It’s been a few days since the 2018 general elections here in the United States. As with every election season, the 2018 conclusion had some good, bad, and very best news:
- The good news about that is that we no longer have to put up with awful campaign attack ads dirtying up the airwaves (at least until 2020 or *sigh* late 2019).
- The bad news is that not every candidate with a forward-thinking viewpoint won their election (as the saying goes, you can’t win ’em all *sigh*).
- But the very best news? Well, let me get off this bullet point and tell you…
Okay, the very best news is the advancements of bright, shining, forward-minded political stars on Tuesday night, the biggest highlight being the biggest takeaway of the night, at least among many political pundits: The Democratic Party gained the majority of seats the House of Representatives! That means that America now has a little bit of a check and balance against You Know Who and his myopic, misogynistic, anti-everything administration.
There was a lot talk of a “blue wave” possibly happening on Election Day. And while that “blue wave” may not have been as big as progressive-minded folks would have hoped (You Know Who’s party will still control the Senate), there were two other “waves” that should not be overlooked. The first and most germane to this blog was a “rainbow wave” of LGBT+ candidates who ran for office on Tuesday in various local, state, and national level offices. By one estimate, the names of over 400 openly LGBT+ candidates were on ballots. And by another estimate, over 150 of those LGBT+ candidates were victorious! That’s significant considering that according to a census released in June by the Victory Institute, just 0.1% of all elected officials nationwide were openly LGBT+. And when you break down that already small number, just 2.7% identified as bisexual and 2.3% as transgender.
Those small numbers only magnify the success of some LGBT+ candidates on Tuesday, including but not limited to the following bullet points (and brace yourself, for there’s a lot of points coming at you):
- Four openly LGBT+ incumbents keeping their House seats, including Madison’s representative, Mark Pocan (who ran unopposed Tuesday night).
- Four more LGBT+ candidates joining the House. Perhaps the most notable among that quartet is Sharice Davids, who is not only openly lesbian but also will be one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the House. Oh, and Davids is from traditionally “red state” Kansas.
- Another out lesbian, Angie Craig, who not only won her House seat in Minnesota, but unseated a conservative incumbent with a history of virulently anti-LGBT statements.
- Kate Brown, who became the first openly bisexual governor of a state in 2016, won re-election as governor of Oregon.
- Colorado elected as governor Jared Polis, who will become the first openly gay male to take a governorship in the United States.
- Several openly LGBT+ won election to state legislatures across the country, including two (maybe three?) who should not go without highlight here: Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon both won state house seats in New Hampshire and will become the second and third trans people to serve in a state legislature (after Danica Roem in Virginia). There may be a fourth, for as of this writing, Brianna Titone declared victory in a very close race for a state legislature race in Colorado.
- Teri Johnston was elected mayor of Key West, and while that Florida city is already very gay-friendly, it’s notable as Johnston is the first openly gay woman to be elected mayor of a major Florida city.
- In Massachusetts, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum known as Question 3, which upheld language already in state anti-discrimination statutes (thanks to a 2016 vote of the state legislature) that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. They voted “Yes on 3” and said a big fat “NO” to opponents of the measure who used the old, tired, and long unproven “men posing as women in the women’s room are evil” bromide to gin up unfounded fear among voters.
- Oh, and in Kentucky, a certain county clerk who made a name for herself by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples a few years back… wait for it… lost her re-election bid. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, bitch. (Yeah, I said it.)
Yes, that was certainly an impressive waive of rainbow colors on Tuesday. But it should be noted that there was also a “pink wave” of female candidates on ballots. And for the most part, they made their own marks in their own special ways. In fact, as of this writing, 122 women were elected to a House, Senate, or Governor position on Tuesday. Here are some of the most notable women to emerge victorious:
- The first Native American women to be elected to Congress (not only the above mentioned Sharice Davids in Kansas and Deb Haaland in New Mexico).
- The first women of the Muslim faith to be elected to Congress (Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Michigan).
