On November 6th, 2018–two years after Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States–the House of Representatives was now held by the Democratic Party. Though many were hoping for a larger ‘blue wave’ in Congress, the results from this year’s mid-term elections are still impressive and here’s why:
Democrats have the house back for the first time since 2010
The Democrats needed to flip 23 house seats to win a majority, and that they did. There were an estimated 32 seats that had a large enough likelihood of flipping blue, and of those, 19 seats were predicted to strongly favor democrats. This left 4 seats to gain a majority. Organizations like “Swing Left”, have been grassroots campaigning and bringing awareness to the importance of paying attention to local congressional races. In Texas, my home state, the 7th Congressional district was won for the first time by democratic candidate Lizzie Fletcher–defeating 9-time incumbent John Culberson. Evidently, many key races were won by progressive democrats stressing access to health care and gun control laws, thus upsetting key suburban areas that supported Trump in 2016. It is expected that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12), former house minority leader, will take the position of Speaker of the House, and replacing Paul Ryan. Moreover, Adam Schiff (D-CA-28) will take over Devin Nunes’ seat on the House Intelligence Committee, saving us all from enduring anymore of Nunes’ sham of an investigation on Trump’s ties with Russia. Overall, the take back of the US House has created a metaphorical middle finger to the Trump Administration.
Strides for Congressional Representation
On an even brighter note, the Democrats elected across all levels of government has created one of, if not the most, historically diverse and representative leaders in American History. Who would have thought that Trump, a national embarrassment, would cause such a historic moment for US leadership–talk about irony. The first two Muslim women have been elected into the House. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the first Somali-American in US Congress, is a young and vibrant democratic socialist. By her side is Rashida Tlaib (D), Palestinian-American from Michigan, is a former attorney and first Muslim to serve in the Michigan state-legislature. The first two Native American women have also been elected into the House, former MMA fighter Sharice Davids (D-KA) is also the first openly gay member of Congress from Kansas. Deb Haaland (D-NM) will also be the first Native American woman to represent New Mexico. Colorado has elected the first openly gay governor, and Texas has elected its first two hispanic women into Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez, who has made headlines for her fiery speeches and impassioned policy stances, has become the youngest women ever to be elected. It is candidates like these that have continued to give hope for the Democratic Party, and who make the United States one more step closer to the ideals of the 21st century.
Women Make a Stance
A record number of women have been elected into Congress this year. It’s no surprise that women, especially minority and college educated women, polled strongly in favor for the Democratic Party. With Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court sealed and done, having more women in congress will hopefully drown own the voices of old white men who want to “preserve traditional family values” and overturn Roe-v-Wade. Women’s rights have been highlighted this election cycle, and rightfully so. The U.S., though one of the world’s leading economies and cultural powerhouses, is still a very socially conservative country and struggles with progress even when situated within its beloved rhetoric of ‘freedom’ and ‘the American Dream’. The 2018 mid-terms have been a historic election cycle for women of color, gay women, and even younger women.
Florida’s 4th Amendment
Florida has voted to approve a new amendment that essentially reverses Jim Crow policy, which disqualifies people with convicted felonies the right to vote. The law was a tactic of voter suppression that disproportionately affected men of color, low-income communities, and other minority groups. It bans those convicted of murder or severe sex offenses from the right to vote, thus ostracizing them from civil society. The amendment restored the right to vote to 1.4 million people, the largest expansion of voting rights since the Voter Rights Act of 1965 that was signed by President Johnson.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Ted Cruz’s victory over El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke. The race has always favored Cruz over Beto, so the loss was not a surprise, but the stakes were incredibly significant. Beto is a progressive Democrat dedicated to the people of Texas. He has made headlines this campaign cycle for raising records amounts of money through grassroots fundraising rather than PAC money. He spent the entire summer visiting each of Texas’ 254 counties, which is why he’s also become notorious for the sweat he produced through his button-down shirts. When I was home in Houston over the summer, banners with ‘BETO for Senate’ sprawled all over cars, lawn signs and much more. Texas has not had a Democratic senator since 1993, and the state of Texas rallied around him. Cities like Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso continuously vote blue, and over 4 million people voted for Beto this November. That’s more than the population of half the states in the union. Texas is also infamously a state that hardly participates in elections, thus the fight that Beto put up against Ted Cruz is a victory in and of itself. He fired up the Democratic base in Texas, inspired many, and set fire to the Democratic Party nationwide. In the words of Beto O’Rourke in his concession speech “I’m so fucking proud of you.
Governorships and State Legislatures
Going into the election, democrats held 7 contested governorships: 36 governors were up for re-election this year. On November 6th, they gained 7 more. In Kansas, a strong conservative state, flipped Democrat in a surprising fashion. In Wisconsin, school superintendent Tony Evers beat GOP candidate and Trump supporter Scott Walker. In New Mexico, the first Hispanic Democrat is now in office, and Nevada’s governorship turned blue for the first time since 1994.
The 2018 election has the highest voter turnout for a midterm in over 50 years, and that is a very hopeful sign looking ahead to the 2020 general election. Though the electorate is incredibly divided right now, this mid-term has proven to be an exciting time for American democracy, and will no doubt be an election cycle that many of us will remember for years to come.