID laws prevented eligible voters from casting their ballots. We saw cases of misinformation and intimidation at the polls.”

Though they lost the presidency as well as their Senate race and weren't able to wrest legislative seats from Republicans in Hillsborough or Pinellas, Florida Democrats could take solace in down-ballot victories.

Amendment 1, which would have imposed further limits on solar energy’s potential in the state, did not pass. Amendment 2, which legalizes medical marijuana, did.

Dems held onto a Hillsborough County Commission seat as well as one in Pinellas, and picked up the State Attorney’s office in Andrew Warren’s defeat of Republican incumbent Mark Ober.

So it wasn’t all bad for the party — assuming a certain president doesn’t decide to hand down any executive orders negating any progress his opponents achieve.

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