- Two women under the age of 30 to be elected to Congress (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Abby Finkenauer in Iowa).
- The first two women elected to Congress from Iowa (not only Finkenauer but Cindy Axne).
- The first African-American woman elected to Congress from anywhere in New England (Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts).
- The first latinas elected to Congress from Texas (Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia).
And here in Wisconsin, there was an incumbent that qualified for both the rainbow and pink waves but ran for a second term on her own merits:
Until 6 years ago, Tammy Baldwin was Madison’s representative in Congress, and had represented Madison in Wisconsin’s legislature before that. Then she ran for an open seat in the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. And she won, defeating a certain popular former governor from the other party who, frankly, seemed so tired during that campaign compared to the energy Baldwin exhibited. It led to Tammy Baldwin becoming Senator Baldwin by a comfortable margin.
But there were those who supported the other party, or at least were disdainful of Senator Baldwin’s progressive stances, who wanted to pull out all the stops in denying Baldwin a second 6-year term in the Senate. They had big money, and weren’t afraid to use that dough towards demeaning the senator and supporting her opponent, a pearl-clutching Stepford Wife of a State Senator who not only didn’t shy away from her own support of You Know Who but used his tendency to paint opponents with unflattering nicknames and allusions to scandal, perceived or otherwise.
All of that did not matter, however, for on Election Night the race was called relatively early (under an hour after the polls closed), and it was called in Senator Baldwin’s favor. One notable quote from Baldwin in her victory speech was this: “After $14 million of nasty attack ads it means nothing because I had something they didn’t have: you.” Sure enough, while the senator may have gone through peaks and valleys in job approval polls during her first term, voters saw past Baldwin’s gender, political affiliation, and sexual identity (she’s the first openly gay woman to serve as U.S. Senator), and thought on Election Day, you know, she’s still the right person for the job. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the results map.
Better yet, these people actually got off their sofa and away from their smart phones to vote, either inspired by canvasers:
…or by friends online or in real life, or both:
Well, of course I voted! First thing on Tuesday, too. I didn’t get a chance to vote absentee/early and avoid the long lines on the actual Election Day. But just the same, I really, really wanted to vote right away. So just as the polls were opening at 7AM on Tuesday, I got in line. And while being the very first voter in my ward would have been fun to brag about (I was 23rd in line), the fact that I did vote was more important.
And several hundred million of my fellow Americans agreed. I can’t find the link that said it, but Tuesday’s elections were estimated to be the largest “mid-term” election in terms of voter participation in over a half-century.
While many of those voters had their own individual reasons for voting, many of those may have been inspired by those above mentioned friends and canvassers who are progressive-minded. And hopefully it will lead to two things: First and foremost, a check toward the policies and uncivil words and actions of You Know Who’s administration. They have been clearly disdainful toward those who are not old, rich, protestant, straight, white men of a certain Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. Secondly, there was talk before the election that if the Democratic Party took back the House, acts to preserve LGBT+ equality would be taken up. Let’s hope so, for the current administration clearly does not look kindly toward allowing LGBT+ people to live freely as they are and love who they love.
Above all else, when thinking about the above highlighted results, perhaps the biggest impression I have is this: There are voters who don’t mind a candidate’s identity. Sure, it wasn’t enough to help candidates who identify as progressive (Beto O’Rourke in Texas) or LGBT (Christine Hallquist in Vermont) on Tuesday. And there are those who still won’t look past a candidate’s skin color, gender, or identity. To utter that phrase again, you can’t win ’em all. *sigh*
Slowly but surely, though, there are those who aren’t as progressive or LGBT-supportive (i.e. those who likely voted for You Know Who in 2016) who will die out (sorry for that dark term) and whose void will be filled by younger voters who don’t mind how the person they’re voting for identifies. And there are those who are yet of a mature age and nowhere near Death’s door, but are softening their previously disdainful opinions toward the likes of Beto O’Rourke or Christine Hallquist and actually paying attention to their records in office and the ideas they have to offer. Case in point: Tammy Baldwin’s re-election here in Wisconsin, where enough voters looked past the fact that she’s an openly gay woman, reviewed her record as Senator, liked what they saw, and rewarded her with a second term.
