As Election Night turned into a living nightmare for many Portlanders—residents of a city that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton—hope snuck its way down Southeast Morrison and into city council candidate Chloe Eudaly’s election night party. The hope was both palpable and utilitarian: a reminder that democracy does not have to run on vitriol, and that two viable candidates (Eudaly and incumbent Steve Novick) can duke it out without sucker punches.
Poised to be the only renter, only small business owner, and just the eighth woman ever on the council, Eudaly the politician still seemed like a pipe dream smuggled out of an older Portland, one defined more by Little Beirut activism than hipster tourism and roaring development.
While three giant screens broadcasted the national election, sharply dressed thirty-somethings sipped Tecates and bobbed their heads to the schizophrenic whims of the electro-dance DJ. It seemed like any other night at the Holocene—drink and wait for something monumental to happen. The wait didn’t last long. Just after 8 p.m., Novick, the liberal incumbent against whom Eudaly mounted an unlikely challenge from the left, suddenly conceded.
Gradually, like the first few notes of a sing-along, word spread throughout the venue, and Eudaly’s 100 or so supporters went a slow-motion kind of ecstatic. The formerly anxious and aloof turned lively and gregarious. Random screams were followed by drawn-out hugs as the national election coverage faded into the periphery, like a misconceived and horribly embellished art installation we’ve all seen too many times before.
It stayed there, too, as Eudaly delivered her victory remarks flanked by an entourage of campaign insiders and volunteers. Her grassroots campaign—which evolved from trenchant, social media-driven activism about housing and equity to a sincere pledge to serve—had actually won. After extolling her Portland roots and wryly admitting she could now afford to live in her hometown, she concluded her speech with this:
“Let’s spend the rest of the evening hoping and praying that Donald Trump is not our next president and conspiring about how to make this city better and how we’ll make it work for us.”
As we now know, her national wish did not come true. The spotlight returned to the spectacle. As Trump’s electoral votes steadily increased, Canada starting trending on the floor of the Holocene. But as a long, surreal night fades into the past, the second half of Eudaly’s celebratory comment is the one that can still shape the future.