Yesterday’s election results were a major step forward for inclusive, multi-racial democracy in America. The country voted in candidates who look like America: Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Native American congresswomen; Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim congresswomen; Ayanna Pressley, the first black member of Congress from Massachusetts; Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest female member of Congress; and at least 98 women were elected to the House of Representatives. The takeover of the House represents a tremendous rebuke to the politics of fear, division, and intimidation, and paves the way for a new, more inclusive democracy.
In spite of systematic efforts to erect barriers to the ballot and employ intimidation tactics, voter turnout soared, marking an unequivocal win for democracy. Millions of Americans were reminded of the power of their voice at the ballot box.
The 2018 midterm voters unquestionably expanded the right to vote. Most significantly, some 1.4 million people previously convicted of felonies will now be able to cast a ballot with the passage of Amendment 4 in Florida. Michigan, Maryland and Nevada approved automatic or election-day registration, and Michigan, Colorado and Missouri approved measures to end practices that gerrymander districts. Constituencies that have been shut out and marginalized made gains in what remains a decades-long struggle for true representation.
These changes mean that the playing field has been radically reshaped. It was an historic night of firsts that has the potential to transform our country and our democracy in the years to come.
Some of these victories were achieved despite the steep opposition of entrenched political power, rigged rules, racial intimidation and voter suppression. And several powerful, visionary leaders came up short in spite of deep organizing and inspiring campaigns. At the same time, major setbacks to reproductive rights in Alabama and West Virginia underscore how much more work we have to do.
We’ve seen that race-baiting and the politics of fear can motivate millions, and regretfully, such tactics have become a strategy to try to cling to power. The threat of racist violence remains high. People in power who use race, religion, sexual orientation and immigration status to cleave our nation must be held accountable. But the work of Demos shows that racial justice is a winning strategy. We at Demos will not concede and allow them to manipulate and alarm Americans as a way to justify racist and hateful behavior. And we will not stand by while these tactics underwrite escalating economic inequality, exploitation, and exclusion. Instead, we will fight for a progressive agenda that focuses on what unites us as a country—economic, social and racial justice underpinned by the tenets of democracy.
One of the major lessons of this midterm election is that candidates and political parties need to make the sustained investments necessary to mobilize and motivate voters of color, and run consistently on race-forward platforms that appeal to the New American Demos: people of color, young people and immigrants.
Elected officials must immediately work to unrig the rules that provide certain self-interested politicians and wealthy donors with unfair advantages at the polls—starting with reducing barriers to registering to vote and casting ballots, and replacing big-money, donor class-driven elections with robust programs that put voters and small donors at the center of our democracy.
Yesterday’s results can start us down a path to a democracy where our leaders reflect our communities, where the strength of our voices doesn’t depend upon the size of our wallets, and where freedom is for everyone, no exceptions.