Hopefully, the results can only lead to nothing but hope for positive changes in policy, temperament, and decency in the years ahead. Don’t listen to those who will over-analyze the results and consider it a disaster. On the contrary, think of Tuesday as a positive step toward a hopeful future.
Now, I understand that I may omit some other notable results from Election Night, and for that I do apologize. I will leave you with one Election Night result that, since I’m in Wisconsin, cannot be left unsaid:
The gentleman to the left of that photo is Tony Evers. No, he doesn’t identify as LGBT. Yes, he does have a lot of life under his belt (he’s 67). And, no, he may not be one’s idea of a “hip” candidate. Heck, he’s more known to utter such phrases as “gee whiz” and “good gosh almighty” instead of more bluer language.
But Tony Evers did have a long run as Wisconsin’s superintendent of public instruction. That position’s not as dry as the title sounds, but it’s also what it sounds like: It’s the manager of our state’s agency for public school and library systems. And, yes, it’s an elected position, and though it’s non-partisan, it’s one that has a lot of political pressure on it.
This past summer, Tony Evers earned the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Wisconsin, a position held since January 2011 by a man (okay, it was this guy) who proved to be one of the most polarizing men to ever hold the position of Governor of Wisconsin. Most any worker in the public sector (school teachers especially) could tell you that, as within two months of taking office, he and his cronies in the legislature rammed through legislation that made drastic changes to pensions, collective bargaining, health insurance, and other workers’ rights. It led to weeks of protest at our state capitol, protests that have continued in small ways even to the present day. It also led to a recall challenge in 2012 that said man managed to beat back… and made him a national figure, so much so that he actually ran for President of the United States briefly in 2015.
But with the wind of incumbency at his back, he was considered a Goliath to Tony Evers’ David in the gubernatorial election. However, Tony Evers managed to stay close in opinion polls. Very close. So close, in fact that when the election was called very early Wednesday morning, only 1.2% of the vote separated the two men.
But in the end, the winner was Tony Evers. The reasons? Oh, a lot of opinionists have thought of reasons. Perhaps it was the expected “blue wave” nationally. Probably it was the diminished opinion by people in Wisconsin toward You Know Who. Perhaps it was the aforementioned run at the presidency by the incumbent. Perhaps it was Evers’ ideas, his record as superintendent & educator, and his “aw shucks” tone of campaigning. Or it was just a desire for change after 8 years. But it does bring an end to 8 years of divisiveness, or at the very least puts a soothing balm on the burn that 8 years of divisiveness has caused.
Let’s not forget the man to the right of that photo standing next to Tony Evers. His name is Mandela Barnes, and while he is young compared to Evers (he turns 32 in December) and has a famous first name (his verified Twitter handle, seriously, is @TheOtherMandela), he has made a name for himself as a community organizer in the Milwaukee area and 4 years as a state assemblyman.
This summer, while Tony Evers won the Democratic Party nomination for governor, Mandela Barnes won the right to be his running mate, capturing the nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Both ran on the same ticket in the general election, much as nominees for president and vice-president run nationally. And with Evers’ win, Barnes made history in his own right, as he will be the first African-American in Wisconsin to become Lieutenant Governor, and will become governor should Evers, heaven forbid, be unable to serve all of his term.
Both men will take their offices in January. And while they will face a legislature controlled by those from the other party who are hinting on reigning them in even before they take office (*ugh* gerrymandering) , it feels good that there will be an opportunity for a return to forward-thinking policy in our state. I know it’s not a guarantee that it will happen, but one can’t help but look forward to how the next four years in our state will pan out. Hopefully, it will lead to a commitment to education, the building of better roads (please, let there be better roads in our future)… and an era of cordial relations in government. Hooray for the forward-thinking underdogs!