Views on the News: Midterm Results
After months of buildup, the dust has almost settled in the 2018 elections. Barring any major recounts, Democrats have taken back the House of Representatives, and Republicans have extended their majority in the Senate. Gubernatorial races were split down the middle, with Democrats picking up key victories in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Republicans holding onto Florida and Georgia. How has the national and local political situation changed after the elections, and which election outcome will have the biggest impact moving forward?
Prof. Jill Greenlee (POL)
The 2018 election results mark several important shifts in our political landscape. We saw a record number of women run for elected office at the local, state and national level. Many of the women won, which means that many of our legislative bodies will inch toward greater gender equality in terms of their members, though they are still very far from equality. We also saw that a meaningful number of these newly elected public officials were women of color and/or LGTBQ; this represents an incredibly important step in ensuring that previously silenced voices will now be heard in lawmaking institutions around the country. This diversification of elected officials is important not only because they will give voice to particular policy concerns, but because they also will positively affect young people who reap the psychological benefits of seeing public officials who embody some of their own characteristics. The "role model effect" may mean that more children of color, girls, and LGBTQ youth will become engaged with and interested in politics because of the 2018 election. So we may be seeing the impact of this election cycle for decades to come.
Emily Glovin ’19
Last Tuesday, Americans refused to endorse President Trump. Midterms are often a referendum on the president, but this year, the election results were a clear reaction to Trump's policies. If Republicans had kept the House and the Senate, Trump would be invincible. The violence he has perpetrated thus far would have received a stamp of approval, encouraging him to not only continue his rhetoric, but to make it even more harmful. A Democratic House shows Trump that his actions have consequences. And while it is tempting to lament the losses of progressives like O’Rourke or Abrams, the massive outpouring of support for these candidates should provide Democrats a positive outlook as we begin to think about 2020. Of course, many of us have been thinking about 2020 since 2016. But with the midterms in our rear view, candidates can be hopeful that a young, diverse electorate will help Democrats prevail.
Emily Glovin ’19 is majoring in American Studies and Sociology.
Alex Friedman ’19
You can say much about the urban/rural divide growing and how that will make it exceptionally hard for Democrats to ever take the Senate again, but to me there’s just one answer: Florida’s Ballot Initiative 4. This returned the right to vote to 1.4 million non-violent felons, about a fifth of disenfranchised felons in the United States. This disenfranchisement policy from the Jim Crow era was designed to do one thing: suppress the black vote. It worked. Nearly 1 in 5 black Floridians were previously barred from voting in America’s largest swing-state. To get a sense of scale, understand this: according to a study in the American Sociological Review, voter disenfranchisement just in Florida was easily the difference between President Bush and President Gore. Right now, I think it’s fair to say it would have made the difference between Senator Scott and Senator Nelson, between Governor DeSantis and Governor Gillum.
Melanie Rush ’20
The national and local political situation has shifted towards a slightly more inclusive form of representation. The fact that our government is beginning to reflect tradtionally underrepsetesnted and minortized groups is incredible! However, we must be careful not to celebrate our progress and subsequently call it a day. If we want to change the reality of discrimination experienced by these minoritized groups, if we want to create a polity in which these groups are not underrepresented, we can not tokenize these leaders. Our government remains systemically white institution; by tokenizing these diverse leaders, and claiming progress has been achieved, we are in effect maintaining a supporting the white status quo. Increasing diverse representation both locally and nationally is an amazing achievement, however we should be fighting for it to become the norm.