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This Breakdown Could Be a Breakthrough

This Breakdown Could Be a Breakthrough

The path to equality will undoubtedly bend and shift, says the Victory Fund's Aisha Moodie-Mills.

In Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, he appealed to the "better angels of our nature" as the nation careened toward civil war. Yet years of animosity erupted, and 750,000 Americans lost their lives on the battlefield -- our country divided and torn apart. But those angels eventually did prevail, when millions of enslaved people were finally given the chance to live in some semblance of freedom, and our country reunited imperfect but strong.

Last night our better angels lost again. Voters succumbed to racist, xenophobic, sexist, and transphobic demagoguery and elected a president diametrically opposed to the American values our communities, my communities, hold precious and dear. LGBT people are unique in that we span across all demographic groups. We are black, we are Latino, we are women, we are Muslim, we are undocumented, we have disabilities. What makes our community so special -- our diversity -- is also what makes the results of this presidential election particularly devastating for us. We are not monolithic; we are affected in so many ways.

But sometimes you need to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. In 2004, Republican operatives placed dozens of anti-marriage equality amendments on the ballot to bolster the reelection prospects of George W. Bush. They passed, and he won. We were devastated, but the backlash was swift. In 2006 Democrats overwhelmed Republicans -- winning a resounding majority in the House and Senate, trouncing them in gubernatorial races, and electing Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker of the House. The nation reversed itself.

Our community and our progressive allies must use this sobering moment to recognize that the inexorable path toward equality will bend and shift and that it is up to us to determine its pace. We are the transformational figures our politics needs at this critical moment. LGBT leaders must come forward, run for school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and other elected positions that have so much impact on our lives. We must lay the foundation for long-term LGBT political power in red states and blue states because our people are the best defense against legislative bigotry and intolerance, and the best proponents of universal equality. These are the leaders who will turn this breakdown into a breakthrough.

And there were breakthroughs last night - rays of light in an otherwise dark evening. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown became the first openly LGBT governor elected in our nation's history, a stunning accomplishment breaking 240 years of precedent. Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBT Latino elected to the Florida state legislature, a powerful statement given that Pulse nightclub is just miles from his Orlando home. Sam Park won and will join three other remarkable openly LGBT lawmakers in the Georgia legislature, a testament to our increasing representation in the South. And voters reelected all six openly LGBT members of Congress despite a tough night for House Democrats -- affirmation that LGBT leadership is effective and respected.

The better angels were out in Oregon, parts of Georgia, and Orlando last night. And the better angels will eventually prevail nationwide -- just as they did back in 1865. We have been here before and we will bounce back again, and today's pain will beget tomorrow's possibilities.

We made enormous progress in the past eight years, and we must continue to elect LGBT leaders to defend it. We cannot allow disappointment and disgust to breed apathy and inaction. We must rally and push forward our equality by running for office, supporting LGBT officials and demanding accountability from our leaders. Despair must lead us to collective action, as we are indeed stronger together. Onward.

Aisha-headshotAISHA MOODIE-MILLS is the president and the CEO of the Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBT politicians. Follow her on Twitter @AishaMoodMills.

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Aisha Moodie-Mills