With the much-anticipated midterm elections now past, resulting in the Democrats being in possession of the House of Representatives and the Republicans remaining in charge of the Senate, it’s important to look at these victories and losses and take stock of their meaning.
It’s significant to note that these midterms are unlike any other we’ve had in recent memory. I’ve become a much more political person in the last five years, especially since I gained the right to vote. Even though this is only my second election, I have noticed that past midterms have passed us by with little to no notice. It’s encouraging, therefore, to see the massive increase in Americans finding renewed meaning in the power of their vote and to fight against the apathy that seems to be so pervasive in our country to fight back and have our voices heard. It is precisely this apathy that has frustrated me the most the last few years. Almost worse than the constant spewing of hate is our politicians’ blatant disregard for the lives of women as well as the black and LGBTQ+ community. I can’t help but feel total rage at the blankness in politicians’ faces when faced with victims of sexual assault, or as they let the president trample the Constitution at every turn. This inaction grates on me worse than anything, and these past midterms tell me that I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
A highlight of this election was an increase in voter turnout as compared to previous midterms, with NPR reporting that, “More than 47 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot in the midterm elections”, numbers not seen since 1966. Increased turnout at the polls are the reason we now have over one hundred women newly elected to political office, many of them women of color, part of different religions, or members of the LGBTQ+ community. There are those making history, like Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts, who is now the first black woman in the state to be elected to Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress. There’s even Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, who are both the first Native American women to serve in the House of Representatives. And, while things are down to the wire, there’s still hope for Stacey Abrams, Democratic hopeful for Georgia’s governorship, as provisional and absentee ballots are still being counted and the results most likely won’t be known until Friday, Nov. 16. It’s women like these, making these strides forward for us all and contributing to the Blue Wave, that make the losses for candidates like Heidi Heitkamp sting a little bit less.
About that Blue Wave: did it happen? I’d say it was a halfway effect that left little to be desired. The importance of Democrats taking the House cannot be understated, and I’m hopeful that it will be enough to do battle with our government’s apathy. With the Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate, I am eager to see a more even distribution of power. However, I’d posit that we can collectively do more, that more of us can show up and make a difference and the reason why we haven’t is still due to our comfort level in the way our country is going right now. The multitude of people that gave reasons for not voting have cited reasons such as: not paying attention to politics, not being a political person and not knowing enough to make an educated decision in voting. The unfortunate thing is that we still view elections selfishly, as how it will effect ourselves, and if you’re a fairly well-off person who the current administration doesn’t pose an immediate threat to, voting isn’t going to be important to you.
However, It’s no longer responsible to think of elections this way, because for some, the people who make these laws hold the difference between life and death for them, and we need to vote in a way that reflects that truth. There are still some in office who treat this place that we’re in as normal, with a normal president and administration, when that is not still the case. It’s fine if you’re not a political person, but this election wasn’t about you; it was about us as a country, as a collective, keeping us together and finding a way to use our privilege to demonstrate care for our fellow citizens. A full Blue Wave was prevented by those still comfortable in their view of the country, who have accepted things as being normal and who aren’t thinking of others when they cast their vote. It’s this new blood, however, that gives me hope; that fresh faces like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, among many others, will bring about the radical push forward we need.