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Javier Sierra Headshot

The Sun Rose from California

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A certain Harvard professor years ago predicted that solar energy would be made readily available the day that Exxon owned the sun.

In this election in which polluters and their lackeys see themselves as the owners of Washington again, the professor's prediction sounds more like a curse.

But there is a star that shines especially brightly in these difficult hours. It's the star in the flag of California, which has given us all yet another lesson in common sense and a vision for the future. And Latino voters have turned out to be crucial in this extraordinary success. From the Los Angeles Times:

Driving much of the success -- and distancing the state from the national GOP tide, according to exit polls -- was a surge in Latino voters. They made up 22% of the California voter pool, a record tally that mortally wounded many Republicans.

One of the most painful wounds no doubt was the crushing defeat of Proposition 23, the dreadful creation of two Texan oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, and of the Koch twins, owners of Koch Industries, the money tree for the country's most toxic causes.

But their $10-million attempt to promote this initiative aiming at eliminating AB 32, one of the world's most advanced clean energy laws, crashed against a wall of bipartisan opposition in this electoral cycle's only clear referendum on climate change.

The oil companies suffered a humiliating 20-point defeat in which Latino voters again played a key role. This victory has been a breath of fresh air, especially for us. Eighty percent of Latinos in California and the rest of the country live in the counties with the worst air quality.

Fossil fuels hold the health of our communities hostage, as asthma and other respiratory diseases are considered an epidemic, especially among our children.

Also, AB 32, since it was approved by the California voters in 2006, has created 500,000 jobs, especially in the sectors of the economy that employ the most Latinos.

"Supporting clean energy is not only essential for the environment and good for the economy," said a New York Times editorial. "When voters have the facts, it can also be a political winner."

In California, and other states, the big political losers were the enemies of immigrants. In the California gubernatorial race, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman were in a dead heat until it was revealed that she had fired her undocumented maid. Later, Whitman said the maid should be deported even though she had considered her "part of the family" for nine years of employment.

This show of cruelty sent Latinos rushing to the polls on Nov. 2, and 86 percent of them voted not only for Brown but also for Sen. Barbara Boxer, who defeated another immigrant basher, Carly Fiorina.

Another great piece of news were the catastrophic attempts to mislead Latino voters to keep them from voting.

In Nevada, ultra-conservative Sharron Angle hit the same wall of indignation: the Latino vote. In her race to unseat Sen. Harry Reid, Angle made clear her rejection of immigrants and her support for Arizona's draconian anti-immigrant law.

The Angle campaign and other Republican operatives clearly understood that if Latinos were to vote in great numbers, it would be impossible to defeat Reid. Then we saw some shameful attempts to suppress that vote, such as the one by Robert de Posada, an expert in some of the country's dirtiest political brawls.

Through radio and TV ads, de Posada instructed Latino voters to skip the election as a "punishment" for President Obama's failure to pass an immigration reform.

But de Posada's attempt backfired, as Latinos went out to vote en masse, with 90 percent of them choosing Sen. Reid, who thanks to this support crushed Angle at the polls.

It's no wonder then that President Obama called the Latino vote "crucial." And in these somber hours, it turned out the sun rose from California.

Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_sc.