Squad Goals: 2018 Midterms Results
My greatest fear going into the November midterms wasn’t that the right people wouldn’t be elected. My fear was that there would be enough wins of progressives and democrats that the momentum would slow. I’ve said many times that the silver lining of Trump’s win is that a massive portion of the population who had been sleeping woke up and got active. But continuous action is exhausting and burnout is common. Relief after a big win can cause people to relax. Relaxation can cause apathy. Apathy is the most dangerous thing that could happen to this country right now, with catastrophic consequences worldwide. So I worried that if progressives and democrats felt too much relief after the midterms that they would be lulled into a false sense of security. They would think they had restored some balance in government and they could take a break. So I was relieved when we didn’t get every win we wanted. Not that I was hoping any particular candidate wouldn’t win but I don’t think the election results will give anyone the sense that the United States is fine now. It did, however, push us forward:
In my advocacy for women, I often use the statistics that women head 80% of single family households but only make up 20% of the House of Representatives. I will now be able to say that women make up 23% of the House of Representatives. It’s a small but meaningful improvement. It’s the biggest jump we’ve seen in women representatives since just after Anita Hill testified on sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas in 1991. In the 1992 elections women went from making up 6% to 10% of the House of Representatives in what was called the “Year of the Woman.”
This graph from 538 built from the Center for American Women in Politics statistics shows that while women have been steadily increasing their presence in the House, they are given big jumps by events like Anita Hill’s testimony and the emerging movement which includes the Women’s March and #MeToo.
One of the biggest victories of the election was not for one person but for 1.5 million people who will have their voting rights restored. Florida voted to restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences, with the exception of those convicted of murder or sex offenses. One in five African Americans in Florida have felony convictions. Preventing them from voting even after they have “done their time” is just one of the many voter suppression tactics fueled by racism. The Intercept told the story of one woman, Stefanie Anglin, who was convicted of a felony 26 years ago and until the election, was still fighting for her right to vote. She encouraged people she knew to vote if they could, she canvassed door to door in favor of Amendment 4, and on November 9 she woke up to the news that she would finally be able to vote in 2020.
There were also some historical wins for women that have been splashed across the news but are so encouraging that I’m going to splash them across this blog too…
became the first openly gay woman to represent Kansas and is one of the two Native American women serving in Congress. More importantly, she unseated a Republican incumbent who was pro-life, pro-guns, pro-corporations. We won’t bother with his name cause he’s now irrelevant.
stated in her victory speech, “Here in Minnesota we don’t only welcome immigrants, we send them to Washington.” She became one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress and did it on a platform of $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, and tuition-free higher education.
will be meeting Omar in Washington as the other first Muslim woman elected to Congress. Her platform is similar to Omar’s and she can also boast an immigrant to lawmaker journey. She will be replacing a 52-year congressman who resigned after allegations of sexual harassment became public. This is what is known as trading up.
And in my favorite 2018 Midterm election story, “Black Girl Magic” wins 17 Houston court elections.
If you’ve read my blog Who Runs the World: Women, you’ll know that looking at the picture I see “Black Women Magic.” Whatever you call it, this is a power image and makes a powerful dent in the white and male dominated court system in Houston. Across the U.S. less than 1/3 state judges are women and less than 1/5 are people of color. I am hopeful that this win helps to encourage other women, particularly women of color to run for office, especially the courts where Black Women are particularly vulnerable.
There were many other critical wins in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections. These wins came from the hard work of those who saw a system that doesn’t work for them. Elections can be great opportunities to affect change but they aren’t the only ones. We now have two years until the next major election. We need to take the feeling of hope that these victories gave us and turn it into action, rather than waiting two years for our next opportunity to make our society a fairer and kinder place.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist