A Liberal’s Two Cents

Margo Silliman, Staff Writer

So, we’re a month out from the midterm elections and we have a month until inaugurations, and it’s time to start looking at a few things: how does this election reflect the US’s reaction to the Trump administration; how does this set us up for the 2020 election; and what does this say about our country’s overall direction?
Let’s start with what happened in Massachusetts, which isn’t much. Charlie Baker was reelected; the questions went against immediate nurse-to-patients limits, for a committee of volunteers to research political spending, and for a law to protect the rights of transgenders, and all by about a 40-point margin; Bill Keating was reelected; and everyone pretty much just filled in their party-affiliation for all the people on the bottom of the ballot they don’t actually know.
One interesting things did happen: Ayanna Pressley is the first African-American woman from Massachusetts to serve in US Congress. It sometimes surprises me that so many states are having their “firsts” with women. Out of our nine congressional districts, all of which go up for election every two years, this is our first African-American woman.
Something I consider with this is that Elizabeth Warren is our first female US senator, which means it took us 90 years after the first woman in the US Senate was appointed in 1922 to finally catch on, and that’s talking about Massachusetts, which likes to pride itself on how progressive it is. (Fun fact: the state with the first female US senator, Rebecca Felton, is Georgia; not necessarily a state known for social change, and the one in which Stacey Abrams lost the race for governor. If she’d won, she would have been the first black female governor in the US, setting another precedent in that state.)
Moving onto the sexy congressional races, Congressman Beto O’Rourke ran probably the most interesting campaign of 2018. I say that because in a state where Democrats have lost elections by more than 10 percent since 1992, often by more than 20, an extremely progressive Democrat lost by less than three points. Now, ultimately, he lost, so in a lot of ways you can wonder if anything’s changed.
To me, his loss was the biggest let-down of midterms; even though democrats had major victories in the House, so many of those were give-ins, while the races that really brought people out to the polls—the ones that were so close and would have completely slashed expectations and very well could have—the races that really brought the hype to the Democratic Party, all went to Republicans (O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams for Georgia governor, Andrew Gillum for Florida governor).
However, I think the importance of these races can’t be determined until 2020. What I’m saying is pay attention to these people and these states, to see either their next moves or if their progress in conservative states carries on to maybe flip them in the future. Because they can easily become irrelevant now, holding no office and leaving the possibility for voters to forget this election’s excitement and revert back to their previous tendencies with widely anticipated republican majorities (except for Florida, no one knows what’s up with them).
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a House Representative-Elect from New York, made a lot of comments about the Texas election during her victory speech on Nov. 6, “In 2018, we turned the state of Texas purple. That’s what we did this year. That’s what we did this year, that’s what Beto O’Rourke accomplished this year, and that is a great position to be in going into 2020. We are going to flip that state in our generation, I’ll tell you that much right now.”
She could be right; I hope she is. Texas had a surge of Latino voters in 2018, and an all- around turnout rivaling that of a presidential election year. O’Rourke is responsible. He set precedents for politicians when he spent two years traveling to every county in Texas and didn’t take back his “extreme” beliefs; by that I mean he ran as a very progressive democrat, unlike the democrat who ran for US Senate and lost in Tennessee by a greater margin than O’Rourke. You can’t be moderate to win, not now.
And O’Rourke had all of Hollywood backing him: Beyonce, Travis Scott, Lebron James, Zooey Deschanel, Gina Rodriguez, America Ferrera, and so many more. I bring this all up because it, in addition to being able to win over 48 percent of Texas (Texas, my personal go-to when referencing a conservative state), puts him in a pretty good light nationally.
ABC correspondent Dan Harris said following the announcement of Ted Cruz’s projected win on election night, “Liberal hearts are breaking all over the country right now.” And he was so right. There I was, sitting staring at my computer crying as he said that, more invested in Texas’s election than Massachusetts’ by far. I want to point out how possible it would be for him to launch a presidential campaign with all this backing him (though this would be far off since he has shutdown the notion of him running for president many times, and considering so much of his campaign was focused on Texas and just serving Texas).
