On Nov. 6th, eligible voters across the United States voted for the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate. The Republican Party kept control of the Senate, which was expected as Democrats were mostly defending seats and few Republicans were up for re-election. The House of Representatives, the more responsive body of Congress, is now under Democratic control for the first time since 2009. These midterms saw one of the highest voter turnouts of the past century and some historic wins that are of critical importance to future legislation. The House Democratic control will provide some desperately needed oversight to the Trump administration, including the replacement of Devin Nunes (R-CA) with Adam Schiff (D-CA) as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee which investigates the Trump-Russia collusion.
A record-setting number of women ran for Congress, with over 100 winning seats for the first time ever. This surge of female congress members makes the 116th congress one of, if not the most diverse legislative bodies America has ever seen. The unprecedented levels of diversity are a great indicator of the future political climate. Some examples are Ilhan Omar (D-MN), the first Muslim and Somali-American congresswoman, Sharice Davids (D-KS), the first openly-gay Kansan and one of the first Native American women elected to congress, and Stacey Abrams (D-GA), the first female, African American gubernatorial candidate.
Three of the most-watched races (the Texas Senate race, Georgia governor’s race, and Florida governor’s race) were won by Republicans, but the way these races played out is highly indicative of future elections. Beto O’Rourke, a young Democrat from Texas, tried to do the unthinkable and unseat Ted Cruz (R-TX) in one of the reddest states in the U.S. While Cruz won the race (50.9%-48.3%) the margin of victory has many political analysts speculating that O’Rourke could be a strong 2020 presidential candidate considering he came very close to winning in a Republican stronghold.
In Georgia, Brian Kemp (R) declared victory over Stacey Abrams (D), the first black woman to be a gubernatorial candidate for a major party. Kemp won by a razor thin margin amongst accusations of voter suppression. Kemp was the Secretary of State, chief of elections, while running for governor which is a blatant conflict of interest. Several lawsuits have been levied against him and state legislators and, “The issue revolves around Georgia’s ‘exact match’ policy, which places on hold voter registrations that do not precisely mirror the information contained in the state’s Department of Driver Services database or Social Security Administration information. Given the inevitability of clerical errors, this leads to placing registrations on hold, as some 53,000 currently are…An Associated Press analysis found that African Americans make up 70 percent of would-be Georgia voters whose registrations are on hold” (Washington Post). The evident racial bias in Kemp’s voter suppression and campaigning strategy reveals that fear-mongering and law-breaking are key to Republican victories.
Another hopeful Democratic victory was a loss by a tiny margin. Andrew Gillum (D) lost to Ron DeSantis (R) after an automatic recount that had Gillum trailing by as little as 34,000 votes. Gillum had conceded before there were talks of a recount. He re-entered the race saying, “efforts by Mr. Trump, Mr. Scott and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, to question the counting of votes before the tallying was complete was akin to voter suppression” (New York Times). The appearance of uncounted votes and malfunctioning voting machines mostly in majority African-American counties spurred national outrage and #CountEveryVote started trending on social media networks. After the recount, DeSantis was still leading in votes making him the next governor of Florida.
Two major victories for Democrats were also victories for the LGBTQ+ community. In Arizona, a Republican-leaning moderate state, Krysten Sinema (D) won the seat previously occupied by the now-retired Jeff Flake (R). She is the first openly-bisexual senator in national history and Arizona’s first female senator. According to Andy Barr, a political consultant, Sinema “won by running an extremely disciplined campaign focusing on what we call the swing demographic—college-educated women in the suburbs” (New Yorker). Another big Democratic and LGBTQ+ win was Jared Polis for governor in Colorado. In a centrist Democratic state, liberal Polis’ win over Republican State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton shows that progressive Democrats are gaining favor over moderate and conservative opponents. He is the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States.
While Democrats didn’t claim as many victories as they had hoped, they are closer than they have ever been to victory in several key swing-states. Republicans just barely held onto the Senate, but the flipped House and several governorships will bring about policy change and oversight to Trump-administration policies. Important issues such as the Mueller investigation, immigration reform, universal healthcare, and sustainability initiatives will be evident in House Democrats’ strategy.
Representative-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other progressive congress people are proposing a “Green New Deal.” She wants the country to run on 100% renewable energy which is plausible and very necessary for combating climate change. Staunch push-back from fossil-fuel backed Republicans and moderate Democrats is becoming a losing strategy as clean-energy jobs are one of the fastest growing sects of the economy. Sustainable alternatives to transportation, food, and business practices have garnered exponential popularity among the general public. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the likely new Speaker of the House, often criticized as “not progressive enough” is now calling for a select-committee on climate change and investment in green infrastructure. This change in policy goals comes after a protest at Pelosi’s office. Among the activists protesting at the office was Ocasio-Cortez. Her Green New Deal Resolution, “would create a select committee in the House to draft a plan that fits the (100% clean energy) proposal’s standards” (The Hill).
With so many key issues likely to see a progressive shift in the policy that addresses them, Democrats are hopeful that the Trump agenda can be halted. Whether this will come to fruition will become evident after the 116th Congress session commences.