The 2018 midterm elections resulted in the Democratic party gaining control of the House of Representatives, and the Republicans maintaining their Senate majority. But that is not the entire story. For one thing, young adults (including many Lesley students) turned out to vote in large numbers– some of the highest numbers in the past 25 years, according to NBC News. The elections were also groundbreaking in terms of who got sent to congress. It was a night full of historic “firsts” for women, minority, and LGBT candidates. Among the records that were set, 103 women (the most in US history) were elected; and they were a very diverse group.
In Kansas and New Mexico, we saw our first two Native American congresswomen– Sharice Davids (D) and Deb Haaland (D). Davids is also Kansas’ first openly LGBT member of congress. Tennessee saw its first woman senator, Marsha Blackburn (R), who defeated former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen in a close race. Texas saw its first Latina women elected to Congress: Veronica Escobar (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D), both of whom won overwhelmingly. In Maine, Janet Mills (D) defeated Shawn Moody (R) and became the state’s first woman governor. New York activist, educator, and politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) became the youngest woman elected to Congress at 29 years old; she won by a staggering 78%.
Massachusetts voters elected their first black congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley (D), who ran unopposed in the 2018 November general election, after a surprising primary victory over 10-term congressman Michael Capuano back in September. In Minnesota and Michigan, the first Muslim women in history got elected to Congress: Ilhan Omar (D) of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib (D) of Michigan. Political newcomer and educator Jahana Hayes (D) became Connecticut’s first black woman elected to the House.
At first, commentators said the Democrats did not get a “blue wave,” but gradually, that assessment changed, as early votes and absentee ballots were counted and more elections went to the Democrats. For example, in Arizona, a Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, won a close senate race, becoming the state’s first woman senator, and the first Democrat to win a senate seat in decades. A number of other races broke late for the Democrats, giving them more than 35 seats in the House, and since votes are still being counted, that number could still rise. And although the Republicans kept control of the Senate, Democrats were pleased there would now be a check on President Trump, thanks to the many Democrats who won in the House. Democratic leaders said the president would now face less leniency and more oversight from the newly-elected Democratic House. Unfortunately, given that now one house of congress will be controlled by Democrats and the other by Republicans, some political scientists and major newspapers like the New York Times are predicting this will likely result in partisan battles until the 2020 elections.
During the midterm elections, both parties had distinctly incompatible approaches to retaining voters. Democrats focused on a reform of United States healthcare system and called attention to the real impending dangers of climate change. In contrast, Republicans focused on an entirely separate issue– foreign immigration into the United States. Republicans have taken a hard stance on stricter border control against the migrant caravan of approximately 7,000 Central Americans approaching the United States border, most of whom are children and families seeking asylum from their home countries. President Trump reacted in a style similar to fear-mongering, tweeting:
“I am watching the Democrat Party led (because they want Open Borders and existing weak laws) assault on our country by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose leaders are doing little to stop this large flow of people, INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS, from entering Mexico to U.S.” (It is worth noting that there is no evidence of criminals in the so-called “caravan,” nor have Democrats ever said they want open borders.) But both parties played off of the anxiety of their voters– Republican voters were anxious about illegal immigration, while Democrats focusing on concerns about losing health-care or losing covering for pre-existing conditions.
Many of the Democrats elected to the House of Representatives are vowing to investigate corruption in the Trump administration, beginning with looking at the President’s tax returns, which he has still failed to release. But the president told the Washington Post that he did not plan to cooperate. He said he would react aggressively to any attempt to look into possible corruption in his administration or any investigations of his personal finances.
But while there are concerns over possible gridlock and impending fights between the president and congress, there were some other positive results in the mid-term elections, especially when it came to the ballot questions each state had. In Florida, voters approved Amendment 4, which would automatically restore voting rights in the state for people previously convicted of felonies, who have served their time. This was monumental, since this law had disproportionately affected people of color. Now, people who had previously been disenfranchised even if they were in prison for relatively minor crimes like selling marijuana, can return to society with full voting rights.
In Massachusetts, voters chose “yes” on question 3, which would keep the laws protecting transgender people in place. They voted against the bill attempting to reform hospitals and nurse-patient limits, and passed a law that “would create a citizens commission to advance an amendment to the United States Constitution to limit the influence of money in elections and establish that corporations do not have the same rights as human beings.” Massachusetts voters re-elected Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) who ran against Geoff Diehl (R), a supporter of President Trump; Warren won with the support of 60% of registered Massachusetts voters.
The Lesley University campus offered strong support for “yes on 3,” showing that support through posters placed around the school, and in various social media posts. When I was talking to Lesley students, some of whom were transgender and others of whom were not, they all expressed happiness at the success of that ballot question. Some other students were also pleased about the younger and more diverse group of candidates who got elected. But while Democrats gained control of the House, they still have a way to go before change is implemented. And as a divided Congress will likely result in many partisan battles, and number of high profile Democratic senators and representatives are already preparing to run against President Trump in the 2020 elections.