I’ve gotten far into explaining O’Rourke’s situation, but both Abrams and Gillum have their similarities in terms of out-of-state support and the possibility of bringing out new demographics in their states. As a pessimist, all I can say is, again, watch in 2020; if the trend continues, I believe Texas will continue to fade into a fainter shade of red, as well as Georgia, and Florida might actually begin to be a little more predictable in elections if it flips blue. But I worry that an overshadowing presidential race and the possible loss of these politicians in the game could end up with whatever may have been accomplished becoming irrelevant.
A few more states that will be important in 2020 are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, which all went to Trump in 2016, despite leftist leanings. Pennsylvania’s and Michigan’s congressional districts were split 50-50 for those elected into the US House of Representatives, while Wisconsin elected three democratic and five republican representatives for the US House.
According to a report by NBC’s Data Download, swing states Colorado and Ohio seem to be aligning with a specific party. Ohio went majority Republican with 12 out of 16 seats in the US House, while Colorado leans right with four democrats out of seven seats elected.
One red state that could move in as a swing is Arizona, which flipped from five republican representatives in the US House and four democrats, to five democrats and four republicans in midterm elections. Georgia could also swing, even though its 2018 elections still held a republican majority.
Minnesota is normally blue and it held its party split in the House, electing five democrats and three republicans, but margins that tight could make it a battleground state a s well.
To bring it back to the people that could make a difference in 2020, many senate and gubernatorial (yes, gubernatorial is a word, for some reason; it refers to races for governor) races had historic runs in addition to those already discussed in Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman in congress at age 29, and a of national figure in the country because of her campaign. Winning New York’s 14 congressional district wasn’t surprising, but her victory in the democratic primary for the position, unseating Joe Crowley, was a shocker.
Ocasio-Cortez was a waitress for a long time, and many admire her middle-class “regular person” background. A Latina from the Bronx with some fire speeches, she’s used her past to talk about health care, having paid more and received less as a waitress than what she gets now, as well as calling out fellow congressmen for not paying their interns—she’ll be paying hers $15 an hour. She also has commented on not being able to pay for her DC apartment until being inaugurated and getting that new source of income.
Tennessee has its first female US senator, Marsha Blackburn. I like to look at Blackburn as an example of how a wave of women isn’t inevitably democratic wave, and that’s a good thing. In our government, we need diversity of social groups, but those groups themselves need their own forms of diversity. What if all women were democrats and all men republicans? If one party took a bad turn and lost their control, you don’t have anyone protecting the rights of one a gender. With women on both sides, in addition to the men who fight for equality, you guarantee the upholding of women’s rights to some extent if one party gains significant control.
Blackburn’s fight was also made interesting in that she defeated Democrat Phil Bredesen, who was among the list of politicians supported by Taylor Swift, when she announced publicly for the first time any political support for certain candidates, and after running a long campaign to encourage people to vote through her instagram.
Additionally, the first Native American women have been elected to the US Senate, to represent the ethnic group that’s been here since the beginning, as well as persecuted since the beginning, of our nation. Those women, Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, are representing a people that has warranted better representation for a long time.
Moreover, the first Latinas to represent Texas in US Congress, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, were elected. I feel that they’re giving a stronger voice to a group that needs more representation in their region, with more than 38 percent of the Texas’s population being Hispanic.
The rest of the minority-takeover winners include: Arizona’s first female Senator, Krysten Sinema, who ran against another female opponent and is also the first openly bisexual person in the US Senate; Jahan Hayes Connecticut’s first black woman in Congress; Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first muslim women in Congress; Kristi L. Noem, the first female governor of South Dakota; Cindy Axn and Abby Finkenauer, Iowa’s first women in the US House; and Janet Mills, the first female governor of Maine.